FaithWorld

Last Jew in Afghanistan faces ruin as kebabs fail to sell

(Zabulon Simintov, an Afghan Jew, prepares for prayers at his residence in Kabul November 5, 2013.  REUTERS/Omar Sobhani )

Zabulon Simintov always removes his kippah, the skullcap worn by Jewish men, before entering his cafe in a dilapidated building that also houses Afghanistan’s last synagogue.

“Let me take off my cap, otherwise people will think something bad about me,” Simintov said cheerfully as he descended grime-caked stairs to the ground-floor cafe.

In his 50s, Simintov is the last known Afghan Jew to remain in the country. He has become something of a celebrity over the years and his rivalry with the next-to-last Jew, who died in 2005, inspired a play.

Mindful of Afghanistan’s extremely conservative Muslim culture, Simintov tries not to advertise his identity to protect the Balkh Bastan or Ancient Balkh kebab cafe he opened four years ago, naming it after a northern Afghan province.

Trouble foreseen as U.N. court says Hindu temple site belongs to Cambodia

(Buddhist monks visit the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple on the border between Thailand and Cambodia November 10, 2013. REUTERS/Samrang Pring)

A U.N. court ruled in favour of Cambodia on Monday in a long-running dispute with Thailand over jurisdiction of land around an ancient temple, a decision that threatens to add fuel to a deepening political standoff in Bangkok.

The Preah Vihear Temple sits atop an escarpment that forms the border between Thailand and Cambodia. Under a map drawn up when Cambodia was a French colony, the temple is Cambodian but its ownership has dogged ties since Cambodia’s independence in the 1950s.

Minority report: Why Baha’is face persecution in Iran

(Multiple pictures of Baha’i religious leaders arrested in Iran are seen during a protest at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro June 19, 2011. Picture taken June 19, 2011. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes)

The Islamic Republic’s 34-year rule has hurt many religious and political groups in Iran, but one community has borne an especially heavy burden: the Baha’is, a religious minority viewed as heretics by some Muslims.

Dozens of Baha’is were killed or jailed in the years immediately following the Islamic revolution in 1979. Billions of dollars worth of land, houses, shops and other Baha’i belongings were seized in subsequent years by various Iranian organizations, including Setad, the organization overseen by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei controls vast financial empire built on property seizures

(Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran February 22, 2012. REUTERS/Khamenei.ir/Handout)

The 82-year-old Iranian woman keeps the documents that upended her life in an old suitcase near her bed. She removes them carefully and peers at the tiny Persian script.

There’s the court order authorizing the takeover of her children’s three Tehran apartments in a multi-story building the family had owned for years. There’s the letter announcing the sale of one of the units. And there’s the notice demanding she pay rent on her own apartment on the top floor.

from The Great Debate:

Risky business: Talking to the Taliban

If one event crystallizes Pakistan’s helplessness in confronting its political future, it is the recent assassination-by-American-drone of Hakimullah Mehsud, erstwhile leader of the Pakistani Taliban.

Islamabad had only just acknowledged its plan to hold “peace talks” when Mehsud was killed. Mehsud -- with a $5 million bounty on his head, and thousands of civilian deaths to his movement’s credit -- was immediately eulogized as the key to peace in Pakistan.

Or so it had seemed to the wishful among Pakistan’s politicians. But the country’s labyrinthine military and political makeup and its often opposing foreign and domestic interests make it difficult to imagine how any Pakistani government can negotiate a deal that brings peace to a time of many terrors. If it is unclear what it means for Pakistan to negotiate its political compact with the Taliban, it is also unclear what it would take to make any deal stick.

At U.S. Supreme Court hearing, passions flare over religion and its rules

(Stephanie Ragusky of Loudoun County, Virginia demonstrates outside the U.S. Supreme Court as it hears arguments in the case of Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway, in Washington November 6, 2013.  REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan )

When the U.S. Supreme Court talks about religion, all hell breaks loose.

A dispute over an upstate New York town’s prayer before council meetings produced an unusually testy oral-argument session on Wednesday that recalled the decades of difficulty Supreme Court justices have had drawing the line between church and state.

Court decisions involving freedom of religion tend to be closely decided with many separate opinions rather than clear-cut majority statements. The case of Town of Greece v. Galloway appears to be headed that way.

Pope Francis meeting with Putin could help mend Catholic-Orthodox relations

(Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill attend a meeting with Russian Orthodox church bishops in Moscow February 1, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Gunyeev/Ria Novosti/Pool)

Pope Francis will receive Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 25, an encounter that could help mend strained relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church.

Russian-Vatican relations have been fraught since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, with Moscow accusing the Roman Catholic Church of trying to poach believers from the Russian Orthodox Church, a charge the Vatican denies.

China paper blames blind faith of “uncultured” Uighur youth for Xinjiang unrest

(Ethnic Uighur men sit in front of a television screen at a square in Kashgar, Xinjiang province August 2, 2011. REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Uncultured youth who have been misled by religious extremists are a main source of unrest in China’s heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang, its top newspaper said on Tuesday, after the government blamed Islamists for an attack in central Beijing.

A car ploughed through bystanders on the edge of Tiananmen Square and burst into flames on Monday last week, killing three people in the car and two bystanders. The government called the incident a terrorist attack carried out by Islamist militants from the far western region of Xinjiang.

In China’s Xinjiang, poverty and exclusion are a greater threat than Islam

(A man collects waste at a garbage dump site next to a mosque in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region November 1, 2013. REUTERS/Michael Martina )

In the dirty backstreets of the Uighur old quarter of Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi in China’s far west, Abuduwahapu frowns when asked what he thinks is the root cause of the region’s festering problem with violence and unrest.

“The Han Chinese don’t have faith, and the Uighurs do. So they don’t really understand each other,” he said, referring to the Muslim religion the Turkic-speaking Uighur people follow, in contrast to the official atheism of the ruling Communist Party.

Congregation celebrates Sunday – without religion

(A broken cross is seen on the top of a church in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, September 18, 2005.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria )

British comedian Sanderson Jones left a Christmas concert six years ago feeling uncomfortable – he no longer believed in God, but he sure liked singing carols.

Jones also missed other things about being in a church – the sense of community and time spent thinking about being a better person – just not the religion part.