FaithWorld

from Breakingviews:

Pope’s “authentic” economics make sense

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Pope Francis is a Jesuit, a Catholic order which has traditionally, among other things, served the rich and powerful as teachers and confessors. At its best, a Jesuit education inspires the mighty to serve the lowly. The Pope’s address to the business and political leaders assembled at the World Economic Forum at Davos fits right into that tradition.

He flatters the “innovative” for “improving the lives of many people by their ingenuity and professional expertise.” Then he hits. Davosians, he says, “can further contribute by putting their skills at the service of those who are still living in dire poverty.”

In other words, if you are clever enough, and determined enough, to rise to Davos-level, you should do more to help those who cannot help themselves. It’s hard to disagree.

Almost all the delegates have a surplus of something valuable – money, knowledge or influence. Almost all of them waste that surplus, by the Pope’s standards. Francis thinks they should invest the surpluses in what the bishop of Rome calls “the life of humanity.” If they wanted to they could do much more to promote: “an inclusive approach which takes into consideration the dignity of every person and the common good.”

from Tales from the Trail:

Married v. unmarried could be the new election “gender gap”

Despite the American obsession with voting differences between men and women - the famed U.S. election "gender gap" - there is a far bigger "gap" dividing likely voters in 2012 - the yawning divide between marrieds and unmarrieds.

Fifty-seven percent of likely voters who are unmarried support Democratic President Barack Obama in the Nov. 6 general election, including those who have never been married, live with a partner or are widowed, divorced or separated.

Thirty-three percent of those unmarried likely voters back Republican challenger Mitt Romney, giving Obama a 24-point edge among the 910 respondents, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling data for the week ended Oct. 21.

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra: Sayonara Santorum

Former presidential candidate and Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is featured on a button by a supporter who also wore the politician's trademark vest in this January 14, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Reed

It began and ended at a kitchen table in Pennsylvania. Rick Santorum's improbable and surprisingly long run for the White House is over. But the Republican Party will feel the effects of this game-changing gambit cooked up in a kitchen for some time to come.

Santorum offered disgruntled voters true conservative credentials. He brought social issues and religious freedom to the forefront of the national debate. He made Mitt Romney work much harder for the nomination than expected, and lurch to the right in the process. His supporters may not go away quietly or fall behind Romney in lockstep.

Mormon faith may hurt Romney in U.S. primaries – poll

 Mitt Romney’s Mormonism could hurt the Republican candidate with evangelical voters in his fight for the party’s presidential nomination, but those voters would favor him over President Barack Obama in the general election, according to a newly released poll.

Some 15 percent of evangelical Christians, a key constituency in the Republican presidential nomination battle, say they are wary of Mormonism and will not vote for Mitt Romney, the Pew Research Center poll found.

But those same voters were more likely to favor the former Massachusetts governor, a Mormon, in the November 2012 general election over President Barack Obama, whom they dislike more, the telephone poll conducted Nov. 9-14 found.

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.

Egypt’s Brotherhood faces sterner critics, internal rifts

(Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie in Cairo, April 30, 2011/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

In the weeks after Hosni Mubarak was ousted, Egyptian television channels revelled in their new freedoms by giving airtime to the formerly banned Muslim Brotherhood, offering them an open platform to speak.  Members of the Brotherhood, Egypt’s best organised political group, are still regular guests. But the tone has changed. Soft-ball questioning has given way to rigorous interrogation about their plans and criticism of their public statements.

“You are not the guardians of the faith alone. No one gave you such a power,” writer Khaled Montasser told one Brotherhood member and former member of parliament, Sobhi Saleh.

Egypt’s Sufis see post-Mubarak Islamist threat, consider launching own movement

(Egyptians dance to the music of a Sufi singer as they celebrate the birthday of Sayida Zeinab, the granddaughter of Prophet Mohammad, near her shrine in Cairo July 7, 2010/Asmaa Waguih)

Down the narrow alleyways of Cairo’s Sayidda Zeinab neighbourhood, 100 men sway their heads and clap in rhythm as they invoke God’s name. “O how you have spread benevolence,” chant the men, some dressed in ankle-length galabeya robes, to celebrate the birth of Fatima al-Zahraa, the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed.

The men are followers of the centuries-old Azaimiya Sufi order who seek to come closer to God through mystical rites. Some of the country’s estimated 15 million Sufis say their traditions are now threatened by various groups of Islamists elbowing for influence after the overthrow of Egypt’s veteran leader Hosni Mubarak. Some Islamists, such as the ultra-conservative Salafists, see Sufi practices such as the veneration of shrines as heresy.

Pity the pandering U.S. candidate

Politicians pandering for votes on conservative family values issues may want to think again.

A survey of 3,000 Americans by the Public Religion Research Institute found 42 percent said the terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” both described them well, illustrating the complexity of the abortion issue in the minds of many.

“The terms ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ does not reflect the complexity of Americans’ views on abortion,” said Robert Jones, head of the institute.

from India Insight:

M.F. Husain, Swami Ramdev and the world’s largest democracy

M.F. Husain, India's most famous modern artist, died at the age of 95 this morning, not in Maharashtra, his home state, nor New Delhi, where many of his ground-breaking works were exhibited, but in London, where he lived in exile with Qatari citizenship. The 'Picasso of India' has for five years felt unable to live and work in his country of birth.

Husain fled India in 2006, leaving behind court cases and death threats against him, and continued vandalism of his works from right-wing Hindu groups that accused him of insulting their religion by painting deities in the nude.

Husain, a Muslim, felt unsafe and unable to practice his particular art form in the world's largest democracy. And he's not the only one. Salman Rushdie, who was born in Mumbai but lives in the UK, saw New Delhi ban his Satanic Verses for its perceived depiction of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Muslim Brotherhood says it won’t force Islamic law on Egypt

(Mohamed Mursi, head of the Brotherhood's newly formed Justice and Freedom Party gestures during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, May 28, 2011/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)

The Muslim Brotherhood wants a diverse parliament after elections in September and is not seeking to impose Islamic law on Egypt, the head of the group’s newly formed political party said in an interview. The Brotherhood, which has emerged as a powerful force after years of repression under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, has said it does not want a parliamentary majority, although rivals see it as well placed for a dominant position.

“We only use Islam as the basis of our party … which means that our general framework is Islamic sharia … We don’t issue religious rules in individual cases,” said Mohamed Mursi, head of the Brotherhood’s newly formed Justice and Freedom Party, which will contest the vote.