FaithWorld

Ethiopia’s religious divides flare up in Muslim attacks on Christians

ethiopia

(A destroyed Protestant church in Asendabo, 300 km (200 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa, March 16, 2011/stringer)

The hollow chants of “Allahu Akbar!” reverberating from a distance seemed innocuous at first for Abera Gutema, who ventured home quietly from his shop just a short distance away. Moments later, a large, angry mob of machete-wielding Muslim youths descended on his family’s dwelling and chased him out, before burning and looting his property.

Abera, a Christian, escaped through a back door, clutching his infant son Eyoel in one hand. By the time the smoke cleared, all that remained of his hard-earned belongings had been reduced to rubble, not to mention the theft of 100,000 birr — his lifetime savings.

“They were our friends, our neighbours with whom we shared everything,” said Abera, his eyes watering with tears. “I never thought that this day would ever come.”

Abera was one of more than 4,000 members of local Protestant denominations displaced by a rare bout of religious violence earlier this month when Muslims staged a week of attacks in an area about 300 km (200 miles) west of the capital. According to official figures, Ethiopia is about 60 percent Christian and 30 percent Muslim, with smaller faiths making up the remainder.

Pope’s Jesus book raps religious violence, explains exoneration of Jews

pope book 1

(A priest reads Pope Benedict XVI's book "Jesus of Nazareth" in a book shop in Rome March 10, 2011/Max Rossi )

Pope Benedict has condemned violence committed in God’s name and personally exonerated Jews of responsibility for Jesus’ death in his latest book, released on Thursday. The book, the second in a planned three-part series on the life of Jesus, is a detailed, highly theological and academic recounting of the last week in Jesus’ life.

Publishers have printed 1.2 million copies of the book in seven languages. A blaze of international publicity included teleconferences with the media in several countries.

Muslim-Christian sectarian divisions haunt central Nigerian city

jos 1

(A police check point in Nigeria's central city of Jos February 15, 2011/Afolabi Sotunde)

An outsider crossing the dried-up gulley between two neighbourhoods in this central Nigerian city might not notice he had stepped over one of its increasingly tense sectarian dividing lines. On both sides, stallholders sell freshly slaughtered meat and tropical fruit under umbrellas. Motorcycle taxis weave in and out of the traffic. Soldiers with AK-47s on the street corners are the only outward sign all is not well.

“No Christians come here because they are scared. We used to have Christians running stalls here but now there is no trust,” said Umar, a Muslim, from behind a pile of mangoes and pineapples.

Snooker row sparks deadly Christian-Muslim clashes in Nigeria

snookerClashes between Christian and Muslim youths in central Nigeria triggered by a game of snooker have killed four people and led to the burning of houses, churches and mosques, police said on Friday.

Residents said the dispute in Tafawa Balewa, in Bauchi state, started when a man from the Muslim Hausa ethnic group refused to pay for a snooker game on Wednesday evening.

The snooker club owners, from the mostly Christian Sayawa ethnic group, threw him out but he returned with a gang of friends and tried to set the building ablaze, witnesses said.

Top Sunni Islam authority al-Azhar halts dialogue with Vatican

al-azharThe highest authority of Sunni Islam, the Islamic University of al-Azhar in Cairo, has frozen all dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church over what it called Pope Benedict’s repeated insults towards Islam. Benedict this month condemned attacks on churches that killed dozens of people in Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria, saying they showed the need to adopt effective measures to protect religious minorities. (Photo: Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, July 13, 2006/Suhaib Salem)

His remarks followed a New Year bombing outside a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria that left 23 people dead and dozens injured and prompted demonstrations by both Christians and Muslims against sectarian violence. The pope urged Christian communities to persevere in a non-violent manner in the face of what he described as “a strategy of violence that has Christians as a target”.

Al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Council “reviewed in an emergency meeting on Thursday the repeatedly insulting remarks issued by the Vatican Pope towards Islam and his statement that Muslims are discriminating against others who live with them in the Middle East,” al-Azhar said in a statement. “The council decided to freeze dialogue between al-Azhar and the Vatican for an indefinite period,” it added.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

In Pakistan, a death foretold

taseerIn one of the more anguished posts about the murder of provincial governor Salman Taseer, Pakistani blogger Huma Imtiaz wrote that his assassination "is not the beginning of the end. This is the end. There is no going back from here, there is no miracle cure, there is no magic wand that will one day make everything better. Saying 'enough is enough' does not cut it anymore ..."

It was a sense that permeated much of the English-language commentary about Taseer's killing in Islamabad by one of his own security guards. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Taseer, governor of Punjab province and a leading politician in the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), was killed because of his opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy laws.  A sense that the forces of religious intolerance are becoming all but unstoppable; and that those who oppose them by promoting a more liberal vision of Pakistan occupy an ever diminishing space.

"Salmaan Taseer was many things, but most recently, he was a champion of a particular strand of liberal, secular discourse in a country where such voices are dwindling down to nothing. He was a minority because he chose to stand next to the Christian and Hindu minorities who are denied basic protection in their own nation.  This is a great loss," wrote historian Manan Ahmed at Chapati Mystery.

Christian-Muslim clashes flare in Nigeria after Christmas Eve bombings

jos (Photo: After an explosion in Nigeria’s central city of Jos on December 25, 2010 picture/Afolabi Sotunde)

Clashes broke out between armed Christian and Muslim groups near the central Nigerian city of Jos on Sunday, a Reuters witness said, after Christmas Eve bombings in the region killed more than 30 people.

Buildings were set ablaze and people were seen running for cover as the police and military arrived on the scene in an effort to disperse crowds. This correspondent saw dozens of buildings on fire and injured people covered in blood being dragged by friends and family to hospital.

The unrest was triggered by explosions on Christmas Eve in villages near Jos, capital of Plateau state, that killed at least 32 people and left 74 critically injured. Pope Benedict condemned the attacks, which killed six people in two churches.

U.N. restores gay reference to violence measure

united nations (Photo: United Nations headquarters in New York, July 31, 2008/Brendan McDermid)

The United States has succeeded in getting the United Nations to restore a reference to killings due to sexual orientation that had been deleted from a resolution condemning unjustified executions.

Western delegations were disappointed last month when the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee approved an Arab and African proposal to cut the reference to slayings due to sexual orientation from a resolution on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions.

The 192-nation General Assembly approved on Tuesday a U.S. amendment to the resolution that restored the reference to sexual orientation with 93 votes in favor, 55 against and 27 abstentions. The amended resolution was then adopted with 122 yes votes, one against and 62 abstentions.

Iraqi Shi’ites mark Ashura without incident, Saudis scuffle in Medina

ashura (Photo: Pilgrims gather between Imam Abbas and Imam Hussein shrines to mark Ashura in Kerbala, December 17, 2010/Mushtaq Muhammad)

More than two million Shi’ite pilgrims in Iraq’s holy city of Kerbala marked Ashura, commemorating the slaying of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Imam Hussein at the battle of Kerbala in 680, with no major violence reported amid tight security. But Saudi security forces dispersed crowds of Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims after scuffles broke out in the holy city of Medina.

Shi’ites from across Iraq, along with thousands of foreign pilgrims — most dressed in black — streamed into Kerbala for the emotive ritual on Friday in which the faithful beat their heads and chests and gash themselves with chains and swords to mourn the event that defines Shi’ism and its split from Sunni Islam.

“According to official statistics, there are more than two million Iraqi pilgrims and 248,000 foreign pilgrims who have entered Kerbala city,” said Mohammed al-Moussawi, head of the Kerbala provincial council.

Scathing U.S. view of French unrest and Muslim integration in WikiLeaks

burbs 1 (Photo: Local youths watch firemen extinguish burning vehicles during clashes in the Paris suburb of Aulnay sur Bois, early November 3, 2005/Victor Tonelli)

The U.S. embassy in Paris turns out to be one of the sharpest critics of France’s track record in integrating its Muslim minority. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we now have its unvarnished view of the 2005 unrest in the poor suburbs of Paris and other large cities. It is a scathing indictment that goes beyond even what many of the government’s domestic critics at the time were saying. It may also go beyond most if not all of the criticisms of domestic policy found in cables from other European capitals (has anyone found anything more devastating elsewhere?). Here is our overall news report on the cables. Some excerpts from the key cables are copied below.

burbs 2For FaithWorld, it’s especially interesting to see what the embassy says about “what the violence is not”. Back in those days, some American media were throwing around terms like “Paris intifada” and “Muslim riots” as if Huntington’s “clash of civilisations” had reached the outlying stations of the Paris Metro network. The cables are clearly written to refute that view. Yes, many of the rioters came from a Muslim background, but this was a socio-economic protest by a growing underclass, as we have argued in earlier posts such as  “Smoke without fire – there was no ‘Paris intifada’ in 2005″ and “Why we don’t call them ‘Muslim riots’ in Paris suburbs.” (Photo:  Hooded youths from poor suburbs of Paris taunt riot police during a nationwide protest against a youth jobs law,  in Paris March 28, 2006/Jacky Naegelen)

If religion had to be brought into the issue, it would have to be mentioned as an underlying cultural background on both sides — something that French politicians and editorialists didn’t do and don’t like. But this cable did do that in one of its most striking quotes — “The real problem is the failure of white and Christian France to view their darker, Muslim compatriots as real citizens.” As Le Monde put it: “The Americans’ logic has never been explained in such transparent fashion.”