FaithWorld

Singapore’s megachurches move to export lucrative religion

(Worshippers attend a church service at the City Harvest Church in Singapore March 1, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su )

“God is here, God is here,” croons Singapore church official Sun Ho as she struts across a neon-lit stage and thousands of people in the congregation pump their hands and sing along.

Kong Hee, the church’s founding pastor and Sun Ho’s husband, then takes the stage. In keeping with the electrifying mood, he invites his followers to speak “in tongues” and a pulsing murmur echoes through the auditorium of 8,000 people.

During the service, ushers hand out envelopes for donations, which consume at least a tenth of the salaries of most church members, going to fund different ministries, mission trips and special events.

Welcome to one of Asia’s most profitable churches: Singapore’s City Harvest.

Popeis “immensely popular” with U.S. Catholics, but no ‘Francis effect’ seen in Pew poll

(Pope Francis blesses the altar during Ash Wednesday at Santa Sabina Basilica in Rome March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Max Rossi )

One year after his election, Pope Francis is “immensely popular among American Catholics,” a survey said on Thursday, but there is no sign of a “Francis effect” inspiring more to attend Mass or do volunteer work.

The Washington-based Pew Research Center said 85 percent of Catholics in the United States viewed the Argentine-born pontiff favourably, with 51 percent reporting a “very favourable” view of him, while only 4 percent expressed a negative opinion.

‘Jewish state’ recognition demand adds new Israeli-Palestinian trip wire

(Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, March 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Theiler)

When peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians resumed last July, everyone assumed that the main sticking points would remain, as ever, security, borders, the status of Jerusalem and the plight of refugees.

It looks like everyone was wrong.

As the United States struggles to put together a framework deal that will allow negotiations to proceed beyond an initial April deadline, they have run into an unexpected roadblock – Israel’s firm demand to be recognised as a specifically Jewish state and the Palestinians’ adamant rejection of any such idea.

Italian publisher launches Pope fan magazine, including centerfold pictures

(Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead the general audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi )

An Italian publisher on Wednesday launched a fan magazine devoted exclusively to Pope Francis – including a centerfold – just as the pope said he did not want to be seen as a superstar.

Il Mio Papa (My Pope), hit the newsstands with a 69-page first edition full of photos of the pope, his life story, his appeals for peace and articles about what people think of him.

I’m not a superman, Pope Francis says in new interview

(Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead the general audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi )

Pope Francis has played down the notion that he is a “superman” who will bring sweeping reforms to the Roman Catholic Church, stressing that its ban on contraception and opposition to gay marriage will remain in place.

The pope, in an interview with Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper published on Wednesday, also said no institution had moved with more “transparency and responsibility” than the Church to protect children in the wake of its sexual abuse scandals.

from Edward Hadas:

The ongoing ethics struggle of banks

The Swiss Bank Employees Association has told an uncomfortable truth: it was “generally known” that for many years some of their employers profited from customers’ “tax evasion.” That is incontestable, as many of the banks’ managers concede. But the practice, supposedly now ended, raises an important question about ethics and business. Why were neither the managers of the Swiss banks nor their employees worried by this business model?

The hardly hidden truth was included in an Association press release which called on Brady Dougan, the chief executive of Credit Suisse, to apologize for insulting the Swiss bank’s employees.

Dougan, who was trying to explain to U.S. legislators how Credit Suisse had stopped helping Americans escape taxes, said that “some Swiss-based private bankers went to great lengths to disguise their bad conduct from Credit Suisse executive management.” The claim, said the employees’ group, slighted the professionalism of the workforce. Besides, it was “hardly credible.”

Indian Hindu nationalist Modi visits Lucknow to woo Muslim voters

(Vistors to Lucknow’s 1784 Bara Imambara, or tomb of a Shi’ite Muslim
holy man, March 10, 2002. REUTERS/Jason Reed)

Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist leader tipped as India’s next prime minister, appealed to Muslim voters on Sunday and hit out at rivals accusing him of bias against the country’s largest religious minority.

Addressing hundreds of thousands of mainly Hindu supporters at a rally in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Modi said his economic policies meant Muslims were better off in Gujarat, the western state he governs, than other parts of India.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews stage mass Jerusalem protest against Israeli draft law

(Ultra-Orthodox Jews take part in a mass prayer in Jerusalem March 2, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside)

Hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews held a mass prayer in Jerusalem on Sunday in protest at a bill that would cut their community’s military exemptions and end a tradition upheld since Israel’s foundation.

Ultra-Orthodox leaders had called on their men, women and children to attend the protest against new legislation ending the wholesale army exemptions granted to seminary students, which is expected to pass in the coming weeks,

Thai Buddhist monk fights on even as anti-government protesters scale back

(Buddhist monk and anti-government protest leader Luang Pu Buddha Issara addresses his supporters from the stage at a protest site north of Bangkok March 1, 2014. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj)

A young Thai man and woman are on their knees, their palms pressed in supplication to the saffron-robed Buddhist monk, an anti-government protest leader, looming before them.

Accused of being pro-government spies they have been brought before the monk at a protest site in north of Bangkok by burly guards donning tinted sunglasses.

Tunisia purges Islamist state governors with consent of Islamist party

(Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki holds a copy of the country’s new constitution after signing it in Tunis January 27, 2014. REUTERS/Anis Mili )

Tunisia’s prime minister replaced most state governors on Friday, bowing to a demand from secular parties to purge Islamists from key jobs before elections this year.

After a political crisis brought on by the killing of two opposition leaders last year, the ruling Islamist party stepped down to allow a caretaker government to take over until elections later this year under a new constitution.