FaithWorld

Top Kremlin aide says Putin is God’s gift to Russia

(Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin lights a candle as he attends an Orthodox Christmas service in the XIX century church of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God in Turginovo village, about 160 km. (100 miles) northwest of Moscow January 7, 2011/Alexander Zemlianichenko )

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was sent to Russia by God to help his country during one of its most turbulent times, the Kremlin’s chief political strategist said on Friday in rare public remarks. “I honestly believe that Putin is a person who was sent to Russia by fate and by the Lord at a difficult time for Russia,” Vladislav Surkov, a staunch Putin supporter and one of Russia’s most powerful men, was quoted by Interfax news agency as telling state-run Chechen TV.

“(Putin was) preordained by fate to preserve our peoples,” said Surkov, who is also the Kremlin’s first deputy chief of staff.

Putin, 58, was president between 2000-2008 before becoming prime minister and is widely viewed as Russia’s key decision-maker. The former KGB spy, picked by an ailing President Boris Yeltsin as his prime minister and heir apparent, restored national pride by sending troops back into Chechnya to quell a burgeoning insurgency and presided over a long economic boom following the chaos of the Soviet Union’s collapse.

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Israel’s army chief under fire about God reference in memorial rites

(An Israeli army rabbi (L) recites prayers as he leads the funeral procession for a soldier killed in southern Lebanon, 1 Feb 2000/Jim Hollander. )

The Israeli military is embroiled in a public battle over whether God ought to be mentioned at memorial rites for fallen soldiers. The ferocity of the debate, going to the heart of Israel’s secular and religious Jewish divide, prompted the intervention on Monday of a parliamentary panel that urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fractious cabinet to decide the issue.

The controversy is over whether Yizkor, the Hebrew prayer of remembrance, should begin at military ceremonies with the words “May God remember” or “May the people of Israel remember”. Military policy calls for the version mentioning God to be used, but enforcement has been patchy in an apparent nod to the sentiments of the Jewish state’s secular majority.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania turns to God for fiscal relief

(The state capitol dome over Harrisburg, 24 December 2004/Pollinator)

 

Pennsylvania’s debt-ridden capital of Harrisburg has tried every form of fiscal belt-tightening, from layoffs to furloughs to filing for bankruptcy. Now, it is turning to God.

Mayor Linda Thompson said on Friday she will join religious leaders in three days of fasting and prayer to encourage “a cooperative spirit among government leaders, the business community and citizens.”

“I am open about my faith and will be participating in the voluntary prayer and fast,” Thompson said in a statement. The city is now weighing a financial rescue plan presented by the state.

Pious Indians bank on holy deposits

(An employee counts Indian rupee notes inside a bank in Agartala, capital of India's northeastern state of Tripura December 31, 2010/Jayanta Dey)

In a bank with no security gates, guards or locks, deposits from thousands of customers from across India are stacked on shelves, protected from theft by the grace of God. In a cramped room in a small house in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Ram Ram Bank offers no interest or loans, but has around 5,000 customers who flock to deposit documents bearing God’s name.

“There is no need for security as there is no fear of any theft,” said Lovelesh Tewari, who founded the bank 25 years ago. “People feel better by writing God’s name as it becomes a medium to release their pent up frustrations and eventually the faith makes them work toward their goals.”

Catholic-atheist meetings end with Pope Benedict appeal to youth

(Catholic-atheist meeting in the Grand Amphitheatre of the Sorbonne, Paris 25 March 2011/Tom Heneghan)

(Catholic-atheist meeting in the Grand Amphitheatre of the Sorbonne, Paris 25 March 2011/Tom Heneghan)

Pope Benedict urged French youths on Friday to help put God back into public debate, either as Christians sharing their faith or as non-believers seeking more justice and solidarity in a cold utilitarian world. In a video address from the Vatican to an evening rally outside Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris, the pope also urged them to “tear down the barriers of fear of the other, the foreigner, of those who are not like you” that mutual ignorance can create.

Benedict’s address, projected on a large screen in the square, came at the end of two days of a Vatican-sponsored dialogue between Roman Catholics and atheists, part of a drive to revive the faith in Europe that is a hallmark of his papacy.

Guestview: “Almost Christian” teens challenge U.S. parents and churches

youth 2 (Photo: Shavon Gardner, 17, sings with the Redeemed Christian Church of God youth choir at Redemption Camp in Floyd, Texas June 17, 2009/Jessica Rinaldi)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Elizabeth E. Evans is a freelance writer, columnist and priest-in-charge at St. Marks Episcopal Church, Honey Brook, Pennsylvania.

By Elizabeth E. Evans

A large-scale study charting the religious habits of American teenagers has quietly been underway for almost a decade but has received relatively little media attention until now.  As the data from the longitudinal analysis performed by the National Study of Youth & Religion is released, (NSYR) it could and should stimulate unsettling questions for Christian parents and churches alike.

Featuring phone interviews with 3,300 teens and their parents and three-hour interviews with close to 300 of them, the NSYR research random sampled feedback by kids from any tradition – or none.

Excerpts from pope’s London speech to Catholic teachers

twickenham 2 (Photo: Nuns waiting for Pope Benedict at a Catholic school in London, 17 Sept 2010/Kevin Coombs)

Visiting a Catholic school in London on Friday, Pope Benedict said teachers should give their pupils not only marketable skills but also wisdom, which he said was inseparable from knowledge of God. Catholic schools and Catholic religious teachers play an important part in transmitting this wisdom, he said. He also stressed the need to protect pupils from sexual predators.

Following are excerpts from his address to the teachers:

“I am pleased to have this opportunity to pay tribute to the outstanding contribution made by religious men and women in this land to the noble task of education… As you know, the task of a teacher is not simply to impart information or to provide training in skills intended to deliver some economic benefit to society; education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian. It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full – in short it is about imparting wisdom. And true wisdom is inseparable from knowledge of the Creator, for “both we and our words are in his hand, as are all understanding and skill in crafts”.

“This transcendent dimension of study and teaching was clearly grasped by the monks who contributed so much to the evangelization of these islands … Since the search for God, which lies at the heart of the monastic vocation, requires active engagement with the means by which he makes himself known – his creation and his revealed word – it was only natural that the monastery should have a library and a school. It was the monks’ dedication to learning as the path on which to encounter the Incarnate Word of God that was to lay the foundations of our Western culture and civilization…

God did not create the universe, gravity did, says Stephen Hawking

hawkingGod did not create the universe and the “Big Bang” was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, the eminent British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book.

In “The Grand Design,” co-authored with U.S. physicist Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking says a new series of theories made a creator of the universe redundant, according to the Times newspaper which published extracts on Thursday. (Photo: Stephen Hawking,  June 20, 2010/Sheryl Nadler)

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” Hawking writes. “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

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

allah facebook

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.

Malaysia’s “Allah” row spills over into Facebook

allah herald

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.