FaithWorld

Kenya PM blasts judges for barring Islamic courts from constitution

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President Mwai Kibaki (C), Prime Minister Raila Odinga (L) and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka (R) release pigeons for peace at a Nairobi rally for the constitution referendum on May 15, 2010/Thomas Mukoya

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has attacked the country’s judiciary as an obstacle to reform after its high court  ruled it would be discriminatory to entrench kadhi courts — Islamic courts that rule on the basis of sharia — in Kenya’s constitution. The ruling came three months before Kenyans vote in a referendum on a proposed new constitution, seen as an important step towards ensuring that post-election violence which shook east Africa’s largest economy in 2008 is not repeated.

Opposition to the Muslim courts brought together Christian clergy and some politicians to oppose the proposed constitution. The kadhis’ courts deal with matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance among Muslims.

A three-judge panel of the high court said religious courts should not be enshrined in the constitution because it ran counter to the principle of separation of state and religion.

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Kenya’s population is about 45% Protestant, 33% Roman Catholic and 10% Muslim, the rest following indigenous faiths or other beliefs. The referendum has heightened differences between Kenya’s Muslims and its Christian churches, which have criticised the draft constitution for including the Islamic courts and allowing abortion in certain circumstances.

Islamic finance has image problem in Christian-majority African states

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A currency dealer counts Kenya shillings in Nairobi on October 23, 2008/Antony Njuguna

Africa’s Islamic finance industry needs to overcome negative perceptions among non-Muslims to successfully expand into predominantly Christian sub-Saharan Africa, an industry leader has said.

Northern Africa is largely Muslim and countries such as Egypt and Sudan have offered Islamic banking for decades.  Now some lenders are looking to expand into sub-Saharan nations, such as Uganda which is 80 per cent Christian.

Africa also suffers sex abuse by priests: Joburg RC archbishop

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A member of the faithful shows a crucifix to Pope Benedict XVI during a youth rally at the Dos Coqueiros stadium in Luanda, Angola March 21, 2009/Alessandro Bianchi

Sexual abuse by Catholic priests is a scourge in Africa as well as the Western countries where scandals have badly hurt the Vatican’s image, a leading African Catholic archbishop has said.

Archbishop of Johannesburg Buti Tlhagale said the damage weakened the Church’s ability to speak out with moral authority in Africa, where it has at times been a rare voice challenging dictatorship, corruption and abuse of power.

African Jews may have the lost Ark of the Covenant – video

Reuters Video Report — DNA confirms that a secretive African tribe are direct descendants of Jews who fled the Holy Land 2,500 years ago, and one their religious artifacts might be linked to the lost Ark of the Covenant.

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North Africa Qaeda group offers to help Nigerian Muslims

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Farm truck attacked in Nigeria's central city of Jos as Muslim and Christian gangs clashed last month, 20 Jan 2010/Akintunde Akinleye

An al Qaeda group in North Africa has offered to give Nigerian Muslims training and weapons to fight Christians in the West African country, where more than 460 people were killed in sectarian clashes last month.

“We are ready to train your people in weapons, and give you whatever support we can in men, arms and munitions to enable you to defend our people in Nigeria,” the statement by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said.

TIMELINE-Ethnic and religious unrest in Nigeria

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A man and his daughter outside a burned house in Jos,20 Jan 2010/Akintunde Akinleye

Four days of clashes this week between Christian and Muslim mobs armed with guns, knives and machetes killed hundreds of people in Jos and surrounding communities before the military was deployed to contain the violence. At least 460 people have been reported killed

The unrest around the capital of Plateau state, which lies at the crossroads of Nigeria’s Muslim north and predominantly Christian south, underscores the fragility of Africa’s most populous nation as it approaches the campaign period for 2011 elections with uncertainty over who is in charge.  President Umaru Yar’Adua has been receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia for two months.

Mauritanian Muslim imams initiate rare ban on female circumcision

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Women meeting in western Senegal to discuss eradicating female genital mutilation, 10 Sept 2007/Finbarr O'Reilly

Human rights campaigners who have been struggling for years to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM) in West Africa got a boost this week as news emerged that a group of Muslim clerics and scholars in Mauritania had declared a fatwa, or religious decree, against the practice.

“Are there texts in the Koran that clearly require that thing? They do not exist,” asked the secretary general of the Forum of Islamic Thought in Mauritania, Cheikh Ould Zein. “On the contrary, Islam is clearly against any action that has negative effects on health. Now that doctors in Mauritania unanimously say that this practice threatens health, it is therefore clear that Islam is against it.”

Traditional Anglican bloc eyeing union with Rome is far-flung group

TAC seal

TAC seal

The question of how many Anglicans will join the Roman Catholic Church has been hanging in the air since Pope Benedict made his offer last October to take in Anglican groups that cannot accept reforms such as ordaining women bishops. The largest figure mentioned is the 400,000-strong membership of the Traditional Anglican Communion, a traditionalist group that is not actually a member of the Anglican Communion that most Anglicans belong to. It is sometimes presented as a bloc whose transfer will be an important event.

Even though the TAC left the Anglican Communion two decades ago, it could be quite important to the Roman Catholic Church if that many Anglicans (of whatever standing) came knocking on the door seeking entry. And the sight of so many switching to Rome could also have an indirect impact on the Anglican Communion. St. Peter's Basilica, 3 Nov 2008/Tom Heneghan

St. Peter's Basilica, 3 Nov 2008/Tom Heneghan

But those TAC members, even if their total does add up to 400,000, are so widely spread out that they might actually  have only a small local impact if and when they “swim the Tiber.” The Church Times has a breakdown of the TAC membership that shows that 92% of the communion’s members live in India and Africa. The largest congregation, the 130,000 reported in India, might seem like an impressive number in Britain, but it’s small by subcontinental standards.  The numbers in Britain and Europe (1,800), Canada (2,000) or the United States (2,500) are really small. Even if all members join at the same time, it may not seem like they are joining en bloc.

Muslims, Catholics rap Senegal prez over Stalinist-style tribute to Africa

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African Renaissance monument under construction, 19 August 2009/Finbarr O'Reilly

Senegal has a reputation for harmony between its Muslim majority (about 90%) and Christian minority (about 6%). President Abdoulaye Wade ranks as a Muslim champion of dialogue with Christians and even with Jews. So it came as a surprise over the holiday period that the 83-year-old leader provoked separate protests by imams and Catholics, including the country’s cardinal. Even stranger, the dispute was sparked by a huge Stalinist-style statue that North Korean workers are constructing on a hill overlooking the capital Dakar. dakar wade

President Wade, 1 July 2009/Ismail Zetouny

Wade stirred up protests in recent months from imams who say the project smacks of idolatry and its celebration of a near-naked man and woman offends Muslim modesty. He compounded the problem by announcing that he, as the memorial’s designer, would personally take 35% of its expected tourism receipts. When the imams’ campaign spread with anti-memorial speeches in the mosques, Wade rejected their suggestion the statue was somehow pagan. “There are worse things that happen in churches,” he told a meeting of teachers on Dec. 28.  “They pray to Jesus in churches and he’s not a god. Everybody knows this, but nobody has ever said we have to knock down the churches. Nobody has ever objected or cared what the people do there.”

Cuban pilgrimage mixes Santeria with Catholic faith

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Worshipper pushes rock to shrine of Saint Lazarus, 17 Dec 2009/Desmond Boylan

Some dressed in sackcloth, a few crawling on their hands and knees, thousands of Cubans paid homage  to a Catholic saint who doubles as a powerful deity in the Afro-Cuban Santeria faith. The Saint Lazarus pilgrimage on Thursday is one of the most important religious events on the communist-run island, melding Afro-Cuban faiths with Roman Catholic beliefs that were marginalized for decades after the 1959 revolution.

Devotees of Saint Lazarus, who traditionally wear sackcloth and purple clothing as symbols of repentance, flock to the shrine at a church near the village of El Rincon in the countryside just outside Havana.  Saint Lazarus is associated with helping the sick, and many of the pilgrims go to ask the saint to cure relatives’ ailments. Others make long, hard journeys barefoot or haul themselves along the ground on their hands and knees.

Experts explain this fusion of Santeria and Christian figures by saying that African slaves in Cuba originally pretended to worship the Catholic saints of their Spanish masters while secretly paying homage to their own deities.