FaithWorld

New Russian holiday marked as Kremlin boosts Orthodox Church

russia holiday (Photo: Soldier holds candle at ceremony for adoption of Christianity, in Stavropol, July 28, 2010/Eduard Korniyenko)

Russia marked its adoption of Christianity in 988 on Wednesday with a new public holiday, the latest show of Kremlin support for the Russian Orthodox Church that has grown increasingly powerful since the fall of Communism.

Rights groups have criticized the new holiday, approved by President Dmitry Medvedev, as undermining Russia’s secular constitution and members of the country’s large Muslim minority have complained that it excludes them.

Marking the anniversary Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, held a liturgy in Kiev, the capital of modern Ukraine and mediaeval Kievan Rus, whose leader Prince Vladimir made Christianity the state religion more than 1,000 years ago. Kievan Rus is seen as the precursor of modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

“Facing aggressive atheism and resurgent paganism we remain firm in our belief in God,” Kirill, clad in a flowing gold cloak, told thousands of followers in Kiev’s historic Pecherska Lavra monastery.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Russia’s adoption of Christianity had brought it closer to Europe. “This was an event of colossal significance … Russia made a historical choice,” he said after lighting a candle in Veliky Novgorod’s Saint Sophia Cathedral, considered Russia’s oldest.

Saudis say Muslim women exempted from wearing face veils in France

saudi niqabTwo Saudi clerics have declared Muslim women are exempt from wearing full veils in France, which is planning to ban them, but added they should avoid visiting it as tourists.

The comments, by Islamic jurisprudence scholar Mohamed al-Nujaimi and author and cleric Ayed al-Garni, come two weeks after French lawmakers passed a bill under which women could be fined for appearing in public with the all-covering burqa or the niqab, which leaves the eyes exposed. (Photo: Saudi women snapping photos in Riyadh, September 23, 2009/Fahad Shadeed)

“For a woman who permanently resides in France or is a French citizen, if there is harm in wearing the veil … it is permitted that she shows her face when need and necessity demand it,” Nujaimi said in remarks published by al-Watan newspaper.

Pakistan court frees mentally ill blasphemy suspect after 14 years

blasphemyA Pakistani court ordered the release of a mentally ill women accused of blasphemy who has been held without trial for 14 years, a court official and her lawyer said on Thursday. Police arrested Zaibun Nisa, now 55, in 1996 outside Islamabad after a Muslim cleric registered a complaint about the desecration of a copy of the Koran.

She has been held in the prison section of a mental hospital in the eastern city of Lahore for 14 years without trial because no one pursued her case. (Photo: Pakistani women protest in Karachi against the blasphemy law, January 16, 2001/Zahid Hussein)

“At her arrest, her medical examination was carried out and doctors had certified that she was mentally ill but still she was languishing in jail,” her lawyer, Aftab Ahmed Bajwa, who recently took up her case with the Lahore High Court, told Reuters. Chaudhry Mohammad Sharif, the chief justice of the high court, ordered Nisa’s immediate release, a court official said.

Turkey offers citizenship to Orthodox archbishops to help patriarch succession

bartholomewTurkey has offered citizenship to Orthodox Christian archbishops from abroad to help the next election of the ecumenical patriarch, the spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox faithful, officials said.  Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has quietly led the gesture to the Orthodox, who face a shortage of candidates to succeed Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 70, and serve on the Holy Synod, which administers patriarchate affairs. (Photo: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I leads the Easter service at the Cathedral of St. George in Istanbul, April 4, 2010/Murad Sezer)

Turkish law requires the patriarch to be a Turkish citizen. But the Orthodox community in Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim country, has fallen to some 3,000 from 120,000 a half-century ago, drastically shrinking the pool of potential future patriarchs.  There are now only 14 Greek Orthodox archbishops, including Bartholomew, who are Turkish citizens. Bartholomew himself is in good health.

Seventeen metropolitans from countries including Austria, France, the United States and Greece have applied for passports, said Rev. Dositheos Anagnostopulous, the patriarchate spokesman.  Another six may still apply, and the See hopes the first archbishops will receive their papers by Christmas, he said.

INTERVIEW – NY imam plans a “Muslim Y,” not a “Ground Zero mosque”

nyc mosque 1When Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf decided to build a Muslim cultural centre in lower Manhattan, the model he chose couldn’t have been more mainstream American — the Young Men’s Christian Association chapters found in cities across the United States.

The institution he had in mind was the 92nd Street Y, a Jewish adaptation of the YMCA concept that is one of New York’s leading addresses for residents of all religions or none to visit for public lectures, debates, concerts or educational courses. (Photo: A demonstrator at a Landmarks Commission’s hearing on the proposed Muslim community center in New York, July 13, 2010S/Keith Bedford)

But Rauf’s project is better known here now as the “Ground Zero mosque,” after the term for the World Trade Centre site. Families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and conservative politicians have mounted an emotional campaign to block it, claiming that locating it only two blocks north of the site was a provocation.

from Tales from the Trail:

Sarah Palin, the Bard of Wasilla

USA/PALINWashington's Emma Ashburn had some thoughts today on Sarah Palin's latest literary stylings:

Sarah Palin: former Alaska governor, ex-vice presidential candidate, bard.

The media-savvy Republican introduced a new term over the weekend, using the word "refudiate" on her Twitter feed at SarahPalinUSA when she opined on plans to build a mosque at the site of the 9/11 attacks in Manhattan. Later, she suggested she wasn't doing anything William Shakespeare hadn't done.

Her first tweet on Sunday read:

* Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate

Two US broadcasters reject ad against mosque near 9/11 site in New York

USA/Two major United States broadcasters have rejected an advertisement that urges viewers to protest against a mosque planned two blocks from Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York.  The ad by the National Republican Trust PAC– labeled inflammatory by critics — mixes images of 9/11 and Muslim militants while slamming a controversial proposal to build a mosque and Muslim community center in lower Manhattan. (Photo: Christian procession near Ground Zero in New York April 2, 2010/Jessica Rinaldi)

“To celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at Ground Zero,” says the narrator over images of the destroyed World Trade Center. “This ground is sacred, where we weep, they rejoice … that mosque is a monument to their victory.” For the ad, see the YouTube video below.

NBC Universal advertising standards manager Jennifer Riley said the broadcaster didn’t take issue with the content, but rather the vague construction of its narration: “This ad, which ambiguously defines ‘they’ as referenced in the spot, makes it unclear as to whether the reference is to terrorists or to the Islamic religious organization that is sponsoring the building of the mosque.” Read the full story here.

from India Insight:

Hindu pilgrims brave Kashmir violence to seek salvation at cave shrine

A combination photo shows Hindu holy men and pilgrims during their trek to the cave of Lord Shiva in Amarnath, 141 km southeast of Srinagar June 21, 2009. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli/Files

Protest strikes, curfews and violent demonstrations have paralysed Muslim-majority Kashmir valley over the killing of 15 civilians in the past month and the deaths blamed on government forces.

Thousands of police and paramilitary soldiers are struggling to control near daily street protests that have grown into bigger anti-India demonstrations recently.

But tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims chanting hymns are daily trudging to a cave shrine where they worship a naturally formed ice stalagmite as a symbol of Lord Shiva, the god of destruction and one of the most revered Hindu deities.

Muslims seek to add Islamic holidays to New York school calendar

new york (Photo:  New York City skyline, December 12, 2009/Jessica Rinaldi)

Muslim parents, students and civic groups are campaigning to add two of their religious holidays to the New York City public school calendar, pinning their hopes on state lawmakers after failing to win over Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the idea. Supporters say there are more than 100,000 Muslim students in the public schools, or about 12 percent of the enrollment.

Putting Eid Ul-Fitr, a holiday marking the end of Ramadan, and Eid Ul-Adha, celebrating the end of

the haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, on the list of official school holidays will help ease suspicion and reduce anti-Muslim sentiment nearly a decade after the September 11 attacks, they say.

French lawmakers vote to ban full face veils in public

national assemblyMuslim women could be fined for wearing full face veils in public in France under a bill approved overwhelmingly on Tuesday by the lower house of parliament. Offenders would be fined 150 euros ($189) or required to take part in a citizenship class. The bill, which critics say stigmatizes immigrants, bans people “from wearing, in a public place, garments designed to cover the face.” (Photo: Veil ban debate in the National Assembly in Paris, July 13, 2010/Benoit Tessier)

Forcing someone to cover their face would be punishable by a one-year prison sentence and a 30,000 euro fine. The law does not apply if the face is covered for carnivals or artistic events.

In the vote, 335 members of parliament approved the ban, with just one against. Opposition socialist and Green lawmakers abstained. The legislation still has to be vetted by the Constitutional Council, France’s highest constitutional authority, and approved by the Senate.