FaithWorld

from Africa News blog:

Was Nigerian bomber a one-off?

SECURITY-AIRLINE/TRANSITQuite apart from the Nigerian would-be plane bomber’s lack of success, there are other reasons why Africa’s most populous nation cannot be expected to produce a rash of similar cases.

As this Reuters story from Sahabi Yahaya in the bomber’s home town of Funtua points out, it is Umar Abdulmutallab’s foreign education rather than his background in Muslim northern Nigeria that is seen as having radicalised him.

The relatively affluent upbringing is not too dissimilar to that of some of the Sept. 11 attackers or Al Qaeda recruits for other attacks, but makes him a particular exception in Nigeria. Most people live on less than $2 a day and many would give almost anything just to have got aboard the plane he tried to blow up. Every year, tens of thousands of Abdulmutallab’s compatriots brave deserts, oceans and unsympathetic immigration police to try to get to the West for just a taste of the chances he had and to take whatever work they can get to better themselves and their families.

Although only around half of Nigeria’s population is Muslim, that still gives it the sixth biggest Muslim population in the world.

But while outbreaks of religious violence in northern Nigeria have killed thousands of people over the past decade – hundreds died in July in clashes between security forces and the radical Boko Haram sect – bloodshed has often also been just as tied to political and ethnic factors.

Pew measures global religious restrictions

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has come out with a new report that tries to measure, country by country on a global level, government and social restrictions on religion. You can see our coverage of the report here and here and can download the whole report here.

The report, which Pew says is the first major quantitative study of the subject on a global level, ranks countries under two indices — one measures government restrictions on religion, the other social hostilities or curbs on religion that stem from violence or intimidation by private individuals or groups. NIGERIA RELIGION

A damaged mosque in Onitsha in southeastern Nigeria

The Government Restrictions Index is based on 20 questions used by the Pew Forum to assess state curbs on religion at the national, provincial and local levels.

GUESTVIEW: Faiths meet at Parliament of World Religions

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The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Paul Knitter is the Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union Theological Seminary in New York.Matthew Weiner is Program Director at the Interfaith Center of New York.

By Paul Knitter and Matthew Weiner

In 1893, the Chicago Parliament of World Religions was convened to gather the world’s faiths together for the first time. The organizers had a subversive message they kept hidden from invited speakers from non-Christian traditions: Christianity is the one true faith. They assumed that if all the faiths had a chance to speak publicly to the world, it would be obvious that Christianity was superior. But things didn’t go as planned. As it turned out, the Hindu representative Swami Vivikananda from India stole the show, convincing everyone that Hinduism was as valid a way to worship and experience the divine as any other. The state of the world’s religions was changed forever and the interfaith era had its symbolic beginning.

pwr-buddhistsOver 100 years later, things have certainly changed. The Parliament of World Religions is again under way here in Melbourne, with over 6,000 participants from 200 countries representing every major faith in the world. Now, it is assumed that every faith is valid. Here, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who will speak on Wednesday, is by far the most popular speaker, followed by Aboriginal and Native American speakers and others.

U.S. Christian leaders slam Uganda’s anti-homosexuality act

kampalaA diverse group of U.S. Christian leaders — who don’t always see eye to eye on same-sex lifestyle issues — have spoken out against a law under consideration in Uganda that could make homosexual behavior punishable by death. You can see the full statement and list of signatories here.

Our Christian faith recognizes violence, harassment and unjust treatment of any human being as a betrayal of Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. As followers of the teachings of Christ, we must express profound dismay at a bill currently before  the Parliament in Uganda. The ‘Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009′ would enforce lifetime prison sentences and in some cases the death penalty for homosexual behavior, as well as punish citizens for not
reporting their gay and lesbian neighbors to the authorities
,” it says in part.

Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, in our churches, communities and families, we seek to embrace our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as God’s children worthy of respect and love,” it added.

Pew maps the Muslim world

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life just released a demographic study of the Muslim world it says is “the largest project of its kind to date.” Click here http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=450 to see the report ”Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population.”

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The report drew on data from 232 countries and territories and involved Pew researchers working with nearly 50 demographers and social scientists around the world. It is certainly a useful reference for anyone interested in the Islamic world. (PHOTO: Hundreds of thousands of Muslims pray inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca Sept. 15, 2009. REUTERS/Susan Baahil)

Among its highlights:

After an African-American president, an African pope?

turksonIf you start seeing pictures of the man at the right or hearing his name now and then, here’s why.

On the international Godbeat, it’s never too early to start speculating about who will become the next pope. The current head of the world’s largest church, Pope Benedict, is admirably fit at 82, but facts like that never discourage avid Vatican watchers. “Vaticanistas” look beyond the present pope to find who else stands out in the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Who’s on his way up? Who’s taking on important jobs? Who’s out there publishing books or giving lectures or visiting other cardinals or doing anything else that looks like — perish the thought! – a subtle campaign in an unofficial race whose candidates never throw their birettas into the ring. (Photo: Cardinal Turkson, 13 April 2005/Max Rossi)

It looks like Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana is now firmly in this group known as the papabili, or possible popes, thanks to an important job he’s doing this month. He’s the relator, or secretary general, of the Synod for Africa, a major meeting of African bishops in Rome to discuss the Church’s future on that continent.  Previous cardinals who served in such posts include the future popes John Paul II and Benedict. Like another African cardinal once tipped for the job, Nigeria’s Francis Arinze (now 77 and retired), he counts among his plus points an on-the-job familiarity with Islam. John Allen, the veteran vaticanista for the U.S.-based National Catholic Reporter, headlined his story on Turkson “Say hello to Africa’s next great hope to be pope.”

from Africa News blog:

Oprah magic for Man of God

Nigerian author Uwem Akpan, who is a Jesuit priest, said he was "humbled" that his debut collection of short stories was chosen by influential U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey for her book club.

Oprah picked "Say You're One Of Them" as her 63rd book club selection, the first time she has chosen a book of short stories, saying these stories "left me stunned and profoundly moved."

The collection, published in 2008, includes five separate stories from the perspective of an African child that were described as capturing the resilience of children growing up in the face of unimaginable devastation.

Religion, poverty and strife: what comes first?

An uprising by a radical Islamic sect in northern Nigeria may ostensibly have been about religion, but such bloodletting will recur unless underlying issues of poverty, unemployment and education are addressed.

West African Islam is overwhelmingly moderate and northern Nigeria is home to a powerful political elite, yet militant cleric Mohammed Yusuf was able to establish a cult-like following. Yusuf’s sect, Boko Haram, wanted sharia (Islamic law) more widely applied across Africa’s most populous nation. Its name means “Western education is sinful”.

But the support Yusuf drummed up — from illiterate youths to professionals who quit jobs and families to join him — came as much from frustration with what is seen as a corrupt and self-serving political establishment as from pure religious fervour.

from Africa News blog:

Boko Haram: a sect alone?

****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ******The Boko Haram sect surprised many in Nigeria and elsewhere with the violence of their uprising last week.******Before Boko Haram was suppressed by the security forces at the cost of nearly 800 lives, we learned that the group's name means "Western education is sinful" in the Hausa language used in northern Nigeria.******We also learned that the sect's charismatic leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was, before he was killed while in police detention, opposed to all things Western.******Which prompts two thoughts. The first is that the anti-education message may not have much traction in Nigeria, a country whose inhabitants are determined to get ahead and secure the best education for their children. In many cases that will be either in the West or in Nigerian schools offering a Western-style curriculum.******During the years I spent in the country, staff working for me were always concerned about being able to raise enough money for their children's school uniforms and books.******And the second thought: Yusuf's opposition to the modern world seems to have had its limits. When the violence erupted in Maiduguri, he was seen riding in a Toyota car, dressed in military-style fatigues and accompanied by men carrying Russian-designed assault rifles.

from Africa News blog:

Northern Nigeria erupts again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So far the exact toll from the latest bout of religious rioting in northern Nigeria is not clear. At least 150 have died and the toll may well go higher.

The killings are bad enough, but the north has experienced much worse within living memory. One of the bloodiest outbreaks of religious rioting occurred in Kano in 1980, and northern cities saw a series of upheavals during the decade that followed.

The Kano riots, led by Muhammadu Marwa, a Muslim preacher otherwise known as "Maitatsine", were  put down by the army.