FaithWorld

Cross controversy mars historic Armenian Orthodox service in Turkey

armenian 1 (Photo: The Church of the Holy Cross, an Armenian church on Akdamar Island in Lake Van, September 19, 2010/Umit Bektas)

The first Armenian Orthodox ceremony in nearly a century at a church in eastern Turkey was overshadowed on Sunday by a partial Armenian boycott because of the Turkish authorities’ refusal to place a cross on the roof of the building.

Nearly a thousand Armenian Orthodox worshippers out of the expected 5,000 people attended the service at the Church of the Holy Cross, which the government has hailed as a sign of growing religious tolerance — see here and here — in the predominantly Muslim country, which is a European Union candidate.

The church, which has been closed for services since the 1915 mass killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman troops, has become a symbol of Turkey’s troubled past with its Armenian minority and a painful process of reconciliation.

Earlier this year Turkey agreed to open the site, which sits on the island of Akdamar in Van Lake, for services once a year. “I am so happy to be here. I want to thank the government for letting us be here at this historic moment,” one elderly woman, who identified herself as part of the Armenian community in Turkey told Turkish television.

Read the full story by Umit Bektas here.

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Berlin issues guidelines on integrating Muslim pupils in schools

GERMANY SARRAZIN/TRIALIf you’re a teacher in Germany and are unsure whether to allow your Muslim pupils to pray at school, to skip swimming lessons or wear the veil, you may want to consult a new handbook aimed at dealing with the sometimes tricky task of reconciling Muslim practices with German schooling.

Berlin’s Ministry for Education, Science and Research has just published a guide called “Islam and School”  giving practical advice on how to resolve these issues and encourage “people to live together respectfully and peacefully”, which you can find in German here.

The guidelines aim to boost the integration of Germany’s Muslim community, Europe’s second largest Muslim population after France. Around 4 million Muslims live in Germany, meaning about 5 percent of the overall population.

Excerpts from greeting speeches by pope and queen in Edinburgh

pope queen 1 (Photo: Queen Elizabeth and Pope Benedict in Edinburgh, 16 Sept 2010/Dave Thompson)

Pope Benedict and Queen Elizabeth delivered short speeches in Edinburgh at the start of the pontiff’s four-day visit to Britain. Here are excerpts from their comments:

Pope Benedict: “…The name of Holyroodhouse, Your Majesty’s official residence in Scotland, recalls the “Holy Cross” and points to the deep Christian roots that are still present in every layer of British life. The monarchs of England and Scotland have been Christians from very early times and include outstanding saints like Edward the Confessor and Margaret of Scotland …. the Christian message has been an integral part of the language, thought and culture of the peoples of these islands for more than a thousand years…

“We find many examples of this force for good throughout Britain’s long history. Even in comparatively recent times, due to figures like William Wilberforce and David Livingstone, Britain intervened directly to stop the international slave trade. Inspired by faith, women like Florence Nightingale served the poor and the sick and set new standards in healthcare that were subsequently copied everywhere. John Henry Newman, whose beatification I will celebrate shortly, was one of many British Christians of his age whose goodness, eloquence and action were a credit to their countrymen and women. These, and many people like them, were inspired by a deep faith born and nurtured in these islands.

GUESTVIEW: The Qur’an cannot be burned!

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Aref Ali Nayed is Director, Kalam Research & Media, Dubai.

koran

By Aref Ali Nayed

Years ago, in Toronto, I read on the concrete walls of a highway bridge the following bold and sacrilegious message: “God is dead! Signed: Nietzsche,” and under it “Nietzsche is dead! Signed: God!” (Photo: A woman reads the Koran in Srinagar , India, September 11, 2009/Fayaz Kabli)

Silly as the street message may be, it brings home a simple fact: God cannot be killed! Even as all else, including Nietzsche, dies, God remains. This is because for all theists, to put it starkly: God is God. God lives. Man dies.

Religious tension marks Sept. 11 anniversary

tension 1Religious tensions are overshadowing the anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States where President Barack Obama urged a Christian preacher to abandon a plan to burn copies of the Koran.

And a day ahead of Saturday’s ninth anniversary, a report warned that the United States faced a growing threat from home-grown insurgents and an “Americanization” of the al Qaeda leadership. (Photo: Outside the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida September 10, 2010/Scott Audette)

On Friday, Obama appealed to Americans to respect the “inalienable” right of religious freedom and said he hoped the preacher would abandon his plan to burn the Muslim holy book, saying it could deeply hurt the United States abroad.

GUESTVIEW: U.S. synagogues, churches collect similar donation amounts differently

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. This article first appeared in the New York Jewish weekly Forward.
dollarsSynagogue Dues Don’t Raise More Money Than Church Gifts By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Which costs more: belonging to a synagogue, or belonging to a church?

A survey conducted by the Forward has found that Jewish and Christian religious institutions appear to raise about the same amount per member, despite the fact that church giving is voluntary and synagogues charge membership dues.

The more than 20 churches and synagogues surveyed by the Forward represent a sampling from a variety of denominations in six cities across America. While there are significant regional and denominational differences, an examination of the aggregate data indicates that the amount raised per individual member is very similar between synagogues and churches. But the level of participation is quite different: While synagogues require roughly the same amount of dues from each of their members, church giving does not appear to be so evenly distributed.

Criticism mounts of “anti-Muslim frenzy” in U.S., Koran burning plan under fire

koran burning 1U.S. religious leaders  have condemned an “anti-Muslim frenzy” in the United States, including plans by a Florida church to burn a Koran on September 11, an act a top general said could endanger American troops abroad. Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders denounced the “misinformation and outright bigotry” against U.S. Muslims resulting from plans to build a Muslim community center and mosque not far from the site of the September 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks in New York by Islamist militants. The Vatican has also condemned the Koran burning plan. (Photo: Indonesian Care for Pluralism Movement protests against Koran burning plan, Jakarta, 8 Sept 2010/Crack Palinggi)

Tensions have risen with the approach of both the September 11 anniversary on Saturday and the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival that marks the close of the fasting month of Ramadan, which is expected to end around Friday. Passions have been further inflamed by Terry Jones, the pastor of a 30-person church in Gainesville, Florida, who has announced plans to burn a Koran on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Jones says he wants to “expose Islam (as a) violent and oppressive religion.”

Religious leaders, including Washington Roman Catholic Archbishop emeritus Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Dr. Michael Kinnamon of the National Council of Churches, released a statement on Tuesday saying they were “alarmed by the anti-Muslim frenzy” and “appalled by such disrespect for a sacred text.” Read the full story here.

Malaysia TV station axes Muslim ad because of Christmas overtones

malaysianTV

(Photo: Screengrab from TV3 commercial on YouTube)

A Malaysian television station has axed a commercial for an important Muslim holiday after viewers complained that it looked more like a promotion for Christmas. State-linked TV3 aired the commercial earlier this month to wish the country’s dominant ethnic Malay-Muslims a joyous Eid al-Fitr, which is likely to fall on Friday and marks the end of a month-long Ramadan fast.

The advert shows an avuncular white-haired man taking children to a fantasy land aboard a flying trishaw, drawing complaints from Muslim viewers that it resembled Santa Claus and his sleigh. TV3′s news anchors apologised on Sunday’s prime time news broadcast, saying the station had stopped airing the clip — which stirred a storm on the Malaysian blogosphere with numerous postings lambasting what was seen as an insenstive move by a government-linked company. TV3 officials could not be reached for comment.

Malaysia’s government has struggled to balance relations between Muslims, who make up a majority of the country’s 28 million people, and minority Hindus, Christians and Buddhists who complain of growing religious intolerance.

NYPD interfaith Holy Land tour, a different kind of New York religion story

nypd 5 croppedThere used to be a television series about the New York Police Department that ended with the voiced-over sign-off: “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” We’ve been hearing mostly about only one of the religion stories in New York these days, the controversy surrounding the planned Islamic center and mosque near the World Trade Center site. On a recent visit to New York, I had the pleasure of hearing a very different type of New York story when I interviewed the NYPD officers who led the unusual interfaith tour of the Holy Land described in my feature here. (Photo: From left – Miller, Nasser, Wein and Reilly at interfaith center in Israel)

I met Sgt. Brian Reilly, Detective Ahmed Nasser and Detective Sam Miller at Reilly’s Lower East Side office and spoke to Detective Larry Wein by phone because he was out investigating a case. The Lower East Side has traditionally been so diverse that it’s almost tailor-made for the kind of interfaith cooperation they highlighted with this trip. “I’ve worked here in the Lower East Side and East Village for 29 years and been exposed to people from all over the world,” said Miller, who is Jewish. “It’s just a melting pot of every race, religion and ethnicity.” The NYPD reflects the city’s diversity, he said:  “This is the most diversified police department in the world. I’m an investigator. When we need a translator, I don’t have to go outside. We have members of the service who can speak any language in the world.”

nypd 2

Reilly is commanding officer of the NYPD chaplains’ unit (4 Catholics, 2 Protestants, 1 Jewish and 1 Muslim) but these men are not chaplains themselves. Instead, they are leaders in faith-based fraternal organizations for NYPD officers. The Holy Land tour was a completely private initiative. “We weren’t working on somebody’s suggestion,” explained Reilly, a Roman Catholic. “We paid it all ourselves. There was a price for the tour and people decided to go or not. We’re fraternal organizations and we decide how to run our yearly trip.”

Obama says not worried by “rumors” that he is a Muslim

obamaA public opinion poll showing Americans are increasingly convinced, wrongly, that he is Muslim does not trouble him, President Barack Obama said on Sunday.

“It’s not something that I can, I think, spend all my time worrying about it,” Obama said in an interview with NBC News, dismissing the results of a recent Pew Research Center survey. (Photo: President Barack Obama in New Orleans, August 29, 2010/Jim Young)

“I’m not going to be worrying too much about whatever rumors are floating out there. If I spend all my time chasing after that, then I wouldn’t get much done,” he said in the interview (NBC video here — these comments start at 08:33)