FaithWorld

Nigeria arrests 100 suspected members of violent Islamist sect Boko Haram

(Shattered remnants at the site of a bomb blast at a bar in the Nigerian northeastern city of Maiduguri that killed five people and injured 10 more in the latest apparent attack by Boko Haram, July 3, 2011/Stringer)

Nigeria’s state security service (SSS) has arrested more than 100 suspected members of radical Islamist sect Boko Haram and had foiled a spate of attempted bombings in the past month and a half. Guerrilla attacks on police stations and assassinations by gunmen on motorbikes have killed more than 150 people since the start of the year in the remote northeastern state of Borno. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for much of the violence.

Insecurity in parts of northern Nigeria has rapidly replaced militant attacks on oil infrastructure hundreds of kilometres away in the southern Niger Delta as the main security risk in Africa’s most populous nation in recent months.

“Successful security operations have led to the arrest of some identified key cell commanders and members of the dissident group in Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Kano, Yobe and Adamawa,” the SSS said in a statement on Monday, referring to six northern states.

The sect said it was behind a car bomb last month outside the national police headquarters in the capital Abuja and there are fears that it will increasingly trying to operate beyond its home region if not brought under control.

Sleepy French hamlet seen at threat from Apocalypse sects


(Pic de Bugarach, 14 November 2007/Thierry Strub)

The tiny southern French hamlet of Bugarach has drawn scrutiny from a government sect watchdog over droves of visitors who believe it is the only place in the world that will survive a 2012 Apocalypse. A report by the watchdog, Miviludes, published Wednesday said the picturesque village near Carcassonne should be monitored in the run-up to December 21, 2012, when many believe the world will end according to an ancient Mayan prophecy.

Miviludes was set up in 2002 to track the activity of sects, after a law passed the previous year made it an offence to abuse vulnerable people using heavy pressure techniques, meaning sects can be outlawed if there is evidence of fraud or abuse.

Surrounded in legend for centuries, Bugarach and its rocky outcrop, the Pic de Bugarach, have attracted an influx of New Age visitors in recent months, pushing up property prices but also raising the threat of financial scams and psychological manipulation, Miviludes said in its report. “I think we need to be careful. We shouldn’t get paranoid, but when you see what happened at Waco in the United States, we know this kind of thinking can influence vulnerable people,” Miviludes president Georges Fenech told Reuters.

Vladimir Putin is saint and saviour for Russian cult

(Svetlana Frolova pauses during a service at her sanctuary at Bolshaya Yelena, a village near central Russia's city of Nizhny Novgorod May 15, 2011/Natalia Plankina)

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin cultivates the image of a bare-chested macho man, but a nun-like sect in central Russia thinks actually he’s the reincarnation of St. Paul, the apostle. Or, if not that, he may in a past life have been the founder of the Russian Orthodox Church.

“I say what the Lord has revealed to me,” the sect’s leader, former convict Svetlana Frolova, said.

Syria’s Assad retrenches into power base of his Alawite Shi’ite sect

(A supporter of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad holds aloft a photograph of the president at Hamidiya market in Damascus April 30, 2011/Khaled al-Hariri)

President Bashar al-Assad is increasingly relying on his Alawite power base to crush pro-democracy protests that have posed the boldest challenge to the Assad family’s 41 years of rule over Syria. Assad, an Alawite, sent army and secret police units dominated by officers from the same minority sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, into mainly Sunni urban centers to crush demonstrations calling for his removal for the last six weeks.

Their use of tanks to shell the city of Deraa last week, storming of mosques and attacks on unarmed civilians — as reported by residents and activists — have raised the stakes.  Reports say that Sunni conscripts, Syria’s majority sect, refused to fire at their co-religionists.

Indonesia Muslims attack court, churches; mob kills Ahmadis

indonesia 1

(Anti-riot police block protesters outside the court where a Catholic man is on trial for blasphemy in Temanggung February 8, 2011/Stringer)

Hundreds of Muslim radicals set two churches ablaze and attacked a court in Indonesia’s central Java on Tuesday, calling for harsh punishment for a Christian on trial for blasphemy, police said.

The attacks come two days after a mob beat to death three followers of a minority Islamic sect considered heretical by mainstream Muslims, and at the start of so-called “Inter-faith week”, when the country is supposed to celebrate its pluralistic heritage.

Canada’s anti-polygamy laws go on trial in Vancouver

jeffsA Canadian court opened hearings on Monday into whether anti-polygamy laws violate constitutional protections of religious freedom. The court is wrestling with civil liberties and moral questions surrounding a breakaway sect of the Mormon church that has practiced plural marriages at its compound in rural British Columbia since the late 1940s. (Photo: U.S. polygamist group leader Warren Jeffs escorted into a court hearing, in Las Vegas, Nevada, August 31, 2006/Steve Marcus)

“We are beginning on an historic reference,” Robert Bauman, chief justice of the British Columbia Supreme Court told a packed courtroom in Vancouver.

The provincial government asked the court to probe the law’s constitutionality ahead of a criminal case against leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that is expected to test the issue.

Dead Sea scrolls going digital on Internet

dead sea scrolls 1 (Photo: Sections of the Dead Sea scrolls at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, May 14, 2008/Baz Ratner)

Scholars and anyone with an Internet connection will be able to take a new look into the Biblical past through an online archive of high-resolution images of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls.

Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the custodian of the scrolls that shed light on the life of Jews and early Christians at the time of Jesus, said on Tuesday it was collaborating with Google’s research and development center in Israel to upload digitized images of the entire collection.

Advanced imaging technology will be installed in the IAA’s laboratories early next year and high-resolution images of each of the scrolls’ 30,000 fragments will be freely accessible on the Internet. The IAA conducted a pilot imaging project in 2008.

Bus tours journey into U.S. polygamist town run by breakaway Mormon group

colorado cityA peek inside a polygamist community and their isolated way of life is now just a bus ride away for sightseers from around the world.

Billed as the “Polygamy Experience,” the four-hour, $70 tour takes visitors through the middle of the polygamist enclave Colorado City on the Utah-Arizona border. Children play in yards, families picnic in parks and teenage boys gallop their horses away from the guests. Women with old-fashioned braided hair and pioneer dresses usher the little ones out of eyesight. (Photo: Colorado City, 9 Aug 2006/Ricardo630)

Holm says tourists have come from France, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Norway and throughout the United States. He added that the tour idea is growing slowly as local people start opening up.

Pakistani law fuels hatred of Ahmadis, prompts attacks: UN experts

ahmadiOfficial discrimination in Pakistan against the Ahmadi Muslim sect fuels hatred of the community and prompts violent attacks against them, according to three U.N. human rights investigators.

In a statement issued by the United Nations in Geneva following deadly bombings last Friday of two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, the three said the authorities had failed to head off the attacks despite many signs that they were coming. (Photo: Ahmadis bury attack victims in Chenab Nagar,  northwest of Lahore on May 29, 2010/stringer)

“Members of this (Ahmadi) religious community have faced continuous threats, discrimination and violent attacks in Pakistan,” said the experts, who included Pakistani human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir.

from India Insight:

Is caste behind the killing in Vienna and riots in Punjab?

Why did the murder of a preacher in a Sikh temple in Vienna spark riots in the faraway Indian state of Punjab, in which thousands took to the streets to torch cars, trains and battle security forces?

The root cause may lie in India's caste system that Sikhism officially rejects, but that still grips swathes of India's billion-plus people, including in Sikh-dominated Punjab state in northwestern India.

"Via Vienna, Sikh caste war returns, sets Punjab aflame" ran the headline of the Hindustan Times.