FaithWorld

from Our Take on Your Take:

Citizen religion

From Sri Lanka to Spain, this week's selection of images submitted to Your View depict a wide range of religions. Buddhist Sri Lankans lit candles to mark Vesak Day to honor the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha, whereas penitents in Spain marked Holy Week with a procession.

View the Your View weekly showcase here.

Heaven is a fairy tale, says British physicist Stephen Hawking

(Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking speaks at Perimeter Institute For Theoretical Physics in Kitchener, Canada, June 20, 2010/Sheryl Nadler)

Heaven is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark, the eminent British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said in an interview published on Monday. Hawking, 69, was expected to die within a few years of being diagnosed with degenerative motor neurone disease at the age of 21, but became one of the world’s most famous scientists with the publication of his 1988 book “A Brief History of Time”.

“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first,” he told the Guardian newspaper. “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

from Photographers' Blog:

How I became a pilgrim

I grew up in a country with deep Catholic traditions. I was just a year old in 1978 when Polish cardinal Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II. It was a huge surprise in the then‐communist country, a satellite of the Soviet Union, that a son of Polish soil could become the head of the Catholic Church - which was painfully divided by the Iron Curtain.

Over the years, it became a natural feeling that the pope was Polish. The words ‘pope’ and ‘Pole’ becoming synonyms in my mind. John Paul II visited Poland eight times as the pontiff but I only had one chance to see him live when his papa‐mobile passed my home in 1991. I was 14 years old and took a picture of the event.

Unfortunately, during my professional career I never took a picture of Pope John Paul II. My first such assignment came only after the late pope passed away and I was sent to Rome for his funeral. It was a really hard time with no sleep, no time for eating or bathing. I just wandered about taking pictures of thousands of pilgrims sleeping along the Vatican streets and waiting for several days to attend the funeral ceremony. The air was full of grief. I also queued for hours to get to the St.Peter’s Basilica following an endless stream of people who wanted to honor John Paul II and to take a picture of his body exhibited to the public.

Rare rally tests Vietnam’s religious tolerance

(Catholic seminarians attend Easter Sunday Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi April 24, 2011/Kham)

Vietnam has deployed troops to contain a rare mass protest by ethnic Hmong people that is testing the government’s tolerance of minority Christians, just weeks after human rights activists accused leaders of persecuting another hill tribe. As many as 7,000 Hmong people began to gather several days ago in the far-flung mountains of Dien Bien Province, near the northwestern border with Laos and China, apparently for religious reasons although some were advocating an independent kingdom, according to diplomatic, government and other sources.

The unrest was unlikely to pose a threat to the government but the demonstration is the biggest involving ethnic minorities since unrest in the Central Highlands region in 2001 and 2004. Details were scant from the hard-to-access region but a Catholic priest close to the area cited followers as saying troops had been deployed and the protesters had detained at least one government official sent to negotiate.

Indonesian Islamists shift targets, religious intolerance rises

(A woman comforts her injured husband at Pelabuhan hospital in Cirebon April 15, 2011. A suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque inside a police compound in Indonesia on Friday, wounding people, police said, in the most serious incident in a recent spate of attacks by Islamist militants. REUTERS/Shan Shan)

(A victim of a suicide bomb attack at a mosque inside a police compound in Indonesia in the most serious incident in a recent spate of attacks by Islamist militants, April 15, 2011/Shan Shan)

A suicide bombing in Indonesia last week highlighted a trend of militants acting alone or in small groups to attack Indonesians rather than foreigners to push an Islamist agenda, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report. This has raised concern about more low-level attacks in the world’s most populous Muslim country, which has been seen as having successfully combated militancy but is now seeing a spike in religious intolerance.

“Ideological shifts originating in the Middle East have combined with local circumstances to produce a trend that favours targeted killings over indiscriminate bombings, local over foreign targets and individual or small group action over operations by more hierarchical organisations,” the ICG said on Tuesday.

Turkish PM raps France for face veil ban, militants online urge punishment for Paris

(Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, April 13, 2011. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)

(Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, April 13, 2011/Vincent Kessler)

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused France of violating the freedom of religion on Wednesday after Paris began enforcing a law barring Muslim women from wearing full face veils in public. He told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that Turkey was the only Muslim country that had copied the French law on secularism, or separating church and state.

“It’s quite ironic to see that secularism is today under debate in Europe and is undermining certain freedoms,” he said. “Today in France, there is no respect for individual religious freedom,” he said. The Strasbourg-based Council of Europe monitors human rights across the continent. Read the full story here.

Kate Middleton confirmed ahead of royal wedding

(Kate Middleton, fiancee of Britain's Prince William, reacts to the crowd during a visit Witton Country Park in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011. A large crowd of well-wishers braved a downpour in northern England on Monday to cheer Prince William and Kate Middleton as they took part in their final official engagement before their wedding. REUTERS/Alastair Grant/Poo)

(Kate Middleton, fiancee of Britain's Prince William, during a visit Witton Country Park in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011/Alastair Grant)

Royal bride-to-be Kate Middleton has been confirmed into the Church of England ahead of her wedding to Prince William this month, his office said on Wednesday. The ceremony, carried out by the Bishop of London Richard Chartres who will give the address at the April 29th wedding, took place on March 10 with Middleton, 29, accompanied by her future husband, a spokeswoman for St James’s Palace said.

“Catherine Middleton was confirmed by the Bishop of London at a private service at St James’s Palace attended by her family and Prince William,” the spokeswoman said. “Miss Middleton, who was already baptised, decided to be confirmed as part of her marriage preparations.”

from Photographers' Blog:

Utah gets Holi, Photographer gets dirty

People throw colored powder during Holi, the festival of colors, at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah March 26, 2011.   REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

By Jim Urquhart

The Holi Color Festival is a yearly event in Utah that for years I have known of but never attended myself. I would be reminded of it after the fact when seeing it in images by other photojournalist friends. It is rooted in a Hindu tradition of celebrating the end of winter and beginning of Spring and takes place at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah.

What makes this festival so amazing is not just the crowds of people and the color but also that it is taking place in Utah County. The same county as the LDS Church's Brigham Young University. In my mind, Utah County is not known as a mecca of culture and was really only a melting pot of white bread, sugar and milk. I was about to have my stereotype blown away.

Revellers cover their faces as they stand in a midst of coloured powders during Holi, the festival of colors, at Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah March 26, 2011.   REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

It has always puzzled me and in the days before the event I was asked to speak to communication students at BYU. I asked the professor of the class, who is also a good friend, why it is that so many Mormon youth and young adults attend the event. It is not part of my picture of white Utah county. He explained that the event draws the students and families from the area because not only is it an experience in another culture's traditions but it also a safe fun outlet for them.

UK astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees wins 2011 Templeton Prize

(     (A supernova within the galaxy M100 that may contain the youngest known black hole in our cosmic neighborhood, in a composite image released to Reuters November 15, 2010/Chandra X-ray Observatory Center)

((A supernova within the galaxy M100 that may contain the youngest known black hole in our cosmic neighborhood, in a composite image released to Reuters November 15, 2010/Chandra X-ray Observatory Center)

British astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees, whose research delves deep into the mysteries of the cosmos, has won the 2011 Templeton Prize for career achievements affirming life’s spiritual dimension. The one million sterling ($1.6 million) award, the world’s largest to an individual, was announced on Wednesday in London. Rees, master of Trinity College at Cambridge University, is former head of the Royal Society and a life peer.

Announcing the award, the United States-based Templeton Foundation said Rees’s insights into the mysteries of the Big Bang and so-called black holes in space have “provoked vital questions that address mankind’s deepest hopes and fears… Lord Rees has widened the boundaries of understanding about the physical processes that define the cosmos, including speculations on the concept of ‘multiverses’ or infinite universes… The ‘big questions’ Lord Rees raises — such as ‘how large is physical reality?’ — are reshaping the philosophical and theological considerations that strike at the core of life.”

iPad 2 sold out in the afterlife as Chinese pray for the dead

()

(Fake money -- "Hell Bank Notes" -- on sale for the Qingming festival, or Grave-Sweeping Day, at a shop in Kuala Lumpur March 31, 2009/Zainal Abd Halim)

Apple’s iPad 2 shortage has spread to the afterlife as Chinese families in Malaysia rush to buy paper replicas of the popular new gadget to burn for their dead as part of a centuries-old rite. During the Qingming festival, also known as the tomb sweeping festival, Chinese communities in Asia honour their ancestors by burning fake money or replicas of luxury items such as flashy cars and designer bags.

The festival, which stems from Confucian teachings of loyalty to family and tradition, is also celebrated widely among the Chinese in Malaysia, who make up a quarter of the 28 million people in the mostly Muslim but multicultural country.