Quebec separatists play to core voters with ban on headscarves and other religious wear

(Demonstrators protest against Quebec’s proposed Charter of Values in Montreal, September 14, 2013. REUTERS/ Christinne Muschi)

Quebec’s separatist government is betting on broad popular support with a proposal that prohibits public workers from wearing headscarves, skullcaps and other religious symbols, yet it is dividing the movement that advocates independence from Canada.

The proposal, unveiled by the ruling Parti Quebecois on Tuesday, plays with the explosive issue of minority rights in a part of Canada, a country that prides itself as being a tapestry of immigrants rather than a U.S.-style melting pot.

The government’s proposed Charter of Quebec Values would ban teachers, doctors and other public workers from wearing highly visible religious symbols, including headscarves and large crosses, in an effort to cement a secular society in the French-speaking province.

The charter needs support from at least one other party to become law, and it will certainly face legal challenges.

German bishop agrees to audit and apologises for uproar after Vatican visit

(Limburg cathedral and old town, 23 April 2013/Benjamin Dahlhoff)

A German Catholic bishop accused by critics of being an autocrat and lavish spender has agreed to let an outside commission audit his finances after a rare week-long visit by a Vatican monitor.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, whose costly new residence is out of step with Pope Francis’s stress on simplicity and poverty, apologised for any “carelessness or misjudgement on my part”.

Tebartz-van Elst and Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, a Vatican diplomat examining the diocese that includes Germany’s financial capital Frankfurt, celebrated Mass together on Sunday before the Italian prelate was to return to Rome and report to the pope.

Pope Francis to drive his own ‘popemobile’ inside Vatican City

(Pope Francis (R) is presented with a Renault 4 car during a private audience with Don Renzo Zocca at the Vatican in this picture taken September 7, 2013 and released by Osservatore Romano September 10, 2013)

Pope Francis plans to drive around Vatican City at the wheel of a “popemobile” that is a lot like him: frugal, clad in white, and with a fair bit of mileage.

The 1984 Renault 4 economy car with 300,000 km (186,000 miles) on the clock was given to him by a 70-year-old priest from northern Italy, Father Renzo Zocca, who took the pope for a spin inside the walls of the tiny city-state.

Welsh Anglicans allow women bishops, pressure mounts on Church of England

(Llandaff Cathedral, 10 September 2012/Steve Collis)

The Anglican Church in Wales voted on Thursday to allow the ordination of women bishops, putting pressure on the Church of England, the last part of Britain and Ireland to hold onto the men-only rule.

Disagreements over whether women can become bishops and over gay relationships have roiled the 80-million strong Anglican Communion – the world’s third largest Christian grouping after the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

The Welsh vote will intensify the spotlight on the Anglican leader, Archbishop Justin Welby, who wants to speed up plans to allow women bishops in England. Scotland and Ireland allow female bishops although none have been ordained.

Hindu nationalist Modi crowned as India’s opposition prime minister candidate

(Gujarat’s chief minister Narendra Modi speaks during the “Vibrant Gujarat Summit” at Gandhinagar in the western Indian state of Gujarat January 12, 2013. REUTERS/Amit Dave )

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi was crowned as the candidate for prime minister of India’s main opposition party on Friday, cementing the remarkable rise of a leader adored by business but tainted by deadly religious riots that broke out on his watch.

On a path that from humble roots as the son of a tea-shop owner to running for leadership of the world’s biggest democracy, Modi has methodically built a fervent fan base.

Quebec separatists reap first casualty in religious symbol drive

(Quebec’s Minister of Democratic Institutions Bernard Drainville speaks during a news conference to present the Quebec Charter of Values at the National Assembly in Quebec City, September 10, 2013. The words read “Marking up accommodations in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and to add to the religious neutrality of the state”. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger)

The separatist Bloc Quebecois kicked one of its five members of Parliament out of its caucus on Thursday after she took a strong stand against a proposal by Quebec’s separatist government to ban public workers from wearing most religious symbols.

Demonstrating how the controversial proposal has caused divisions even among those who want Quebec to leave Canada, legislator Maria Mourani and a group of other separatists said the Parti Quebecois government was making a big error with its proposed Charter of Quebec Values in a bid for short-term gains.

from The Great Debate:

Seeking justice for Syrians

Demanding “accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people ,” the Obama administration has forcefully argued that Syria must be punished for gassing more than 1,400 civilians to death in a single day -- an act President Barack Obama called “a crime against humanity, and a violation of the laws of war” in his speech Tuesday night. Leaders around the world have also denounced Syria’s “war crimes” and its “crime against civilization.” But if they seem to be making the case for prosecutions, that option has, in fact, received scant serious attention -- despite French and British efforts to press the issue.

Syria’s unexpected agreement to place its chemical weapons under international control may seem to obviate the need for new policy options, assuming the devilish details of this initiative can be nailed down. But seeking justice will eventually become a key dimension of U.S. and international policy responses to Syrian atrocities -- not least because Syrians will expect some measure of justice for the depredations they have endured.

Though prosecutions wouldn’t deal an immediate blow to Syria’s chemical weapons capacity, they can help restore a global taboo that has been dangerously breached, while also honoring the suffering of thousands of Syrian victims. Notably, the International Criminal Court last year acquired explicit jurisdiction over the war crime of using poisonous gas in the kind of conflict underway in Syria. Bringing this charge against Syrian perpetrators would bolster other efforts to fortify the taboo against use of weapons of mass destruction.

New generation of theologians to promote retired Pope Benedict’s teachings

(Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to lead the weekly general audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 18, 2012. REUTERS/Max Rossi )

With Pope Benedict retired behind the Vatican’s walls and his former students getting on in years, a new generation of theologians is taking up the challenge of spreading his views on God, faith and modern society.

The ex-pontiff, who stepped down in February, met every year since 1979 with several dozen former students whose doctoral theses he mentored as a theology professor in Germany before climbing the Roman Catholic Church’s career ladder to the top. He was absent when his students, who have mostly reached or passed retirement age, gathered at the papal summer residence Castel Gandalfo outside Rome two weeks ago.

German court rules Muslim girls must join swimming classes

(Twenty-year-old trainee volunteer surf life saver Mecca Laalaa runs along North Cronulla Beach in Sydney during her Bronze medallion competency test January 13, 2007. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne)

A German court ruled on Wednesday that Muslim girls must take part in school swimming lessons with boys, in a landmark decision that touches on the sensitive relationship between religion and the state.

The decision by Germany’s top court for public and administrative disputes signals that the state’s constitutional obligation to educate children can take precedence over customs and practices linked to an individual’s religious beliefs.

Guestview: The challenges facing Arab Christians

(The King Abdullah mosque (R) and an Orthodox church(L)  in Amman December 18, 2007. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Below are excerpts from a speech delivered by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, Chief Advisor to King Abdullah of Jordan for Religious and Cultural Aaffairs, at a conference on Arab Christians in Amman on September 3-4.

By Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad

…We in Jordan feel that, for the first time in hundreds of years, Arab Christians have become targeted in some countries; that they are suffering not only because of the blind and deaf sedition (finah) that everyone has suffered from in certain Arab countries since the beginning of what is incorrectly called ‘the Arab Spring’, but also merely because they are Christians. We reject this categorically and completely. First: we reject it according to our sacred law, as Muslims before God. Second: we reject it morally, as Arabs and as fellow tribesmen. Third: we reject it emotionally, as neighbours and dear friends. And fourth: we reject it personally, as human beings.