FaithWorld

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.

Media reports that Israel’s new armed forces chief, Lieutenant-General Benny Ganz, had sided with chaplains who insisted on using the “May God remember” phrase have drawn complaints the military is becoming too Orthodox.

“The people’s army is little by little becoming an army of God,” left-wing legislator Ilan Gilon said.

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.

Egyptian Salafists honor bin Laden with death prayer

(An Egyptian Islamist cries as people hold a funeral prayer over the death of Osama Bin Laden, in a mosque in Cairo May 6, 2011/Asmaa Waguih)

Hundreds of Islamist Salafists defied security forces and held special prayers Friday for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, killed in a U.S. raid in Pakistan this week. Some Islamists regard Saudi-born bin Laden, who was inspired by Egyptian militants, as a martyr.

“We will pray, we will pray,” some 200 men chanted as police tried to stop the special prayers at the Salafist-run al-Nour Mosque in the Abbasiyah quarter of Cairo after regular Friday noon prayers. Salafists call for a fundamentalist version of Islam based on that practiced by its earliest followers.

U.S. military chaplains air issues

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(A U.S. army chaplain leads a Sunday service in a chapel in the U.S. forces' camp in Baghdad, January 28, 2007/Erik de Castro)

Chaplains representing every branch of  the U.S. military and many faiths gathered on Wednesday to discuss everything from counseling stressed-out soldiers to a recent lawsuit charging the military neglects a sexually abusive culture.

“Yes, there is sexual abuse. They said it is not attributable to the culture fostered by the Department of Defense, it is attributable to the culture of our society,” said the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance,  who helped lead the discussion held in the House of Representatives’ Cannon Office Building.

Church of England to wash some Bible imagery from baptism rite

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(Sistine Chapel fresco The Baptism of Christ c. 1482 by Pietro Perugino)

The Church of England has voted to use more accessible language during baptisms to help it connect better with congregations, especially non church-goers.  Members attending the Church’s General Synod, or parliament, in London, agreed that the Liturgical Commission should provide supplementary material to help prevent the eyes of  worshippers “glazing over” during important parts of the service.

The Reverend Tim Stratford, from Liverpool, said on Wednesday his motion was “not a request for christenings without Christianity.” Quite the opposite.  “I am not asking for the language of Steven Gerrard,” he said, referring to the Liverpool and England  soccer star. “Just references that could be understood by the majority.”

Parts of the service were difficult to use “without seeming inappropriately schoolmaster-like”, he said.  Stratford said he did not disagree with the words currently being used, such as “I turn to Christ, I repent of my sins, and I renounce evil.”

A week after riots, Thai capital prays for peace

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Buddhist monks receive alms in Bangkok on May 26, 2010 during a gathering for peace prayers/Yannis Behrakis

Thousands of Thais prayed for peace and unity in Bangkok on Wednesday, a week after a deadly military crackdown on protesters sparked a terrifying night of arson and riots that levelled buildings and killed 54 people.

But analysts say without major reforms to a political system that protesters claim favours an “establishment elite” over the rural masses, such prayers and forgiveness will not end a polarising crisis costing the economy billions of dollars.

from Tales from the Trail:

Obama sits down with Rev. Billy Graham

President Barack Obama had his first face-to-face talks on Sunday with one of America's top spiritual leaders, the Reverend Billy Graham.

Graham, 91, who is ailing with Parkinson's disease, has  prayed with U.S. presidents over the course of the past 50 years or so.BILLY GRAHAM

Obama visited his Montreat log cabin home at the end of a weekend trip to western North Carolina.

Venezuelans turn to God over power crisis

Power-rationing has failed. The rains have still not come. So Venezuelan electricity workers are seeking divine help to solve the nation’s power crisis.

State oil company Edelca has summoned all its workers to an hourlong prayer meeting scheduled for Friday and titled: “Clamor to God for the National Electricity Sector.”

VENEZUELA-ELECTRICITY/

Let us support this summons with our presence, united in our commitment to lift up our great company,” Edelca President Igor Gavidia Leon wrote in a note to staff, under a quote from the Bible saying God will hear the prayers of humble people.

IAEA’s ElBaradei bows out with prayer of St. Francis

elbaradei (Photo: ElBaradei addresses IAEA board of governors, 27 Nov 2009/Herwig Prammer)

Mohamed ElBaradei, a Muslim from Egypt, has finished his 12-year term as director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) quoting one of Christianity’s most popular prayers. In a short meeting at IAEA headquarters in Vienna on Friday, the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize laureate said that “the moment of departure is an opportunity to reflect upon a journey of joy, challenges, pleasure and fulfilment.” At the end of his career at the IAEA, which began in 1984 as a legal adviser, the world was “finally returning to its senses. People are speaking of a world free of nuclear weapons, of one human family and of a world that lifts people out of poverty.”

He ended his final remarks to the Board of Governors by reading out a short version of the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is error let me sow truth
Where there is discord let me sow unity
Where there is despair let me sow hope
For it is in giving that we receive.

Should Berlin let Muslim pupils pray at school?

A ruling by a Berlin court allowing a 16-year-old Muslim pupil to pray towards Mecca in a separate room at school has raised questions about the extent of religious freedom in Germany.  Some media, including the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, describe the ruling as a landmark case, saying it is the first time a German court has considered whether the right to practise religious beliefs should extend to schools.

Muslim man praying in BerlinThe case arose in 2007 when the head of a school in Berlin, which has a strong secular tradition, forbid a boy and his friends from kneeling on their jackets to pray where they could be seen by other pupils.

The school argued it was religiously “neutral” but the boy, whose mother is Turkish and father is a German who converted to Islam, decided to go to court.