FaithWorld

Egypt vows crackdown after 12 die in Christian-Muslim strife

(Soldiers stand guard near the Saint Mary church which was set on fire during clashes between Muslims and Christians on Saturday in the heavily populated area of Imbaba in Cairo May 8, 2011/Asmaa Waguih)

Egypt’s government announced measures to curb religious violence on Sunday after 12 people died in clashes in a Cairo suburb sparked by rumors that Christians had abducted a woman who converted to Islam. The fighting on Saturday was Egypt’s worst interfaith strife since 13 people died on March 9 after a church was burned, and it threw down a new challenge for generals ruling the country since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf canceled a tour of Gulf Arab states to chair a cabinet meeting where the government decided to deploy more security near religious sites and toughen laws criminalising attacks on places of worship.

“Gatherings around places of worship will be banned to protect their sanctity and ensure the security of residents and prevent sectarian strife,” Justice Minister Mohamed el-Guindy said in a statement read on state television. The army said that 190 people would be tried in military courts over Saturday’s violence.

Tension was high and the army cordoned off streets near the Saint Mina church, where about 500 conservative Salafist Muslims massed on Saturday to call on Christians to hand over the woman.

Nigerian elections seal major power shift to largely Christian south


(Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan casts his ballot in his home village of Otuoke, Bayelsa state April 16, 2011/Joseph Penney)

A decisive election victory by President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria has shifted power firmly to the largely Christian south from the Muslim north and could reopen political fissures in Africa’s top energy supplier.

Violence swept northern cities, leaving hundreds of people dead and many homeless after Jonathan’s crushing victory over his northern opponent Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler.

“Jonathan’s landslide, though on the surface it appears like a resounding pan-Nigeria mandate, has brought back with a vengeance all the religious and sectional cleavage, not to mention ethnic bitterness,” Olakunle Abimbola of The Nation newspaper wrote in a column.

Russian Church: Ditch beer for books in nightclubs

(A man walks across Red Square near the GUM state department store (L) and St Basil's Cathedral on a rainy day in Moscow, November 26, 2007/Oksana Yushko)

Russian revelers can now swap vodka and dancing for tea and reading at new “spiritual nightclubs” being set up by Orthodox Church, media said quoting a top religious official. In the latest suggestion by the increasingly powerful Church, youths will be able to “have the opportunity for serious dialogue, reading, unhurried conversation so they can have a cup of tea,” said Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin.

“A nightclub does not have to be a place where debauchery, boozing and drug addiction reign,” said Chaplin, who added that the Church-inspired clubs will stay open till 5 a.m. like most of Russia’s drinking holes.

Vandalism and threats greet “Piss Christ” photograph in France

()

(The "Piss Christ" photograph damaged by Catholic activists at the Lambert Gallery in Avignon April 18, 2011/Jean-Paul Pelissier)

A controversial photograph of a crucifix submerged in the urine of New York artist Andres Serrano has been vandalized during an exhibit in Avignon and the museum’s employees have received death threats.

“Piss Christ” — a photograph that sparked an uproar when first exhibited in the United States in 1989 — was damaged Sunday “with the help of a hammer and an object like a screwdriver or pickaxe,” said the Collection Lambert, a contemporary art museum in France’s southwestern city known for its theater festival.

U.K. academic says Easter date can now be fixed

()

(The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci, 1498)

The Last Supper took place on a Wednesday — a day earlier than thought — and a date for Easter can now be fixed, according to a Cambridge University scientist aiming to solve one of the Bible’s most enduring contradictions.

Christians have marked Jesus’ final meal on Maundy Thursday for centuries but thanks to the rediscovery of an ancient Jewish calendar, Professor Colin Humphreys suggests another interpretation.

“I was intrigued by Biblical stories of the final week of Jesus in which no one can find any mention of Wednesday. It’s called the missing day,” Humphreys told Reuters. “But that seemed so unlikely: after all Jesus was a very busy man.”

Days of protest after Christian governor named in southern Egypt

()

(A Coptic Orthodox church in Cairo, April 18, 2009/Tarek Mostafa)

Muslims in southern Egypt protested for a third day on Sunday over the appointment of a Christian governor, saying his predecessor, also a Christian, had failed to solve their problems. Thousands rallied outside the governor’s office in Qena and prevented employees from entering, blocked highways leading to the town and sat on a railway line into the province demanding that the appointment of Emad Mikhail be reversed.

Egypt’s interim military rulers, who took control when President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising, selected Mikhail last week as one of several new appointments to replace officials associated with his autocratic regime. The protesters say Mikhail’s predecessor, Magdy Ayoub, failed to stem sectarian violence and address poverty and unemployment, which grew during his tenure. Witnesses say some Coptic Christians joined the protest as well.

“The experience of a Coptic governor has failed. There is no objection to his Coptic identity but the previous governor left a negative impression of Christian officials,” Youssef Ragab, a witness in Qena, told Reuters by telephone.

U.S. pastor unbowed, vows new anti-Islam protest

()

(Pastor Terry Jones at his Dove World Outreach Center church in Gainesville, Florida, April 2, 2011/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

A militant fundamentalist Christian preacher in Florida whose burning of a Koran triggered deadly riots in Afghanistan is unrepentant  and defiantly vows to lead an anti-Islam protest outside the biggest mosque in the United States. The planned demonstration could further inflame tensions over the Koran burning, which led to two days of protests in Afghanistan that included the killings of U.N. staff and stoked anti-Western sentiment in parts of the Muslim world.

“Our aim is to make an awareness of the radical element of Islam,” Pastor Terry Jones told Reuters in an interview on Saturdayat the church he leads in the college town of Gainesville, Florida. A picture of the burning Koran was on his computer screen. “Obviously it is terrible any time people are murdered or killed. I think that on the other hand, it shows the radical element of Islam.”

Extreme fundamentalist U.S. pastor is focus of Muslim outrage – again

kabul koran protest

(Afghans protest in Kabul on April 1, 2011 against the burning of the Koran by a U.S. pastor/Omar Sobhani )

A extreme fundamentalist Christian preacher in Florida who caused an international uproar last year by threatening to burn the Koran has put himself back in the spotlight after incinerating Islam’s holy book — again with deadly consequences.

Thousands of protesters in northern Afghanistan, enraged over news that the Florida pastor Terry Jones had overseen a torching of the Koran, stormed a United Nations compound on Friday, killing at least seven U.N. staff.  A suicide attack hit Kabul and a violent demonstration against Koran-burning rattled the southern city of Kandahar on Saturday.

Rising Christian anger in Malaysia over Bible seizures

malay bible

(A Bible in the Malay language at a church in Kuala Lumpur March 30, 2011/Bazuki Muhammad )

Rising Christian anger in mainly Muslim Malaysia over the government’s handling of a case involving seized Bibles could complicate Prime Minister Najib Razak’s bid to win back the support of minorities ahead of an early general election. The row over 35,100 imported Malay language Bibles and Christian texts impounded by Customs authorities comes amid a legal battle on the right of non-Muslims to use the Arabic word “Allah” and could raise ethno-religious tensions in the country. The Bibles were seized in 2009 but the case was only made public in January.

“There has been a systematic and progressive pushing back of the public space to practise, to profess and to express our faith,” Bishop Ng Moon Hing, chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), said in a statement on Wednesday.

Nigerian president appeals to Muslim leaders before vote

()

(Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at a campaign rally in Kano, northern Nigeria, March 16, 2011S/Joe Penney)

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has appealed to Muslim leaders to help ensure that elections next month, which risk stoking regional rivalries, pass off peacefully. Africa’s most populous nation holds presidential, parliamentary and state governorship elections spread over three weeks in April, all of which are set to be fiercely contested.

Jonathan met on Sunday with the Sultan of Sokoto, one of Nigeria’s most influential Islamic leaders, and other senior figures from the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and Muslim umbrella organisation Jamatul Nasir Islam in the northern city of Kaduna. Nigeria is home to the largest Muslim community in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for roughly half of the country’s 150 million people, as well as to more than 200 ethnicities, most of whom generally live peacefully side by side.