FaithWorld

New Thai PM uses holy water and feng shui to ward off occult challenges

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(Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha prays before the first cabinet meeting at the Government House in Bangkok September 9, 2014. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom)

As he prepares to move in to Bangkok’s Government House this week, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is going to great lengths to sweep away any occult challenge.

Prayuth, 60, has left nothing to chance since leading a military coup to topple a democratically elected government on May 22. After a meticulously planned power grab, he has systematically snuffed out dissent.

That meticulousness is being carried through to his government. Like many politicians and generals before him, Prayuth believes in spiritualism and divination and on Monday members of his entourage were seen carrying Buddha statues and religious idols thought to bring luck in to Government House.

But his beliefs go beyond conventional religion, and last week, Prayuth told an audience of dousing himself from head to toe in holy water as his enemies had tried to curse him.

Killing and preaching, Nigerian Islamist militants carve out their “caliphate”

(Girls recite Quranic verses at an Islamic school in Maiduguri, Nigeria, May 24, 2014. REUTERS/Joe Penney )

(Girls recite Quranic verses at an Islamic school in Maiduguri, Nigeria, May 24, 2014. REUTERS/Joe Penney)

First comes the killing, then the preaching.

Islamist Boko Haram militants carrying automatic rifles and machetes roar into northeast Nigerian towns or hamlets in columns of pickup trucks and motorbikes and fire at all adult men they see. They often finish them off with knives.

When they have hoisted their black flag inscribed with Koranic verses over government offices or the local emir’s palace, they tell the surviving women they will marry them and “live in peace”, according to survivors who escaped from the town of Gwoza, seized by Boko Haram last month.

After Syria and Iraq, Islamic State makes inroads in South Asia

(Board Bazaar in Peshawar, 27 May 2013

(Board Bazaar in Peshawar, 27 May 2013/Drsaeed90)

Islamic State pamphlets and flags have appeared in parts of Pakistan and India, alongside signs that the ultra-radical group is inspiring militants even in the strongholds of the Taliban and al Qaeda.

A splinter group of Pakistan’s Taliban insurgents, Jamat-ul Ahrar, has already declared its support for the well-funded and ruthless Islamic State fighters, who have captured large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in a drive to set up a self-declared caliphate.

“IS (Islamic State) is an Islamic Jihadi organization working for the implementation of the Islamic system and creation of the Caliphate,” Jamat-ul Ahrar’s leader and a prominent Taliban figure, Ehsanullah Ehsan, told Reuters by telephone. “We respect them. If they ask us for help, we will look into it and decide.”

Putin is under Satan’s influence, says leader of Kiev Orthodox Church

(Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a signing ceremony with his Mongolian counterpart Tsakhia Elbegdorj (not pictured) at the national parliament building in Ulan Bator, September 3, 2014.  REUTERS/B.Rentsendorj ()

(Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a signing ceremony at the national parliament building in Ulan Bator, September 3, 2014.
REUTERS/B.Rentsendorj )

President Vladimir Putin has fallen under the spell of Satan and faces eternal damnation unless he repents, a top Ukrainian clergyman said in an unusually blunt statement that squarely blamed the Russian leader for the war in Ukraine.

Patriarch Filaret heads the Kiev Patriarchate, a branch of the Orthodox Church that broke away from Moscow in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union and the declaration of an independent Ukraine.

Turkey’s Erdogan to seek Gulen extradition in Obama talks: media

(DATE IMPORTED:February 05, 2014Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania September 24, 2013. Born in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, Gulen built up his reputation as a Muslim preacher with intense sermons that often moved him to tears. From his base in Izmir, he toured Turkey stressing the need to embrace scientific progress, shun radicalism and build bridges to the West and other faiths. The first Gulen school opened in 1982. In the following decades, the movement became a spectacular success, setting up hundreds of schools that turned out generations of capable graduates, who gravitated to influential jobs in the judiciary, police, media, state bureaucracy and private business. Picture taken September 24, 2013. To match Insight TURKEY-ERDOGAN/GULEN REUTERS/Selahattin Sevi/Zaman Daily)

(Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Zaman Daily)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will seek the extradition of his ally-turned-foe, U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, when he meets U.S. President Barack Obama at the NATO summit on Friday, Turkish media reports said.

Erdogan, inaugurated last week, has vowed to press his battle with Gulen and his supporters whom he accuses of using influence within the judiciary, police and state bureaucracy to plot against him in his final year as prime minister.

‘Love Jihad’ and religious conversion polarize in Modi’s India

(People take part in a religion conversion ceremony from Christianity to Hinduism at Hasayan town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh August 29, 2014. Picture taken August 29, 2014. To match Insight INDIA-RELIGION/MODI REUTERS/Adnan Abidi )

(People take part in a religion conversion ceremony from Christianity to Hinduism at Hasayan town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh August 29, 2014. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi )

Fired up and full of vitriol, Hindu activist Rajeshwar Singh is on a mission to end centuries of religious diversity in India, one conversion at a time.

His voice echoing off the walls of a Protestant church across a narrow street, Singh railed against foreign faiths at an event last week to convert a Christian family to Hinduism in the rural town of Hasayan, 140 km (87 miles) south of Delhi.

Shimon Peres floats idea of U.N.-style “United Religions” with Pope Francis

(Pope Francis and Israeli President Shimon Peres (R) arrive in the Vatican Gardens to pray with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (not pictured) at the Vatican June 8, 2014. REUTERS/Max Rossi )

(Pope Francis and Israeli President Shimon Peres (R) arrive in the Vatican Gardens to pray with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (not pictured) at the Vatican June 8, 2014. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

Former Israeli President Shimon Peres has held talks with Pope Francis to illustrate his idea for a U.N.-style “Organisation of United Religions” to combat violence in God’s name.

Peres, 91, who was president of the Jewish state until July and is one of the Middle East’s most prominent elder statesmen, spoke to the pope for about 45 minutes on Thursday in his residence, the Vatican said.

Islamic finance seeks to go green with environment-based products

(A partial solar eclipse is seen through a crescent of Faisal Mosque in Islamabad March 29, 2006. The track of the eclipse stretches from eastern Brazil, across the Atlantic to north Africa, then on to the Middle East, Central Asia, west China and Mongolia. REUTERS/Mian Khursheed)

(A partial solar eclipse is seen through a crescent of Faisal Mosque in Islamabad March 29, 2006. REUTERS/Mian Khursheed)

Financial products based on renewable energy and sustainable agriculture are emerging in Islamic finance as asset managers seek a crossover opportunity between ethical and sharia-compliant investing.

Islamic finance follows religious principles which forbid involvement in activities such as gambling, tobacco and alcohol, but the industry has only recently begun to stress themes of wider social responsibility, such as protecting the environment.

Kaleidoscope of flags marks Belfast’s sectarian fault lines

(The national flag of Scotland (C) flies amongst other flags in a street in East Belfast July 5, 2014. Horrified that Scotland might break up the United Kingdom by voting for independence this autumn, thousands of Northern Ireland loyalists are preparing to fight back using their favoured 17th century battle regalia: drums, flutes, banners and orange sashes. Photograph taken on July 5. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton)

(The national flag of Scotland (C) flies amongst other flags in a street in East Belfast July 5, 2014. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton)

In Northern Ireland, the flags of Israel and the Palestinians are potent symbols of conflict – but here they divide Catholics and Protestants rather than Jews and Muslims.

In the complex web of alliances that underpins the British province’s flag-obsessed politics, the Star of David has been adopted by pro-British Loyalists, mainly Protestants, many of whom sympathise with Israel.

Diego Maradona steals show from fellow Argentine Pope Francis

(Former soccer star Diego Maradona (L) hugs Pope Francis during a special audience held before a special interreligious "Match for Peace", at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican September 1, 2014. Current and former soccer stars representing various religious faiths will participate in the "Match for Peace", which will be held in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Monday night. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi )

(Former soccer star Diego Maradona (L) hugs Pope Francis during a special audience held before a special interreligious “Match for Peace”, at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican September 1, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi )

Pope Francis normally has no competition for attention when he is in a room but it was different on Monday when another larger-than-life Argentine – soccer great Diego Maradona – attended a papal event.

Maradona was among some 400 people who attended a special papal audience for players and organizers of a charity match that was being played on Monday night in Rome to promote peace and inter-religious cooperation.