FaithWorld

Russian Muslim clerics warn of unrest over banned Koran translation

(A man reads the Koran inside a mosque in the old city, in Tripoli September 16, 2013.. Picture taken September 16, 2013. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori )

Russia’s senior Islamic clerics warned the country’s leaders on Friday unrest could erupt in Muslim communities in Russia and beyond if a court decision ordering the destruction of a interpretive translation of Koran is not overturned.

Tuesday’s ruling by a court in Novorossiysk, a city in southern Russia, ordered the widely read text outlawed under a Russian anti-extremism law that rights activists say has been abused by local officials out of prejudice or to persecute groups frowned upon by the dominant Russian Orthodox Church.

Rights campaigners said that the decision, which will apply nationwide unless it is overturned on appeal, comes dangerously close to banning the Koran itself.

Russia’s Council of Muftis sounded the alarm in an open letter on Friday to President Vladimir Putin, who has frequently called for unity among the leading faiths and warned that ethnic tension could tear Russia apart.

Delight and concern as Catholics digest Pope Francis’s frank interview

(Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead a mass outside the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito )

There was delight, curiosity and concern at Roman Catholic churches this weekend as the impact of a remarkably frank interview Pope Francis gave to Jesuit journals began to sink in with the faithful around the world.

In the interview posted online on Thursday by 16 Jesuit journals, Francis, 76, said the Church must shake off an obsession with abortion, contraception and homosexuality and focus on healing those who felt “wounded” by the Church.

Pope Francis’s interview message heralds change of tone on gays, abortion

(Pope Francis waves from a car as he leaves at the end of his visit to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome September 16, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

A landmark interview by Pope Francis will force conservative members of the Catholic Church to re-calibrate how they deal with gays, abortion and contraception but is not expected to be the precursor to seismic changes in doctrine, papal experts say.

Pope Francis sent a clear message to officials from the highest reaches of the hierarchy down to the most remote parish that they should not be obsessed with structures, rules and regulations and not put people in moral ghettos.

from Photographers' Blog:

Destroying the heart of the village

Geste, France

By Stephane Mahe

The villages of rural France are faced with decreasing numbers of residents. In addition to the closure of bakeries and shops, they are seeing rising costs to maintain the religious and social heart of these communities, the local church. The village of Gesté and its church, Saint-Pierre-aux-Liens, has witnessed this first-hand.

Local media reported the final phase of the “deconstruction” of a neo-Gothic church in the village of Gesté, and its 2,600 residents. The municipal council was unable to allocate the funds, some 3 million euros ($4.05 million) in 2007, needed for repairs and upkeep. With some research I discovered that since 2000, more than twenty village churches had faced the demolition ball. Apparently 250 churches in France are threatened with the same fate as municipalities are faced with extremely high costs to repair and maintain them, costs that are higher than the cost of tearing them down.

I appeared on site to discover the Saint-Pierre-aux-Liens church, built between 1854 and 1864, with workmen and cranes tearing down the walls of the church, leaving the bell tower and the crypt intact. People stopped to gather behind barriers to watch as heavy machines partially brought down the church.

from Photographers' Blog:

Squatting in Brussels

Brussels, Belgium

By Yves Herman

Once a church and convent, the “Gesu squat” is a huge building which has long been home to an eclectic group of residents.

But now, if a project by a Swiss developer gets the green light, it may be turned into a hotel and luxury apartments, and its inhabitants will face expulsion. At first, Gesu was occupied by artists, who organized events and exhibitions between 2009 and 2012. They had to leave, however, after clashes with newcomers – mainly people in precarious situations looking for a place to live.

Some 160 residents, including 60 children, have lived at the Gesu squat for more than three years. But over the past few months, the number of inhabitants has grown so large that authorities have become worried about them bothering neighboring communities.

Christian leaders urge churches to mobilise behind Syria peace plan

(Clerics and other people attend the funeral of three men at Catholic Patriarchate in Damascus September 10, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri )

The World Council of Churches (WCC) urged its Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican member churches on Thursday to lobby their congregations and national governments to support a political solution to the war in Syria.

The Geneva-based WCC made the appeal after a meeting with international envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who both asked Christian leaders to help mobilize public opinion for peace.

Saudi women driving ban not part of sharia – morality police chief

(Female driver Azza Al Shmasani alights from her car after driving in defiance of the ban in Riyadh June 22, 2011. REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed)

Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving is not mandated by any text in Sharia, the Islamic legal code which forms the basis for most Saudi law, the head of its morality police told Reuters on Thursday.

Sheikh Abdulatif Al al-Sheikh stressed that he has no authority to change Saudi policy on women driving, but his comment may feed into a national discussion in Saudi Arabia, where women have in the past been arrested for defying the ban.

Holy water in Austria unsafe to drink: researchers

(A cross is reflected in the water as Pope Benedict XVI celebrates a holy mass in St. Stephens cathedral in Vienna on September 9, 2007.  REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

Holy water at religious shrines and churches in Austria is often contaminated with fecal matter and bacteria, researchers have found, advising the faithful not to drink it, especially in hospital chapels.

Scientists at Vienna University medical school’s Institute of Hygiene and Applied Immunology came to the conclusion after analyzing the water quality at 21 “holy” springs and 18 fonts at churches and chapels at various times of year.

from India Insight:

Delhi shaped South Asia’s Muslim identity, Pakistani author says

Raza Rumi is based in Lahore, but the public policy specialist and Friday Times editor's new book is based in another milieu entirely. "Delhi by heart" is a kind of travelogue about a city that is the source of a shared heritage that spans hundreds of years.

By his own admission, it is a "heartfelt account" of how a Pakistani comes to India, an “enemy country”, and discovers that its capital has, in fact, so many things common with Lahore.

"I wanted to write the biography of Darah Shikoh, the great Indian Mughal prince," Rumi said. "While researching for that, and while visiting Delhi all the time, I felt really it merits a Pakistani version as well because for these five years we have been so much cut off and we have misunderstood each other so much that it is time to sort of build bridges. Hence the book."

from John Lloyd:

The Church and organized labor’s new orthodoxy

Two of the western world's great organizations, the AFL-CIO and the Roman Catholic Church, decided last week to tackle two of the world's great problems differently than they had for decades before. This might just be another proof that they're getting weaker (they are). Or it might be a big, good shift.

The two groups are hardly alike. One is concerned with the material; the other occupied with things spiritual.  But last week they were united, as the leaders of both appeared ready to break with tradition and leave behind a history of exclusion. These moves haven’t attracted much notice: but if the two leaders follow through, the consequences will be enormous.

Let’s address the AFL-CIO’s action first. At its convention in Los Angeles last week, the confederation’s President Richard Trumka noted that CEO pay had gone up 40 percent since 2009, and invited the delegates to imagine "what kind of country we would live in if ordinary people’s incomes went up by 40 percent. Almost no one would live in poverty!" True, but an expected line from a union boss. But then he moved on to say -- extraordinarily, for a union representative -- that "we cannot win economic justice...for union members alone. It would not be right and it's not possible. All working people will rise together, or we will keep falling together."