FaithWorld

Q+A – What’s next in Malaysia’s “Allah” row?

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Facebook group protesting Allah ruling, 5 Jan 2010/Bazuki Muhammad

Malaysia’s government has filed for a stay of execution pending its appeal of a court ruling allowing a Malay-language Catholic paper to describe the Christian God as “Allah”, amid growing Islamic anger in the country. We reported on the dispute here yesterday, including how it has spilled over into Facebook.

What lies ahead in this row threatening to increase religious tensions in the mainly Muslim but multi-racial Southeast Asian country?

Our Q+A asks why this is arousing so much anger, what happens next, whether there will be political fallout from the dispute and whether religious tensions present an important threat to religious, political and economic interests in Malaysia.

Read the full Q+A here.

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Malaysia’s “Allah” row spills over into Facebook

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The word "Allah" in a Malay-language Catholic newspaper, 29 Dec 2009/Bazuki Muhammad

More than 43,000 Malaysians have protested online over a court ruling allowing a Malay-language Catholic paper to use the word “Allah” for “God,” signaling growing Islamic anger in this mostly Muslim Southeast Asian country.

A group page on social networking site Facebook was drawing 1,500 new supporters an hour on Monday as last week’s court ruling split political parties and even families.  Among those who signed up for the protest were Deputy Trade Minister Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister, Mahathir Mohamed, while Mahathir’s daughter Marina called critics of the court decision “idiots” in her blog.

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.

INTERVIEW-Lisbon treaty to boost EU, church contact-Cardinal Dziwisz

dziwisz 2There was something missing from our post yesterday entitled Pope John Paul remains touchstone for Poland’s Catholic Church — a link to the story Reuters published based on the interview that Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz gave to Gabriela Baczynska and me. Since it hasn’t been posted separately on the web, here’s the story:

KRAKOW, Poland, Dec 16 (Reuters) – The Roman Catholic Church should use the EU’s new Lisbon Treaty to make its voice heard on moral issues in a Europe that has lost its Christian moorings, a leading Polish churchman said.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who spent decades in the Vatican as private secretary to the late Pope John Paul II, also said Poland, still one of Europe’s most devout countries, was helping to shore up the faith by sending priests to several continents.

Pope John Paul remains touchstone for Poland’s Catholic Church

JP2 commemoration (Photo: Candles in Warsaw on fourth anniversary of Pope John Paul’s II, 2 April 2009/Peter Andrews)

Four and a half years after his death, Pope John Paul II remains a dominant presence in Poland’s Roman Catholic Church. Pictures of him are still ubiquitous in his homeland, and not only in churches. His former private secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, regularly invoked the name of the Polish-born pontiff during an interview in Krakow with Reuters, either lauding his role in the victory of democracy over communism in eastern Europe two decades ago or speaking of the need for the church today to follow his example in reaching out to other faiths in a spirit of ecumenical dialogue.

Perhaps the issue playing most on the cardinal’s mind was the expected beatification of John Paul by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. Beatification is the last step before sainthood. Benedict put his predecessor on ae fast track shortly after taking over at the Vatican in 2005. Dziwisz said the process was now well advanced but the timing of a final decision depended on Benedict.

“(The beatification) is important not only for the Catholic Church,” he said. “This Pope is still alive, the memory of him is still vivid and he is still the reference point for many people. This love is still present.”

from Raw Japan:

Church attacks shake Kansai

In the minds of many people, religious rivalry could occasionally be expected to  spill over into violence in places as diverse as the occupied West Bank or Glasgow's 'Old Firm' football derby.

Japan's Kansai region, home to the world's most renowned Zen gardens and some of the country's finest cuisine, on the other hand, is not generally seen as a tinderbox of religious tension.

But over the last year a series of mysterious attacks on Protestant churches and other facilities have roiled the area, leaving many churchgoers shaken and perplexed.

Child abuse crisis to spark Irish Catholic Church shake-up

irishvatican Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (L) and Cardinal Sean Brady (C) after meeting Pope Benedict, 11 Dec 2009/Tony Gentile

Pope Benedict has expressed “outrage, betrayal and shame” at the sexual abuse of children by priests in Ireland, which Church leaders said would lead to a shake-up of the Irish Roman Catholic Church.  Church sources expected some bishops to resign in the wake of a government report that said Church leaders in overwhelmingly Catholic Ireland had covered up widespread abuse of children by priests for 30 years.

“I think that we are looking at a very significant reorganization of the Church in Ireland,” Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said after he and other Irish Church leaders held an emergency meeting with the Pope on Friday.

Could Irish abortion case lead to a “European Roe v. Wade”?

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European Court of Human Rights,30 Jan 2009/Vincent Kessler

Ireland has defended its strict law against abortion at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg in a case that could overturn that ban if the judges agree with three women who said it endangered their health and violated their rights.  The women, two Irish and one Lithuanian living in Ireland, had travelled to Britain to have abortions because traditionally Catholic Ireland allows the procedure only when the mother’s life is in danger. Read our full story on Wednesday’s hearing here.

The three women, named only as A, B and C, argued they had to terminate their pregnancies due to medical and social problems, and that being forced to travel abroad for abortions meant submitting to inhumane treatment that violated their right to privacy. They also said the law constituted gender-based discrimination.

This has been described as “Europe’s Roe v. Wade case” (here and here) because a Court ruling would be an authoritative interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights to which 47 European states are parties and with which they must comply.  “Domestic courts have to apply the Convention,” the ECHR’s FAQ says. “Otherwise, the European Court of Human Rights would find against the State in the event of complaints by individuals about failure to protect their rights.”

Q+A – Vietnam and Vatican talk about diplomatic relations

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Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet will meet Pope Benedict this week during a trip to Italy to talk about improving ties. The Vatican and the Communist-run Southeast Asian country do not have diplomatic relations. Click here for some questions and answers about the Vietnam-Vatican relationship. (Photo: Catholics at Phat Diem Cathedral south of Hanoi, 8 Sept 2009/Nguyen Huy Kham)