Religious groups face increased hostility and limits worldwide – Pew report

(A man walks out from a mosque burned down in recent anti-Muslim violence in Rakhine state in Myanmar, October 3, 2013.  REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun )

Violence and discrimination against religious groups by governments and rival faiths have reached new highs in all regions of the world except the Americas, according to a new Pew Research Center report.

Social hostility such as attacks on minority faiths or pressure to conform to certain norms was strong in one-third of the 198 countries and territories surveyed in 2012, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, it said on Tuesday.

Religious-related terrorism and sectarian violence occurred in one-fifth of those countries in that year, while states imposed legal limits on worship, preaching or religious wear in almost 30 percent of them, Pew said.

“Religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas,” Pew said in its report, the latest such survey in a series based on data back to 2007.

Erdogan may prevail against Turkish preacher Gülen, but at high political cost

(An ad with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan inside a metro train in Istanbul January 13, 2014. The slogan reads as “strong willpower”. REUTERS/Murad Sezer)

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan looks to have the upper hand in a civil war rocking Turkey’s political establishment, but his bid to break the influence of a potent Islamic cleric could roll back reforms and undermine hard-won business confidence.

What erupted a month ago as a damaging inquiry into alleged government corruption has spiraled into a battle over the judiciary with potentially much further-reaching consequences for the country’s international image and Erdogan’s own future.

UK to investigate possible SAS role in 1984 Indian Golden Temple attack

(Devotees throng the holy Sikh shrine of Golden Temple to offer prayers for the New Year, in the northern Indian city of Amritsar January 1, 2014. REUTERS/Munish Sharma)

Britain is to investigate newly released official papers which suggest the government of Margaret Thatcher helped India plan a deadly attack against Sikh separatists in the Golden Temple at Amritsar in 1984.

Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the review after an opposition Labour party lawmaker asked the government to disclose whether the papers were genuine and whether Britain had any role in the attack on Sikhism’s holiest shrine.

Kalashnikov rifle designer felt ‘spiritual pain’ from mass deaths it caused

(Mikhail Kalashnikov, whose AK-47 automatic rifle has been the weapon of choice in a half-century of wars from Afghanistan to Zaire, celebrated his 80th birthday November 10, 1994 in this file photo. REUTERS)

Mikhail Kalashnikov, the designer of the AK-47 rifle, wrote a letter to the Russian Orthodox Church before his death expressing concern that the weapon had killed so many people, Izvestia newspaper reported.

“My spiritual pain is unbearable,” he wrote in the letter to the head of the Church, Patriarch Kirill.

from Photographers' Blog:

Keeping the faith

Manila, Philippines

By Bobby Ranoco

Covering the grand procession of the Jesus of the Black Nazarene is not easy, even though I do it annually. Every year on January 9, millions of devotees crowd the streets as a life-sized, dark, wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ carrying the cross is brought through Manila’s old city.

I began to prepare days before the procession and sought permission to get a vantage point on the rooftop of the Quirino Grandstand at Luneta Park, where the procession begins, and on top of other buildings surrounding the route, to produce photographs from a bird’s eye view. It was my first time photographing from the rooftop of the Quirino Grandstand. I had to do my research on how my photographs would turn out at such an angle.

As I did all this, I was praying hard for guidance from the Jesus of the Black Nazarene that all my requests would be approved. He heeded my prayers: everything was approved and ran smoothly with time to spare.

Not your average Popemobile: Pope Francis sells his Harley Davidson

(Harley-Davidson bikes are parked outside Saint Peter’s Square before the start of a mass led by Pope Francis in Rome June 16, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

Signed “Francesco” on its tank, the 1,585 cc Harley Davidson Dyna Super Glide that will be auctioned for charity in Paris on Feb. 6 has an unusual owner – Pope Francis.

The pope will sell his Harley Davidson to raise funds for Caritas Roma, a charity working on behalf of the church, auctioneer Bonhams said on Monday.

French comedian Dieudonné drops show deemed anti-Semitic

(French comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, also known as just “Dieudonne”, attends a news conference at the “Theatre de la Main d’or” in Paris January 11, 2014.REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes )

A French comedian has dropped a show banned for its anti-Semitic language, and was planning one that would cause no objections.

On Friday, France’s highest administrative court upheld a ban on a show by the black comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala in the central city of Tours, days after it was also banned in the western city of Nantes.

Pope’s choice of new Catholic cardinals puts emphasis on the poor

(Faithful watch a maxi screen as Pope Francis leads the Angelus prayer from the window of the Apostolic Palace in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican January 12, 2014. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini)

Pope Francis put his first stamp on the group at the top of the Roman Catholic hierarchy on Sunday, naming 19 new cardinals from around the world and emphasizing his concern for poor countries.

Sixteen of them are “cardinal electors” under 80 and thus eligible to enter a conclave to elect a pope. They come from Italy, Germany, Britain, Nicaragua, Canada, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Chile, Burkina Faso, the Philippines and Haiti.

Russian Orthodox Church under fire over monastery’s Stalin calendar

(A man carries a portrait of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin as people attend a gathering marking the 130th anniversary of his birthday in Stalin’s hometown town of Gori, some 80 km (50 miles) west of Tbilisi, December 21, 2013. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili )

The Russian Orthodox Church has come under heavy criticism on the Internet this week over a 2014 wall calendar published by a revered monastery’s printing house that features portraits of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

The black-and-white calendar, titled “Stalin” and costing 200 roubles ($6), is advertised as “a great gift for veterans and history fans”. Historian Mikhail Babkin brought it to public attention on his blog on Jan.7.

Book Talk: Bill O’Reilly on strong leaders and Jesus

(Television commentator Bill O’Reilly checks himself in a mirror during the 2004 Republican National Convention, at Madison Square Garden in New York, September 1, 2004. REUTERS/Lisa Miller )

Having written two biographies about Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, political commentator and television host Bill O’Reilly and his co-author, Martin Dugard, focus on the rise and crucifixion of Jesus in their latest book “Killing Jesus.”

The best seller does not attempt to convey any particular religious message but rather describes the ascendance of Jesus in the context of a brutal Roman regime.