FaithWorld

from Tales from the Trail:

O’Donnell credits prayer for campaign boost

USA/

Republicans may be abandoning Christine O'Donnell's U.S. Senate campaign. But she still has friends in high places -- really high places.

In fact, the Delaware Tea Party favorite is crediting divine intervention for the successes that her campaign has had.

"The day that we saw a spike in the polls was a day that some people had a prayer meeting for me, that morning for this campaign," she tells the Christian Broadcasting Network, a cable TV channel founded by televangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson.

"I believe that prayer plays a direct role in this campaign," she said. "I always ask people: 'Please pray for the campaign. Please pray for our staff. Please pray, specifically, that the eyes of the voters be opened.'"
USA/
Prayer may be O'Donnell's best hope. Since her upset primary win over Republican moderate Mike Castle, she has been dogged by questions about her qualifications for office, ridiculed for acknowledging a teenage fascination with witchcraft and excoriated over her understanding of U.S. religious freedoms.

Barely a week before Election Day, her Democratic opponent Chris Coons has more than 50 percent of voter support in a recent Rasmussen survey. Some pundits give her zero chance of pulling off a victory and blame her candidacy for sinking Republican hopes of capturing the Senate.

Pope seeks Mideast religious liberty, bishops criticise Israel

synod 1 (Photo: Bishops at Mass marking the end of the synod of bishops from the Middle East in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican October 24, 2010/Alessia Pierdomenico)

Pope Benedict called on Islamic countries in the Middle East on Sunday to guarantee freedom of worship to non-Muslims and said peace in the region was the best remedy for a worrying exodus of Christians.

He made his a appeal at a solemn mass in St Peter’s Basilica ending a two week Vatican summit of bishops from the Middle East, whose final document criticized Israel and urged the Jewish state to end its occupation of Palestinian territories.

In his sermon at the gathering’s ceremonial end, the pope said freedom of religion was “one of the fundamental human rights that each state should always respect.” While some states in the Middle East allowed freedom of belief, he added, “the space given to the freedom to practice religion is often quite limited.”

Why did the U.N. proclaim World Interfaith Harmony Week?

unga 1 (Photo: United Nations General Assembly hall, 23 Nov 2006/Jérôme Blum)

The United Nations General Assembly passes a stack of resolutions every year and many of them go all but unnoticed.  One such document just approved in New York established a new World Interfaith Harmony Week. High-minded resolutions put most news junkies to sleep, so it’s probably no surprise this one got such scant media coverage (see here and here). But there’s more to this one than meets the glazed-over eye.

muslims at synodThe resolution, accepted by consensus on Wednesday, urged all member states to designate the first week of February every year as the World Interfaith Harmony Week. It asked them to “support, on a voluntary basis, the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship during that week based on Love of God and Love of the Neighbour, or based on Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour, each according to their own religious traditions or convictions.” (Photo: Mohammad Sammak, secretary general of Lebanon’s Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue, addresses Vatican synod of bishops, 14 )ct 2010/Osservatore Romano)

Amid the standard legal wording of U.N. resolutions, that phrase “Love of God and Love of the Neighbour” stands out both as a rare example of religious belief in an official document like this and an unmistakable hint at the authorship of this text. Readers of this blog will recognise it as a trademark phrase of the Common Word group, the Muslim scholars who have been pursuing better interfaith understanding through dialogue with Christian churches. They’ve held a number of conferences with different churches and two of the manifesto’s signatories last week became the first Muslims to address a Vatican synod of bishops. Now the group is pursuing its mission on the diplomatic stage with an appeal to governments to help foster interfaith contacts.

Egypt stops TV channels, Islamic trend seen a target

satellite dishesEgypt has temporarily shut 12 satellite channels and warned 20 others for reasons ranging from insulting religions to broadcasting pornography, although an analyst said the real target seemed to be strict Islamic trends.

The government last week tightened TV broadcast rules, a move critics said was part of a crackdown on independent media before a parliament election in November and a presidential poll next year. Four channels were closed. The government denied any political motivation. (Photo: Satellite dishes, 3 April 2004/Jack Dabaghian)

Analysts said the latest decision to temporarily shut the satellite channels and warn others, announced late on Tuesday, seemed to be mainly to stop the spread of strict Islamic Salafi teaching that might boost support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hindu and Muslim Bollywood stars urge calm before Indian mosque verdict

priyanka002It’s a sign of how explosive the Ayodhya mosque verdict in India could be that several Hindu and Muslim film stars in Bollywood have issued a public appeal for calm once the decision is announced. As we’ve posted here on FaithWorld, an Indian court is due to announce on Thursday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around the Babri mosque, which Hindu nationalists demolished in 1992. The Hindu-Muslim riots that followed killed some 2,000 people. (Image: Priyanka Chopra in screengrab from ANI/Reuters video)

Bollywood, the Bombay (now Mumbai)-based Hindi-language film industry, walks a tightrope in making mass-audience films in what may be the most religiously diverse country in the world. Some of the most popular Bollywood stars are Muslim, although the majority of viewers are Hindu (Muslims make up 13% of the Indian population). Like the actors and actresses in this appeal, many of them publicly work, play and love (see here) across the religious divide. But tensions like those after the Ayodhya mosque riots — including riots in Mumbai itself — have left their scars. Some Muslim writers (see here and here) say suspicion of Muslims is a recurring theme in Bollywood films.

farhanIn the video below, the stars mostly speak in Hindi sprinkled with occasional English words. That’s nothing unusual and can be useful as well. For example, when actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra says (at 00:48) that “in our country all religions have been living together for so long…”, she uses the English word “religion.” That was a neutral alternative to local words she might have used with either a Hindu (dharma) or Muslim (din) background.

Atheists, Jews, Mormons top U.S. religious knowledge poll

relig symbolsAtheists and agnostics may not believe in God or gods but they know a thing or two about them, according to a survey of religious knowledge among Americans released on Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

“On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 … Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers,” Pew said. It found Protestants answered 16 correctly and Catholics on average 14.7.

“While previous surveys by the Pew Research Center have shown that America is among the most religious of the world’s developed nations, this survey shows that large numbers of Americans are not well informed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions — including their own,” said Pew, which is based in Washington.

Berlin issues guidelines on integrating Muslim pupils in schools

GERMANY SARRAZIN/TRIALIf you’re a teacher in Germany and are unsure whether to allow your Muslim pupils to pray at school, to skip swimming lessons or wear the veil, you may want to consult a new handbook aimed at dealing with the sometimes tricky task of reconciling Muslim practices with German schooling.

Berlin’s Ministry for Education, Science and Research has just published a guide called “Islam and School”  giving practical advice on how to resolve these issues and encourage “people to live together respectfully and peacefully”, which you can find in German here.

The guidelines aim to boost the integration of Germany’s Muslim community, Europe’s second largest Muslim population after France. Around 4 million Muslims live in Germany, meaning about 5 percent of the overall population.

from Global News Journal:

German banker bows out after stirring race, religion debate

A German central banker, Thilo Sarrazin, whose outspoken comments on race and religion sparked a fierce national debate unexpectedly quit the Bundesbank board on Thursday evening, sparing Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Christian Wulff and Bundesbank President Axel Weber a messy legal and political battle.

But Sarrazin, 65, made it clear that he will not go away and plans to use his new-found fame to press forward with the issues tackled in his best-selling book: that Muslims are undermining German society and threatening to change its character and culture with their higher birth rate. Whether Germans like his views or not, there is no denying that Sarrazin has struck a chord.

"It seemed to me to be too risky...to try to push forward against the entire political establishment and 70 percent of the media," Sarrazin told hundreds of people at a book reading in Potsdam near Berlin. "That would have been arrogant and wouldn't have worked. That's why I'm making this strategic retreat now and will tackle the issues that are important to me."

from Tales from the Trail:

State Dept: church Koran burning plan”un-American”

There have been lots of angry words over plans by an obscure Florida pastor to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

But State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley pulled out the biggest gun of all on Tuesday in his effort to distance the government from the pastor's incendiary proposal -- he called it "un-American."

"We are conscious that a number of voices have come out and rejected what this pastor and this community have proposed," Crowley told a news briefing. "We would like to see more Americans stand up and say 'this is inconsistent with our American values.' In fact these actions themselves are un-American."

Far-right anti-mosque video game triggers outrage in Austria

The picturesque Austrian province of Styria is overrun by huge mosques with minarets, if you are to believe an online video game designed for the far-right Freedom Party ahead of regional elections on September 26.

In a shooting range-style game, players have 60 seconds to collect points by putting a target over animated mosques and minarets that emerge from the Styria countryside and clicking a “Stop” sign. They also have the chance to eliminate bearded muezzin who call Muslims to prayer. A man reads a flyer during a demonstration against a proposed Islam centre in Vienna June 18, 2010. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

A man reads a flyer during a demonstration against a proposed Islamic centre in Vienna June 18, 2010/Heinz-Peter Bader