FaithWorld

The dangers of oversimplifying the Central African Republic conflict

(Anti-balaka fighters from the town of Bossembele patrol in the Boeing district of Bangui, Central African Republic, February 24, 2014. REUTERS/Camille Lepage)

When violence spiralled in Central African Republic’s capital last December, the country’s most senior Muslim cleric sought shelter with the Catholic archbishop of Bangui.

And that month no one was attacked in Lakounga, one of the oldest parts of the capital, where Christian and Muslim leaders worked together to protect the community. Posters were plastered on every street corner with the message: “Christians and Muslims, the same blood, the same life, the same country”.

“Their message is that we are one and we have been living together … for many decades,” Nyeko Caesar Poblicks, East and Central Africa projects manager at the London-based NGO Conciliation Resources, and a frequent visitor to CAR, told me in a recent interview.

Elsewhere in the capital, mosques, shops and houses owned by Muslims were attacked by angry groups who saw Muslims as collaborators of the mainly Muslim Seleka movement. A thousand people were killed in December alone, and hundreds of thousands were displaced.

Islamists demand levy in gold from Christians in Syrian city they control

(Residents search under rubble at a site hit by what activists say was a Scud missile from forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Raqqa, eastern Syria November 28, 2013. REUTERS/Nour Fourat )

An al Qaeda splinter group has demanded that Christians in a Syrian city it controls pay a levy in gold and curb displays of their faith in return for protection, according to a statement posted online on Wednesday.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), mainly composed of foreign fighters, is widely considered the most radical of the groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad, and is also engaged in a violent struggle with rival Islamist rebels.

Indian ministry to discuss developing Islamic endowments for large Muslim minority

(Muslims pray at the Jama Masjid (Grand Mosque) during Eid al-Fitr, in the old quarter of Delhi August 31, 2011. REUTERS/Vijay Mathur )

India’s Ministry of Minority Affairs has enlisted a Kuala Lumpur-based body to help develop Islamic endowments, or awqaf, aiming to mobilise a large pool of assets in a country that is home to one of the biggest Muslim populations in the world.

The World Islamic Economic Forum Foundation, which organises conferences and workshops on Muslim business around the world, will hold a roundtable later this year to discuss ways to improve management of India’s estimated 490,000 waqf properties.

Kid gloves treatment seen softening Israeli crackdown on pro-settler vandals

(Israeli soldiers stand near the damaged door of a mosque in the West Bank village of Orif, near Nablus November 19, 2012. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini )

Last March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a crackdown on crimes that elsewhere might be shrugged off as ugly but sufferable mischief – racist graffiti, slashed tires, hacked orchards and small-scale arson.

Such vandalism takes on a whole different meaning when it is perpetrated by ultranationalist Jews against Palestinian property, risking renewed violence in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, disrupting U.S.-mediated peace talks and further sapping Israel’s image abroad.

Generations on, Christians fleeing Syria return to Turkish homeland they once fled

(Syriac Christians from Turkey and Syria attend a mass at the Mort Shmuni Syriac Orthodox Church in the town of Midyat, in Mardin province of southeast Turkey February 2, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas)

When Louis Bandak fled the violence in Syria, he sought refuge in the country his grandfather was forced to abandon exactly 90 years ago this week.

Bandak, his wife and two daughters are part of a small but growing trickle of Christians arriving in Turkey after three years of civil war in Syria killed more than 140,000 people.

Pakistani Taliban see no peace unless Islamabad government enforces sharia law

(The Pakistani Taliban negotiating team at peace talks with the government that soon broke down,  at a news conference in Islamabad February 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mian Khursheed )

The Pakistani Taliban has told the Islamabad government there was no chance of peace in the country unless Pakistan changed its political and legal system and officially embraced Islamic law.

The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wants to find a negotiated settlement to years of fighting with the militants but talks broke down this month after a string of attacks.

from Photographers' Blog:

Afghan refugees – Seeking sanctuary

Brussels, Belgium

By Francois Lenoir

It was a cold, wet morning when I passed through the doors of the Church of Saint John the Baptist at the Beguinage, a grand 17th century building in the center of Brussels.

Inside, children were playing and shouting in the large, dark hall, which was lined with rows and rows of tents. I had not just entered a church – I was inside people’s homes. The building had become a very private space.

Saint John the Baptist’s is occupied by a group of Afghan migrants, who have been living there for more than three months. Their first asylum request was refused by the authorities and they were told to leave Belgium, but some ended up travelling around the county aimlessly and were left squatting in unoccupied buildings.

Australian Christian missionary arrested on second trip to North Korea

(North Koreans pay their respects in front of statues of North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung and former leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, on the second anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il,  December 17, 2013. REUTERS/KCNA)

An Australian man has been arrested while doing missionary work in North Korea, his wife told Reuters on Wednesday, making him the second foreign Christian missionary to be held by the North.

The wife of 75-year-old John Short told Reuters her husband was arrested in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, on Sunday and had been open about his religious work on his second trip to the isolated country.

Hungarian rabbi finds 103 Torah scrolls stolen during WW2 in Russian library

(Rabbi Baruch Oberlander shows the media how a Torah is used in a synagogue during a news conference in Budapest February 18, 2014. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo)

A Hungarian rabbi said on Tuesday he had uncovered 103 Torah scrolls stolen from Hungarian Jews during World War Two and stashed in a Russian library, adding he planned to restore and return them to the Jewish community.

Slomo Koves, chief rabbi of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, said he had found the scrolls while following up a previous recovery of Hungarian war loot in the Lenin Scientific Library in Nizhny Novgorod, 400 km (240 miles) east of Moscow.

Rockers in the sacristy: new book recounts St. Francis’ famous fans

(A screen shows pictures of Pope Francis inside San Francesco Basilica in Assisi October 4, 2013. Pope Francis visits Assisi, the Italian town that was home to his namesake St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis took his name from the saint who is revered around the world as a symbol of austerity, simplicity, concern for the poor and a love of the environment. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini )

What do Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger’s daughter, Carlos Santana and Patti Smith have in common? It’s not only rock and roll: all of them are fans of a saint who lived 800 years ago.

St. Francis of Assisi, known worldwide for his simple spirituality, his closeness to the poor, his love of nature and his preaching of peace, has some unlikely admirers.