FaithWorld

Israel rejects link of Ukraine crisis to anti-Semitism

(Jewish men attend morning prayer at a synagogue in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine April 20, 2014. REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

Israel played down on Thursday suggestions that anti-Semitism in Ukraine is linked to Kiev’s standoff with Russia, offering a more measured assessment than the Kremlin or the United States as it avoids taking sides in the East-West confrontation.

Moscow has aimed allegations of anti-Semitism against the pro-Western Ukrainian government. Washington has condemned an incident in a city with a strong pro-Russian movement where Jews were handed leaflets using language reminiscent of the Holocaust.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman rejected a connection between the five months of unrest and the situation of Ukraine’s 200,000 Jews.

“There is no specific action against Jews which is an outcome of the political crisis,” said Lieberman, a Russian-speaker who grew up in Moldova when it was a Soviet republic.

Thousands mob India’s Modi as election race starts in Hinduism’s sacred city

(Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), waves to his supporters as he arrives to file his nomination papers for the general elections in the northern Indian city of Varanasi April 24, 2014. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi )

India’s Narendra Modi received a hero’s welcome from thousands of orange-clad supporters as he launched his election campaign on Thursday in the religious city of Varanasi, a show of strength for the Hindu nationalist tipped to be prime minister.

India is halfway through the world’s largest-ever election, in which 815 million people are eligible to vote over 10 stages. Modi will stand for the parliamentary seat of the Ganges river city of Varanasi on May 12, four days before results are due.

Sri Lanka deports British tourist for her Buddha tattoo

(A worker paints a statue of Buddha during renovations at Gangaramaya temple in Colombo September 22, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

Sri Lanka on Thursday deported a British tourist for having a tattoo of Buddha on her arm which a court said was an insult to the island’s main religion.

Legally, there is no ban on a Buddha tattoo in Sri Lanka, but the predominantly Buddhist nation is very sensitive about its religion.

Jews hail new papal saints who revolutionized ties with Catholics

(Pope John Paul II, standing in front of a group of Italian rabbis, waves
farewell April 13, 1986, to members of Rome’s Jewish community in the Rome
Synagogue. REUTERS/Luciano Mellace)

The late Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, who will be made saints on Sunday, did so much to end two millennia of Catholic anti-Semitism that a Jewish human rights group calls them “heroes to the Jewish people”.

Both pontiffs marked the world’s largest church in such varied ways that most Roman Catholics would probably list their pioneering respect for Jews, whom John Paul called “our beloved elder brothers” in faith, behind their other achievements.

Justin Bieber apologizes after Japan shrine visit sparks Asian anger

(Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, 2010/Wiiii)

Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber, whose tumultuous life has landed him in trouble more than once, on Wednesday apologized for a visit to a Tokyo shrine at the center of a bitter international row over Japan’s wartime aggression.

Bieber, 20, posted a picture on social media of himself visiting Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine with the heading, “Thank you for your blessings”.

The picture was later deleted, although it was republished elsewhere on the Internet, including by a Bieber fan group, and drew criticism from South Korea and China.

Israel is encouraging more Christian Arabs to join military service

(Israeli Arab Christian boy scouts play bagpipes during an Easter Monday parade in Tel Aviv’s Jaffa neighbourhood, April 21, 2014. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly)

Israel said on Tuesday it was stepping up efforts to encourage military enlistment by Christian Arab citizens, a community long closer to the larger Muslim minority in identifying with the Palestinians.

Israel’s Christian Arabs number about 160,000, some two percent of the Jewish state’s eight million people, and the expected number of conscripts – now about 100 – will rise in coming months, a senior military officer said.

Vandals deface Pope John Paul II memorial in Krakow before canonization

(A worker prepares to wipe away graffiti of the Star of David on the Pope John Paul II memorial boulder in Krakow April 23, 2014. REUTERS/Pawel Ulatowski)

Vandals daubed paint across a stone memorial commemorating the late Pope John Paul II in his home region of southern Poland on Wednesday, days before he is to be made a saint.

Police fenced off the memorial in the center of Krakow as municipal workers tried to remove the paint, a Reuters reporter said. Officers did not comment on who might have been responsible, or why they committed the act of vandalism.

from John Lloyd:

The UK’s paradox of faith

When David Cameron recently proclaimed in the Church Times -- the organ of the Church of England -- that he was a Christian, that his faith helped guide him through life and work and that Britain is a Christian country and should be proud of it, he was met with a wall of disapproval.

When a European leader says he's a Christian and that he lives in a Christian country, he's asking for trouble. The approved political position in Europe is that religion should be commended for its sterling values when it cares for the poor and condemned when it is used as a rationale for terrorism. Otherwise, politicians should steer clear and leave it to the clergy.

European states are not the United States, and thus not “nations under God,” (though only since 1954, when the words were added to the pledge of allegiance). EU states are nations under constitutions that prescribe secularism. They say that all faiths may (peacefully) flourish and that none shall have priority.

UK PM Cameron accused of fueling division by calling Britain a Christian country

(Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, at the enthronement ceremony for the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at Canterbury Cathedral March 21, 2013.REUTERS/Toby Melville)

A group of scientists, academics and prominent writers accused British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday of stoking sectarian divisions through his repeated description of Britain as a “Christian country”.

The public figures, including authors Philip Pullman and Terry Pratchett, said they respected the Conservative leader’s own religious beliefs, which he has addressed in a series of statements.

At Easter, Kiev-based Ukrainian church condemns Russian ‘aggression’

(Ukrainian Orthodox priests conduct a holy liturgy during an Orthodox Easter service in Mikhailovsky Cathedral in Kiev early April 20, 2014. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko)

As Russians and Ukrainians celebrated Easter on Sunday with their nations locked in conflict, the head of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate condemned Russian “aggression” and said “evil” would be defeated.

“Against our peace-loving nation, which voluntarily gave up nuclear weapons, there has been aggression, there has been injustice,” Patriarch Filaret said in his Easter message, as quoted by local media. “A country which guaranteed the integrity and inviolability of our territory has committed aggression.