Posted by Kendall Harmon

Religious freedom in America is under threat, and the battle is already in progress. For the most part, the burden of the struggle has been borne by Christians. America’s Jews, living safely behind the front lines, have paid little heed. But that safety is likely to be ephemeral. If freedom falls for those now fighting for their religious rights, it can fall for all, prominently including a community characterized by its attachment to an ancient and traditional moral code and defining ritual practices.

The threat emanates from a classic question: what is the proper relationship between church and state? The tension is as old as recorded history. It appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh and throughout Greek mythology. Some societies, from the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to Japan’s chrysanthemum throne, imbued their rulers with divinity. In Christendom, western kings answered to the pope while eastern churches supported the emperor. In Islam, the caliph held titles of both temporal and spiritual authority. England maintains an established church still today, while France severed its formal ties to Catholicism more than a century ago. In Jewish tradition, the Second Temple period was replete with conflicts between royals and priests—hence the rabbinic reluctance to embrace the Hasmoneans, priestly usurpers to the throne whose victories are celebrated annually by today’s Jews at Ḥanukkah. In modern-day Israel, selected areas of civil governance have been relegated entirely to religious authorities.

The U.S. Constitution, steeped in classical liberalism, attempted a novel—and ingenious—resolution. It combined the absence of an official, “established” religion with the individual’s freedom to choose and follow his faith.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchEducationHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism

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Posted August 25, 2015 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...Grainy security camera footage showed Khadiza and her two 15-year-old friends, Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, calmly passing through security at Gatwick Airport for Turkish Airlines Flight 1966 to Istanbul and later boarding a bus to the Syrian border.

“Only when I saw that video I understood,” Ms. Khanom said.

These images turned the three Bethnal Green girls, as they have become known, into the face of a new, troubling phenomenon: young women attracted to what experts like Sasha Havlicek, a co-founder and the chief executive of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, call a jihadi, girl-power subculture.

An estimated 4,000 Westerners have traveled to Syria and Iraq, more than 550 of them women and girls, to join the Islamic State, according to a recent report by the institute, which helps manage the largest database of female travelers to the region.

The men tend to become fighters much like previous generations of jihadists seeking out battlefields in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. But less is known about the Western women of the Islamic State. Barred from combat, they support the group’s state-building efforts as wives, mothers, recruiters and sometimes online cheerleaders of violence.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenGlobalizationMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureTeens / Youth* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeTurkeyMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There was a miserable stint in the Army, mercifully shortened by a psychiatrist who thought I had no business being a soldier. There were a couple of romantic relationships with married women. Casting about for something to do, I eventually settled on studying journalism at San Francisco State University.

That’s where I found Islam. A friend introduced me to the Qur’an, and I was entranced by its words, which speak of a God who cares a great deal about the men and women he created. But it was also the people: the Palestinian and African American Muslims who first taught me what it meant to surrender. They welcomed me as no one else had before.

Some people look to faith for ideas of right and wrong, or some understanding of good and evil, or a set of principles with which to order the world. Not me. What I sought, what I ached for, was meaning and belonging. And Islam gave me both.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted August 21, 2015 at 5:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It would be hard to imagine a story much more hellish than the lengthy New York Times piece that is racing around the Internet today that ran under this blunt headline: "ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape."

However, it is the second piece of the double-decker headline that will be the most controversial and discussed part of this piece: "Claiming the Quran’s support, the Islamic State codifies sex slavery in conquered regions of Iraq and Syria and uses the practice as a recruiting tool."

The bottom line: To make that statement, the Times team needs to show readers specific references in the Quran, by quoting them, and then show proof of how ISIS leaders are interpreting those passages, perhaps through a lens from earlier expressions of the faith. It would then help, of course, to show how mainstream Islamic scholars, and experts outside of Islam, read those same passages today.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryMediaReligion & CultureSexualityViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted August 17, 2015 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

U.S. intelligence agencies have evidence indicating Islamic State used mustard agent against Kurdish forces for the first time at least two weeks ago in fighting in Syria, a tactic that the group may have repeated in two subsequent attacks in Iraq, U.S. officials said Friday.

The developments are fueling concerns that Islamic State has acquired a crude arsenal of banned chemicals that could herald a significant escalation of fighting in the region.

“It could be a pattern,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the intelligence.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 15, 2015 at 8:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

She was a cheerleader, an honor student, the daughter of a police officer and a member of the high school homecoming court who wanted to be a doctor.

He was a quiet but easygoing psychology student. His father is a well-known Muslim patriarch here, whose personable mien and habit of sharing food with friends and strangers made him seem like a walking advertisement for Islam as a religion of tolerance and peace.

Today, the young woman, Jaelyn Young, 19, and the young man, her fiancé, Muhammad Dakhlalla, 22, are in federal custody, arrested on suspicion of trying to travel from Mississippi to Syria to join the ranks of the Islamic State.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingPsychologyReligion & CultureViolenceYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

2 Comments
Posted August 14, 2015 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To the casual skeptic, the notion of getting sucked into the Church of Scientology's belief system is a prospect as likely as a Sunday brunch date with galactic overlord Xenu.

But for the average Canadian, it helps that this film's main liaison is filmmaker Paul Haggis, a practising Scientologist for 35 years before his explosive departure from the church in 2009.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMovies & TelevisionReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 14, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The BBC's John McManus says Archbishop [Josiah] Idowu-Fearon, who is the new secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, has a strong reputation for promoting dialogue between Christians and Muslims.
But the archbishop told our correspondent that efforts to maintain unity were undermined by some fellow Christians who failed to engage with their Muslim counterparts.
"We warned the leadership in my country, the Christian Association of Nigeria: 'Let us listen to the Muslim leadership, because the leadership is not in support of Boko Haram.'
"'Oh no no no,' they said, 'they are always deceiving us. They are all the same,'" he said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of Nigeria* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 13, 2015 at 3:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Perhaps John Rhys-Davies was channeling Gimli, his character from The Lord of the Rings' trilogy, because the Welsh actor delivered a soliloquy late Monday about good and evil and even warned of the end of days courtesy of radical Islamic terrorism and political correctness.

"There is an extraordinary silence in the West," said Rhys-Davies on Adam Carolla's podcast posted Monday night. "Basically, Christianity in the Middle East and in Africa is being wiped out — I mean not just ideologically but physically, and people are being enslaved and killed because they are Christians. And your country and my country are doing nothing about it...."

"This is a unique age. We don't want to be judgmental," said Rhys-Davies, who's also known for his role in the Indiana Jones franchise. "Every other age that has come before us has believed exactly the opposite. I mean, T.S. Eliot referred to 'the common pursuit of true judgment.' Yes. That's what it's about. Getting our judgments right."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryMediaReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted August 13, 2015 at 7:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The recruiting ground for Islamic extremism looks vastly different for western Muslims and Muslims living in the Middle East.

The traditional picture of the Australian recruit is of a young man, poorly educated in his faith. But a visiting Middle East expert says that in Muslim nations recruits are increasingly well-educated professionals who are deeply frustrated by a lack of opportunity.

Professor Hamdy Hassan is a faithful Muslim, the son of a Sheikh, and political scientist at the University of Cairo and Zayed University in Dubai. He's a Visiting Fellow at Deakin University, Victoria, and is sponsored by the Council of Australia Arab Relations

Listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted August 13, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Burma is a deeply religious nation—predominantly Buddhist but with big religious and ethnic minorities.

Stephen Than, the Anglican Archbishop is from the minority Karen people. During his lifetime he has faced ethnic discrimination and a crisis of faith. Archbishop Than is the subject of a new biography, Dancing With Angels, by Melbourne Anglican priest Alan Nichols.

Listen to it all (just over 13 minutes).

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Culture-WatchPrison/Prison MinistryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAsiaMyanmar/Burma* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsBuddhism* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted August 12, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

White-on-black Islamic calligraphy still adorns the establishment that the Islamic State used to recruit fighters and bombers in this town in southeast Turkey.

Known as the Islamic Tea House, it was a hub for bearded men in tunics, who lured young men for explosives training in Syria before complaints from the community led police to shut it down.

“It wasn’t exactly a tea house, but they did drink tea among themselves,” says Mahmoud Tunc, a chatty boy with a whisper of a mustache who works at a tiny tea shop across the street. “They were a carbon copy of the IS guys you see on social media. Even if you put a Quran in front of them, they wouldn’t read it. They would just parrot their stupid ideology. They were not harmful to us but they were very harmful to Adiyaman and Islam.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolenceYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeTurkey* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted August 11, 2015 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I’ve noticed before the strange tendency of hateful buildings to become almost lovable after the passage of decades. Not all of them, of course. Some, like the 1960s highrise clones lining Moscow’s New Arbat (Kalinin Prospekt) become more annoying as they get shabbier. But the Moscow State University building on Lenin Hills, one of Moscow’s seven late-Stalinist wedding cakes, has definitely undergone a metamorphosis in my mind. When I lived there in the late 1960s, I regarded it as an anti-people monster, guarded by dragons who, if you had lost your pass, would throw you out to die in the snow. (According to Hatherley, they now use swipe cards to protect the building against invasion.) But I noticed a while back that I had started regarding the wedding cakes with something like affection; apparently the passage of time has naturalised them.

But Hatherley is young, and so are the Poles who like the Palace of Culture; their reassessment must come from somewhere else. Actually it seems to come from two different places. One is the Western pop/youth phenomenon that might be called Soviet ruin chic – a fascination with Soviet imperial ghosts or, as Hatherley puts it, ‘tourism of the counter-revolution’. Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker, with its memorable imagery of the Zone, is a reference point here, as is real-life Chernobyl, now a tourist destination for those with a ‘ruin chic’ sensibility. Hatherley distinguishes his own position from that of the admirers of Totally Awesome Ruined Soviet Architecture, and his ideological and personal baggage is definitely not counter-revolutionary. But there’s some family – or perhaps more accurately, generational – resemblance.

The other place this re-evaluation comes from is Eastern Europe, specifically young people who grew up in the Soviet bloc at the end of the communist era, and don’t share their parents’ bad memories.

Read it all from the LRB.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchArchitectureHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussia* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* Theology

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Posted August 10, 2015 at 3:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Professional football isn’t known for being a place that encourages deep intellectual reflection. With its history of silence on head injuries, locker-room harassment, and macho culture, the NFL would be the last place you would expect to find a philosopher and a poet–and an atheist to boot. But all of those things come together in Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, who was the subject of an ESPN feature yesterday in which he revealed that he didn’t believe in God. That’s unusual in a league where players regularly point to the sky (nevermind the questionable theology behind the assumption that heaven is somewhere up in the sky) and meet for regular Bible studies.

Foster, raised in New Mexico and San Diego, played for the University of Tennessee Volunteers before entering the NFL in 2009. His father was Muslim, and Foster grew up in that tradition, praying five times a day and asking God for help when he was in a difficult situation. He eventually garnered the courage to tell his father that he didn’t believe in God, and instead of a lecture, Foster’s father told him to ” Go find your truth.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureSports* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted August 10, 2015 at 3:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A year after tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians fled communities overtaken by Islamic State militants, their lives are on hold in exile: They won't go back to Iraq, saying it's not safe for Christians, but as refugees they're barred from working in temporary asylum countries such as Jordan. Expectations of quick resettlement to the West have been dashed.

"We've lost hope in everything," said Hinda Ablahat, a 67-year-old widow who lives with dozens of fellow refugees in plywood cubicles set up in a church compound in downtown Amman, the capital of Jordan. "We've been sitting here for a year and nothing's happened."

About 7,000 Christians from northern Iraq have found refuge in Jordan, including about 2,000 living in church-sponsored shelters.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted August 10, 2015 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Indian democracy has not blown up. But Ambedkar’s contradiction persists, and the caste foundation of India’s political structure maintains the hierarchy at the root of the country’s tremendous inequality of status and condition. Much of the careful thought of the nineteenth-century reformers and the founding generation has been shunted aside by the force of caste-based politics on the one hand and capitalist materialism on the other. The political principles on which the Indian state is founded have not been sufficient to create an inclusive, egalitarian society. Although the post-independence generation of Congress politicians promoted a secular vision of the Indian nation, they did not pursue the kinds of reforms that might have brought social reality closer to their political ideal. In doing so, they opened the way for the ascendance of caste-based politics and, ultimately, the more reactionary rise of religion in politics.

Hindu nationalism, with its dual focus on cultivating traditional social practices and providing social services afforded neither by the state nor economic growth, would seem to provide the strongest alternative to a modern capitalist society. But Hindu nationalism itself has adapted to India’s increasing wealth. The upper castes, particularly the Brahmins, once prided themselves on simple, even ascetic, living; they now hold up material success as another sign of caste superiority. The traditional Hindu elite is no longer distinguishable from the modern economic elite.

Prime Minister Modi is the living embodiment of this troubling marriage of Hindu nationalism and capitalism, of traditional social hierarchy and modern materialism. While he has maintained the support of his elite urban business constituents, he has proven himself to be as much a disciple of the Hindu Right as he was in his youth. Even as the RSS offers hope and basic services to thousands of poor, lower-caste youth like Aakash, we cannot take the organization’s apparent social egalitarianism at face value. At its core remains the inequality that has long marked Indian life.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchRural/Town Life* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaIndia* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsHinduism

3 Comments
Posted August 9, 2015 at 1:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

With scant media attention, leading U.S. thinkers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. Mormon) and Evangelical Protestantism have been holding regular dialogue meetings the past 15 years. This is a good moment for religion writers to examine where things stand between these two dynamic faiths.

That’s because the talks are pausing temporarily as participants issue a new anthology: “Talking Doctrine: Mormons & Evangelicals in Conversation” (InterVarsity Press). The book’s editors, who’ve led the dialogue to date, are top sources for journalists: Robert Millet, former religious education dean at the LDS Brigham Young University, and Richard Mouw, retired president of Fuller Theological Seminary.

The two sides constitute the most unlikely dialogue partners imaginable, despite their concord on moral issues in the socio-political realm.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOther FaithsMormons

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Posted August 8, 2015 at 4:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

My argument thus far is that the policymakers in the West and especially in the United States and Britain do not just tolerate dictatorial regimes in the Middle East, but at a minimum, refuse to oppose them and often will actively support them because of a basic sense of insecurity about Muslims exercising self-autonomy and determination. There is a visceral but historically rooted fear of the bogeyman of a united Islam and of Muslims demanding to be treated as equals and not as colonial subjects. Muslims are still the faceless, indistinct mass of dark-skinned natives who cannot be trusted unless they speak, act, and even covet what their imperial masters teach them.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 8, 2015 at 10:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In addition to writing about your own experiences, you personally interviewed U.S., U.K., and Iraqi officials as well as clergy and religious leaders of all faiths. Can you describe some of the insight people of faith had on ISIS?

One of the terrible tragedies in Iraq is the fate of Christians, who were a central part of Iraq. I think there are more Iraqi Christians now in the state of Michigan than there are in Iraq. There were 1.2 million Christians living in Iraq in 2003; today there are 400,000, and most want to leave. I interviewed Reverend Canon Andrew White (vicar of the sole Anglican church in Iraq); he lost a quarter of his flock who were persecuted or forced to pay a tax or be killed. I asked myself, why has the Christian population gone down? It’s ISIS. The terrible violence, you wouldn’t believe it—what they did to people’s children, the churches they blew up and the number of people they have killed. I cite a report in the book about ISIS cooking a two-year-old Syrian girl and serving it to her family.

Can you describe what life is like in Iraq?....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted August 7, 2015 at 4:21 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Niloy Chakrabati, a Bangladeshi blogger who used the pen name Niloy Neel to criticize Muslim extremism, was hacked to death by a machete-wielding gang who broke into his apartment Friday. He is the fourth such social media activist to be killed in the South Asian country so far this year.

"They entered his room on the fifth floor and shoved his friend aside and then hacked him to death," Imran H. Sarker, head of the Bangladesh Blogger and Online Activist Network, or BOAN, tells Agence France-Presse.

According to The Associated Press: "Hours after the assault, Ansar-al-Islam, which intelligence officials believe is affiliated with al-Qaida on the Indian subcontinent, sent an email to media organizations claiming responsibility for the killing and calling the blogger an enemy of Allah. The authenticity of the email could not be independently confirmed."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAsiaBangladesh* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted August 7, 2015 at 2:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Zainab Bangura, the UN’s special envoy on sexual violence, said yesterday that a document discovered eight months ago that appeared to show Isis trading pre-pubescent girls as sex slaves had been authenticated.
“The girls get peddled like barrels of petrol,” she said. “One girl can be sold and bought by five or six different men. Sometimes these fighters sell the girls back to their families for thousands of dollars.”

In an interview with Bloomberg, she said that the document claimed that children aged nine or under could be sold to Isis fighters as slaves for $165. Older women, from the Christian or Yazidi communities, were worth less, with those over 40 selling for as little as $41.

Read it all 9requires subscription).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureSexualityViolenceWomen* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted August 7, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nestled amongst the nondescript concrete buildings of Silicon Valley, home to start-ups and tech giants, are a surprising number of churches and temples.

They cater to the highly successful and wealthy population of the world’s tech capital. It is surprising because this is a region that is known for its agnosticism, rather than religiosity.

"Silicon Valley attracts people with a type-A personality,” said Skip Vaccarello, author of Finding God in Silicon Valley. "[That type has] the lowest number of people that go to a church on any Sunday. The gods become the things like money, technology, success and so on."

A recent survey listed San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose as having the least church-going population of any place in America.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate Life* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* Theology

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Posted August 7, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christian preacher Pastor James McConnell has said he wants to be “exonerated, liberated and set free” after he pleaded not guilty at a Belfast court in connection with charges he faces over a sermon where he branded Islam as “satanic”.

At Laganside court on Thursday, the north Belfast preacher’s solicitor Joe Rice said his client would be pleading not guilty to the case prosecutors have taken under the 2003 Communications Act.

Supporters, including DUP MP Sammy Wilson, gathered outside the court holding placards to protest what they described as the pastor’s right to free speech.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--Ireland* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 7, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Boko Haram Islamists shot dead at least nine people and set homes on fire in a raid on two villages in conflict-hit northeastern Nigeria, fleeing residents told AFP on Thursday.

All nine victims were gunned down with assault rifles as the jihadis attacked Tadagara around 10:30 pm (2130 GMT), looting thatch-roofed mud homes and shops before setting them ablaze, according to witnesses.

"Boko Haram gunmen came on motorcycles and opened fire on the village after we had retired for the night and killed nine residents," Tadagara villager ‎Shuaibu Nuhu told AFP.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 6, 2015 at 4:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mr Choudary, the former head of the banned Islamist group al-Muhajiroun, was accused of promoting Isis and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on social media.
The preacher gave a 20-minute speech protesting his innocence as he appeared at Westminster magistrates’ court yesterday afternoon. He told the court that it was David Cameron and the police who should be in the dock.
Wearing a long white robe, Mr Choudary, 48, spoke confidently and waved notes around about his case. He said that he wished to represent himself as he appeared alongside Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, 32, from Whitechapel, east London, who is also accused of inviting support for Isis.
Mr Choudary, who was born in Britain, refused to confirm his east London address.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted August 6, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For many reasons, then, Boko Haram is a significant and threatening phenomenon, which demands explanation. It is valuable to have Virginia Comolli's thoughtful and wide-ranging account of the movement, which draws on extensive conversations with Nigerians of many backgrounds, apart from archival work. As with any study of a current topic, her book runs the risk of becoming obsolete the moment it appears in print, but it is nevertheless a very useful overview. Surprisingly, many aspects of this strictly contemporary movement are fiercely debated and poorly understood, and Comolli is a sure-footed guide through the scholarly battlegrounds.

She roots the insurgency in some very old-established traditions within North African Islam. Long before the arrival of British colonialism, the lands that became northern Nigeria were ruled by proud sultanates and emirates, of which Kano was the most celebrated. One of the great events in that history was the sweeping jihad movement undertaken at the start of the 19th century by the visionary Fulani reformer Usman dan Fodio. Islamic memories survived powerfully under the British, who worked closely with local political and religious authorities.

That historical legacy is cherished up to the present day, providing an ideological vehicle for popular disenchantment and resistance. Comolli rightly points out that Boko Haram did not spring from nowhere in 2002, but grew out of a series of Islamist, Wahhabi, and fundamentalist sects and student movements that had been flourishing from the 1970s onward. Islamic insurgencies are nothing new to Nigeria, and neither are charismatic and prophetic leaders.

I offer one criticism of an excellent book, namely that Comolli is so focused on tracing the tangled origins of Boko Haram that she underplays the larger political, ethnic, and religious picture, and specifically the role of Christianity. Undoubtedly, she knows that story very well, but most non-specialist readers will not, and they need to be told. A case can be made that Boko Haram is the most aggressive and acute form of a sweeping anti-Christian protest movement.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted August 6, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[The Rev. Gretta] Vosper, 57, who was ordained in 1993 and joined her east-end church in 1997, said the idea of an interventionist, supernatural being on which so much church doctrine is based belongs to an outdated world view.

What’s important, she says, is that her views hearken to Christianity’s beginnings, before the focus shifted from how one lived to doctrinal belief in God, Jesus and the Bible.

“Is the Bible really the word of God? Was Jesus a person?” she said.

“It’s mythology. We build a faith tradition upon it which shifted to find belief more important than how we lived.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryCanada* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsAtheismSecularism* Theology

1 Comments
Posted August 6, 2015 at 5:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christians are facing growing persecution around the world, fuelled mainly by Islamic extremism and repressive governments, leading the pope to warn of “a form of genocide” and for campaigners to speak of “religio-ethnic cleansing”.

The scale of attacks on Christians in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America has alarmed organisations that monitor religious persecution, with most reporting a significant deterioration in recent years.

On his recent trip to Latin America, Pope Francis said he was dismayed “to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus”. He went on: “In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 5, 2015 at 11:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A veteran leader of the Muslim Brotherhood was so alarmed by the rising calls for violence from the group’s youth that he risked arrest to urge the movement to stay peaceful.

Already hunted by the police for his role in a banned organization when he released his online manifesto in May, the leader, Mahmoud Ghuzlan, conceded that shunning violence in the face of the government crackdown on the Brotherhood was “like grasping a burning coal.” But, he said, history taught that “peacefulness is stronger than weapons, and violence is the reason for defeat and demise.”

It was a losing argument, or so it now appears. The police in Cairo soon found and arrested him. A chorus of Islamists mocked him on social media as naïve, unrealistic and hypocritical.

And his manifesto for “peacefulness” was quickly drowned out by official statements that have come closer to endorsing violence than anything the organization has said or done in more than four decades — an ominous turn for both Egypt and the West.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 5, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Around the world there are approximately 15 million Ismaili Muslims, who belong to the Shia branch of Islam. Their spiritual leader is the Aga Khan, who traces his ancestors directly back to the Prophet Muhammad. A wealthy philanthropist, he has made it his mission, based on his faith, to fight poverty, encourage peace, and promote religious understanding. We spoke with him in Toronto, where the Aga Khan Museum, the first art museum in North America devoted to Islamic art and culture, recently opened to the public.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted August 5, 2015 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Sacks is reported to have shied away from media appearances for the past two years so as not to overshadow his successor as chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis. However, his head is firmly back above the parapet as he challenges many who say that religion is intrinsically a cause for violence. It is another challenge altogether from that of being the head of mainstream Orthodox Judaism — during which he became probably the best-known British chief rabbi in Anglo-Jewish history. An Archbishop of Canterbury during his period in office is the principal leader of the Church of England, even though the synod can resemble the House of Commons at prime minister’s questions. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster cannot argue with the Pope. A chief rabbi has to cope not only with the deviating views of other clerics but also with members of his flock who enjoy sniping from the wings.

The resulting magnum opus has been a labour of love. “I wrote with passion and it took 12 years,” he says, adding that he has a profound belief in detail: “You can’t do microsurgery with a pneumatic drill.” He has also rewritten the book four times.

Is it a book that could have been written while he was chief rabbi? After all, The Dignity of Difference, a previous book, was severely criticised by other rabbis because it appeared to give equality to other faiths. “The Dignity of Difference was a statement of global ethics. This is a statement of what I take to be the bedrock of Abrahamic monotheism,” says Sacks, adding that his latest book is more hard hitting. “I can probably speak more forcefully now than I could, because I am putting myself on the line, not the community on the line.”

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksGlobalizationReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsJudaism* Theology

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Posted August 5, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At least eight people were killed and about 100 others were kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram militants in an overnight raid on a village near Cameroon's northern border, a local government and a military source said.

Tchakarmari, the village targeted early on Tuesday, lies north of Maroua, where dozens of people were killed in a series of suicide bombings by the Nigerian Islamist group last month.

"Residents said the attackers headed back to Nigeria where Cameroon is not allowed to pursue them," the local government source in the Far North region said.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaCameroonNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 4, 2015 at 5:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The radical Islamist group Boko Haram has intensified its suicide bombing attacks in northern Nigeria and Cameroon in recent weeks.

On Friday (31 July) a massive bomb exploded in the market in Maiduguri, north-eastern Nigeria – the traditional heartland of Boko Haram violence. At least six died, and 11 were injured.

The previous Saturday (25 July), 20 people were killed when a 12-year-old girl blew herself up in a crowded bar in Maroua, northern Cameroon. Seventy-nine others were injured.

However, on 2 August the Nigerian military said it had rescued 178 people – including 101 children and 67 women – taken captive by Boko Haram in the northern Nigerian state of Borno.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaCameroonNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 3, 2015 at 4:18 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday temporarily suspended the death sentence of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, her lawyer said, in a case that hit global headlines after the murder of two politicians who tried to intervene on her behalf.

Asia Bibi, a farm worker and mother of four, became the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law in 2010.

The Supreme Court will soon begin hearing an appeal against her conviction, said lawyer Saif-ul-Malook.

"The execution of Asia Bibi has been suspended and will remain suspended until the decision of this appeal," Malook said. No date had been set for her execution, he added.

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Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted July 22, 2015 at 3:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

British Muslims who hold “intolerant ideas” and create a climate for extremism will become the target of a new clampdown to be announced by David Cameron today.

In a landmark speech the prime minister will say that a failure of integration has meant that there are people born and raised in this country who do not identify with Britain. Outlining a five-year strategy to combat extremism, he will attack those who hold ideas “hostile to basic liberal values” and who promote “discrimination, sectarianism and segregation”.

Mr Cameron will single out Muslim conspiracy theorists who believe that “Jews exercise malevolent power”, that 9/11 was inspired by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, and that Britain allowed 7/7 because it wanted an anti-Muslim backlash.

Read it all (subscription required).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 20, 2015 at 3:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“One of the highlights for me in the last few months has been the visit of the Grand Imam of Al-Alzhar. He came and stayed here at Lambeth Palace for three days, and we spent much time in conversation. The importance of those sorts of relationships cannot be overestimated. In spending time together we were able to discuss our differences, as communities and as individuals. We need to recognise that we differ on crucial points of faith, but that we are united in understanding the importance of faith, and in our commitment to the common good.

“During this last few weeks as well you have been on my prayers as news has put pressure on the Muslim community. I never forget how much you need support and encouragement when you’re under pressure, as we do as well.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted July 18, 2015 at 4:50 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In recent years, traditional Islamic seminaries, or madrasas, have come under scrutiny and criticism as incubators of terrorism and extremist interpretations of Islam. Correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro has a report on one school, the Jamia Islamia Clifton madrasa founded 40 years ago in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, that is trying to change that image and broaden the scope of what students are taught.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAsiaPakistan* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted July 18, 2015 at 1:54 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Haley knew early on that she’d attend every funeral, even speaking at them when asked. She wanted each family to feel the state’s embrace of support.

“And I felt the need to go for me,” she says during a rare moment of quiet in a sitting room at the Governor’s Mansion.

Haley wanted to know the nine beyond a list of names.

“I had a need to meet them. I had a need to know, because I knew the forensic story. I knew the investigative part of the story. I needed to know the people.”

Through each funeral, she met them.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchRace/Race RelationsReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralState Government* International News & CommentaryAsiaIndia* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsHinduism* Theology

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Posted July 18, 2015 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Just beyond a massive strip mall, with its Best Buy and Hobby Lobby, Abdul Baasit, the imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, found himself preaching on Friday about a nightmare.

It was Eid al-Fitr, at the end of Ramadan, normally a time of gift-giving and carnival celebration. But the party that had been planned was canceled: A man who had attended prayer services at the center’s mosque killed four Marines on Thursday. And Mr. Baasit, 48, was trying to help Chattanooga’s Muslim faithful cope with their grief over the deaths, and their fear of reprisal.

“You do not want what is not right to be associated with Islam,” Mr. Baasit, a native of Ghana, said in lilting, heavily accented English. “And yet it is happening.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted July 18, 2015 at 8:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A picture emerged Friday of Abdulazeez as a likable, outgoing young man who enjoyed a laugh, made the wrestling team and seemed "as Americanized as anyone else," yet was clearly aware of what set him apart at his Chattanooga high school.

What's not clear — to counterterrorism investigators and to neighbors and former classmates — is what set him on the path to violence that ended with him being gunned down by police.

Abdulazeez did not appear to have been on federal authorities' radar before the bloodshed Thursday, officials said. But now counterterrorism investigators are taking a deep look at his online activities and foreign travel, searching for clues to his political contacts or influences.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureViolenceYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted July 18, 2015 at 8:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Like 1.6 billion Muslims around the world fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, Jeff Cook has been rising before dawn each morning to have breakfast. He doesn’t eat again until breaking his fast with dinner.

But Mr. Cook isn’t Muslim, doesn’t have close Muslims friends, and has never been inside a mosque. The Christian pastor from Greeley, Colo., is fasting for the 30 days of Ramadan, which ends Friday, as part of a nascent effort among American Christians to better understand and support Muslims.

Mr. Cook posted a photo of himself on Twitter holding a sign that read: “I’m Jeff—A Christian in America. I’ll be fasting in solidarity #Christians4Ramadan.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchDieting/Food/NutritionHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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Posted July 17, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At least 49 people were killed and dozens injured when twin blasts struck a market in the northeast Nigerian city of Gombe on Thursday, rescue workers said.

The first explosion took place outside a packed footwear shop around 1620 GMT, followed by a second explosion just minutes later, said Badamasi Amin, a local trader who counted at least three bodies.

He said the area at the time was crowded with customers doing some last-minute shopping on the eve of the Eid festival marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 17, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It has been a deadly July in Nigeria. More than 200 people have been killed since June 30 in attacks that have come almost daily in the country's northern and northeastern regions, stronghold of the militant Islamic sect Boko Haram.

Obscured by Boko Haram's headlines, violence also has raged farther south, where a lesser reported, years-long campaign has claimed thousands of Christian lives. Militants among the ethnic Fulani, a predominantly Muslim and nomadic population of cattle herders, are suspected of killing dozens of Christians in the states of Plateau and Taraba in recent months. The two states form the eastern end of Nigeria's "Middle Belt" -- the handful of states straddling the pre-colonial line dividing Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north from its Christian south.

The Middle Belt's most recent violence traces back to March, to a case of cattle rustling....

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 16, 2015 at 4:39 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Sacks is well placed to muse on this theme as the former Chief Rabbi of Britain and a prolific author on religious conflict. In fact, he has carved out a niche for himself as the man who gave theological coherence to the Samuel Huntingdon “clash of civilisations” thesis while also critiquing it. Sacks’ 2004 book, The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilisations, remains one of the wisest texts for negotiating religious pluralism in the modern world.

Sacks has no time for the politician’s mantra that violence committed by religious extremists like ISIL has nothing to do with Islam. Yes, the vast majority of the conflicts in the world today are nothing to do with religion, but “when terrorist or military groups invoke holy war, define their battle as a struggle against Satan, condemn unbelievers to death and commit murder while declaring ‘God is great,’ to deny that they are acting on religious motives is absurd” (p.11). Harder work needs to be done to glimpse the twisted logic and primitive psychology of these groups, he says, otherwise the proffered solutions will never create a compelling enough counter-narrative that weans believers from hate to love, and to value weakness rather than power.

Religious violence is rooted in the same source as all violence – identity wars, and Sacks worries that the West, which secularized so merrily, has created societies and institutions that cannot provide enough identity because it has forgotten humans are meaning -seeking creatures; “The result is that the twenty-first century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning” (p.13). Having thought religion was finished, now the West has seen it roar back - partly because of the vacuum secularisation created and, tragically, the religion that has returned is not gentle or ecumenical, but adversarial and aggressive. Make no mistake he warns “the greatest threat to freedom in the post-modern world is radical, politicised religion” (14). So if you don’t realise you are dealing with religion – however twisted – you are not going to find any meaningful responses.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted July 15, 2015 at 5:59 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Most British Muslims are Sunni, only about 5 per cent are Shia, but both communities are represented by the MC, which believes the government’s “Prevent” anti-terrorism strategy is discriminatory, demonising a law-abiding community. Relations have thawed; Shafi is pleased that Theresa May, the home secretary, is beginning to close what he calls the “trust deficit” by ordering police authorities to record every reported Islamophobic incident for the first time, even if charges are not pressed.

The MC is working with the government and the police to find out why young Muslims feel “alienated” and hence vulnerable to be being lured by the promise of a foreign adventure by people who are “misinterpreting Islam”.

“The Muslim Council has condemned those who claim to act in our name and we have mobilised mosque leaders, civil society leaders and families to speak out and redouble their efforts. However, we’ve no magic wand and what is important is sustained work within communities,” says Shafi, a retired doctor who arrived in Britain from India 46 years ago. “Extremism is mainly hidden on the internet and on social media and our concern is that the age group it attracts is getting younger and younger.”

Read it all (requires subscription).


Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 15, 2015 at 11:24 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Islamic State extremist group has claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on the Italian embassy in Cairo. The BBC reported that ISIL had called western embassies “legitimate targets”.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently said it was important not to underestimate or be complacent about the national security threat from ISIL. He also said it was equally important not to overestimate that threat. He called ISIL twisted and wicked but said it wasn’t Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia, with their power to conquer or challenge the West.

Australian journalist Martin Chulov has been on the ground in Iraq and Syria for a decade. He is Middle East correspondent for The Guardian and recently won the prestigious Orwell Award for his reporting. In Australia for a series of Guardian lectures, he assesses the current strength of ISIL.

Listen to it all from the Religion and Ethics Report.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 15, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On Dec. 6, 1942, 10 German soldiers marched into Rekówka, a Polish village 90 miles south of Warsaw. They’d received a tip from some locals that two families, the Skoczylas and Kosioróws, were sheltering Jews. When the Germans apprehended the families in their shared house, all but four of its inhabitants were at home. The soldiers spotted a trapdoor in the kitchen, which opened to a small, but empty, hiding place. They demanded that the families reveal the whereabouts of the stowaways, but nobody would talk. The soldiers took them to the barn behind the house, locked them inside and burned them alive. When two of the boys tried to escape, they were shot in the back.

Almost 72 years later, in August 2014, a cultural investigator named Jonny Daniels lifted that trapdoor for the first time since the surviving family members sealed it off years ago. He lowered himself down a ladder into a dark, damp space, with no light source and a floor covered with straw. He didn’t know it at the time, but he had uncovered the only known World War II hiding place for Jews that has remained intact and undisturbed since the end of the war.

On Thursday, after a year of negotiations and research, the space became an official heritage site in Poland, the only one of its kind.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermanyPoland* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 10, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Cameroon's army has repulsed an attack by Boko Haram and killed three of the Nigerian Islamist militants in heavy fighting in the Far North region of the country, a Cameroon government spokesman said on Thursday.

The attack represented a change of tactics by the militants following a series of battlefield defeats this year in which they have lost territory to a regional force that comprises Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, spokesman Issa Tchiroma said.

"Early Tuesday morning around 3.:40 a.m. (0140 GMT) an enemy column in four-wheel drive vehicles opened fire on positions held by our defense forces," he said of the attack in Bodo town.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaCameroonNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 9, 2015 at 6:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Shortly after graduating from college in Pennsylvania last year, Elaine Rita Mendus hopped on a Greyhound bus, hoping the $2,000 in her bank account would keep her afloat until the first paycheck. There was only one city in the country that seemed moderately promising for a 6-foot-3 transgender woman in the early stages of transitioning to launch a career.

“I figured, where else will I be accepted?” Ms. Mendus, 24, said. “New York.”

It was a rude awakening. The luckiest break she caught after a monthslong quest to find steady work was a coveted slot at one of the city’s few homeless shelters that give refuge to gay and transgender youths for a few months. It was a blessing, she said, but also “a really strange pill to swallow.”

Americans’ understanding of transgender people has been shaped recently by the riveting, glamorous lives of the former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner and the actress Laverne Cox. The two, though, are far from representative of an economically disadvantaged community that continues to face pervasive employment discrimination, partly as a result of lagging legal protections.

Roughly 15 percent of transgender Americans earn less than $10,000 a year, a rate of extreme poverty that is almost four times higher than the national average, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. They are twice as likely to be unemployed as the general population, though transgender Americans have a higher level of education than the general population. About 16 percent of respondents to a 2011 survey said they resorted to illegal trades like prostitution and drug dealing. Ninety percent said they faced harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job. The worst off are black and Hispanic transgender women, particularly those who don’t have the means to alter their physical appearance as much as they would like. For many, coming out means being drawn into a cycle of debt, despair and dreadful choices.

In 1993, Minnesota became the first state to enact a law protecting employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Since then, 18 other states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and scores of jurisdictions have taken similar steps, which today collectively cover about 51 percent of the population.

In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began taking the position that discrimination against transgender employees was a form of sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That offers individuals valuable legal recourse, but pursuing claims through the E.E.O.C. is time-consuming and generally futile for those who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPovertyPsychologySexualityUrban/City Life and Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor Market* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology


Posted July 9, 2015 at 4:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Four children were killed when Islamic State blew up an historic church in Mosul, Iraq's second city.

The blast destroyed the Mother of Aid church, according to the Kurdish news site Rudaw.

Saeed Mamuzini, of the Mosul branch of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said the children happened to be near the church, which was more than 1,000 years old and was in central Mosul.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 9, 2015 at 11:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We presume to know more than we can know. In periods and places where religious doubt is criminalized, unquestioning faith is likely to appear universal. Where religious faith is treated as naive and intellectually indefensible, few will confess to it. Where it truly is naive and intellectually indefensible, those who can’t identify with it are often treated as having actually rejected faith, and may believe this of themselves.

So let us call this inability to know the state of our fellow’s soul a veil dropped down between his or her sacred inwardness and the coercive intrusions to which the religious and the anti-religious are equally tempted. If the fate of souls is at the center of the cosmic drama, is it difficult to imagine that it will unfold, so to speak, in a place set apart, a holy of holies—that is, a human consciousness? Where better might an encounter with God take place? If God is attentive to us individually, as Jesus’ saying about the fall of a sparrow certainly implies, then would his history with us be the same in every case, articulable and verifiable, manifest in behaviors that square with expectations? Would it be something we should be ready to talk about to pollsters or journalists?

Perhaps the real lack of faith in modern society comes down to a lack of reverence for humankind, for those around us, about whom we might consider it providential that we can know nothing—in these great matters that sometimes involve feigning or concealment, that are beyond ordinary thought and conventional experience, and that can in any case be minutely incremental, since God really does have all the time in the world. Perhaps it is a gross presumption to try to imagine a God’s eye view of things, but I can only think these encounters, every one unique, must be extraordinarily beautiful. If it is hard for us to believe that the God who searches us and knows us also loves us, perhaps we should learn to be better humanists.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryPsychologyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 9, 2015 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A bomb attack has killed at least 25 people and wounded 32 others in northern Nigeria's Zaria city, the state governor has said.

A suspected suicide bomber targeted civil servants at a government building in the city, witnesses said.

Emergency workers have rushed to the scene to help evacuate the wounded.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 7, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ten years to the minute after the 7/7 bombings brought carnage to London, the 52 victims of the terrorist atrocity were remembered in a simple ceremony at the Hyde Park memorial that bears their names.

At the first of a series of events throughout Tuesday to mark the 10th anniversary, David Cameron and Boris Johnson stood with heads bowed in silent tribute at 8.50am amid the 52 steel pillars, each one representing a life lost.

The skies above central London darkened suddenly as the prime minister and the mayor of London walked silently through the thicket of stainless steel pillars, the only sounds the clicking of cameras and the rumble of passing traffic.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 7, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Carrying one child in her arm, a second on her back and holding the hand of a third, Hasinah Izhar waded waist-deep through a mangrove swamp into the Bay of Bengal, toward a fishing boat bobbing in the dusk.

“Troops are coming, troops are coming,” the smuggler said. “Get on the boat quickly.”

If she was going to change her mind, she would have to do it now.

Ms. Izhar, 33, had reached the muddy shore after sneaking down the dirt paths and around the fish ponds of western Myanmar, where she and about one million other members of the Rohingya minority are stateless, shunned and persecuted for their Muslim faith.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureWomen* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaMyanmar/Burma* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted July 6, 2015 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Two bombs blamed on the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram exploded at a crowded mosque and an elite Muslim restaurant in Nigeria’s central city of Jos, killing 44 people, officials said Monday.

Sixty-seven other people were wounded and were being treated at hospitals, said National Emergency Management Agency coordinator Abdussalam Mohammed.

The explosion at the Yantaya Mosque came as leading cleric Sani Yahaya of the Jama’atu Izalatul Bidia organization, which preaches peaceful coexistence of all religions, was addressing a crowd during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to survivors, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 6, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Area Bishop of North Africa, and Rector of St George's, in the capital Tunis, the Rt Revd Bill Musk, visited survivors of the attack in intensive care at hospital. He said that they were still deeply in shock.

"It's very humbling - you just go to listen," he said. "Everyone wants us to pray with them. When you have come very close to dying, or someone you love has, we are all vulnerable."

The overwhelming response from Tunisians has been one of shame, Bishop Musk said. One of the nurses at the bedside of a British victim of the shooting was continually apologising and explaining how Mr Rezgui did not represent true Islam, he said.

The attack was also a disaster for Tunisia, as it would lose billions of pounds if tourists decided to stay away.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaTunisia* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 3, 2015 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Some of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria have been forced to join Islamist militant group Boko Haram, the BBC has been told.

Witnesses say some are now being used to terrorise other captives, and are even carrying out killings themselves.

The testimony cannot be verified but Amnesty International says other girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have been forced to fight.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureTeens / YouthViolenceWomen* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 30, 2015 at 4:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

All of us must be full of grief at the attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait. They are intended not only to destroy but to divide, not only to terrify but to take from us our own commitment to each other in our societies....

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 27, 2015 at 2:46 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The "greatest turning of Muslims to Jesus Christ in history" is taking place across the world, the author of a new book, on tour in the UK, suggests.

A Wind in the House of Islam, by Dr David Garrison, a missionary pioneer with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, documents a Muslim "movement to Christ" in more than 70 places across 29 countries. Converts, it says, now number between two and seven million.

Dr Garrison defines a "movement" as being at least 100 new churches started, or 1000 baptisms, within a 20-year period in one people group. He estimates that there have been 82 "movements" across the centuries, of which 69 began, or are continuing to unfold, in the 21st century.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeMissionsParish MinistryAdult EducationEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesBaptistsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologySoteriology

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Posted June 26, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The rector of the Paris Grand Mosque has sparked uproar by suggesting that disused churches could be turned into mosques. Dalil Boubakeur, who recently said France needed double the 2,000 or so mosques it now has, said on French radio this was a sensitive question but he thought it could be done.

“We have the same God ... I think that Muslims and Christians can coexist and live together,” he said in a radio interview.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish Ministry* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeFrance* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

3 Comments
Posted June 25, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Boko Haram militants have killed at least 40 people in north-eastern Nigeria, according to witnesses.

The attacks on Monday and Tuesday took place in the villages of Debiro Hawul and Debiro Bi in Borno state.

Residents say the militants drove into the towns and began shooting, looting and burning houses.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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Posted June 25, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

With the busyness on the blog yesterday given the Charleston shootings and quite a number of other important posts, some readers may have missed the post about Lent & Beyond's list of resources to help us pray for Muslims during Ramadan. You'll find it here..

Today they have posted a Ramadan Day 2 Prayer Roundup including short prayers for several countries, and a challenging exhortation that all their readers "might commit to spending 5 or 10 minutes before or after your evening meal for the next 4 weeks to pray for Muslims’ spiritual hunger to be satisfied in Jesus."

You'll find each day's prayer entry using the Ramadan 2015 tag.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Resources & Links

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Posted June 19, 2015 at 4:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves



Lent & Beyond has compiled a comprehensive list of resources, links and Twitter feeds of interest during Ramadan 2015, which began today. Traditionally many Christians and Christian ministries use Ramadan as a time to pray for Muslims and encourage outreach to Muslim neighbors and colleagues.

Go check out all the links.. Ramadan prayer entries during the coming month will be posted using the Ramadan 2015 tag.

Also, you can follow Lent & Beyond on Twitter

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslam* Resources & Links

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Posted June 18, 2015 at 10:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Four suicide bombers on motorcycles killed at least 23 people and wounded more than 100 others in Chad’s capital on Monday, raising fears of a widening threat from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the simultaneous attacks on two buildings, including the national police academy, in N’Djamena. But suspicion quickly fell on Boko Haram, the Islamist group based in northeast Nigeria.

The suicide attacks were the first of their kind in the capital of an ally of Nigeria involved in the fight against the group. In recent months, its strongholds in Nigeria have come under increased pressure from a five-nation coalition of African forces.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaChadNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 16, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Al Qaeda confirmed Tuesday that it's No. 2 official — a former aide to Osama Bin Laden who rose to lead the terror group's powerful Yemen affiliate — was killed in a U.S. airstrike.

Rumors about Nasir al-Wuhayshi's death first circulated on social media and in the Yemeni press.

A video released by al Qaeda on Tuesday said Wuhayshi had been killed in a U.S. airstrike along with two other militants and that a successor, Qassim al Rimi, had been appointed.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAsiaYemen* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 16, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A scholar has sparked controversy by telling British Muslims that they can cut their Ramadan fast because of the long summer days.

The holy month begins on Thursday, and believers will by tradition stop eating and drinking from dawn until dusk.

However, Usama Hasan has issued a fatwa saying that Muslims can fast for shorter periods in 2015 because Ramadan falls during summer.

The Islamic calendar uses lunar months, so the fast occurs at different times on the western calendar each year. In the Middle East, where Islam originated, the days are shorter. In Mecca the fast lasts between 12 and 15 hours. Fasting is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDieting/Food/NutritionReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

1 Comments
Posted June 14, 2015 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When Islamic State seized Iraq's largest northern city of Mosul almost a year ago, tribal leader Hekmat Suleiman was sure the extremist militants wouldn't expand further into his hometown.

"We bet Islamic State won't have what it takes to last," Suleiman said in October during a visit to the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil, smoke rising from his shisha water pipe. "We've reached the beginning of the end of extremism."

He was wrong. His hometown of Ramadi fell last month, three days before Islamic State captured Palmyra, a 2,000-year-old UNESCO world heritage city on the Syrian side of its territory.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgyptIranIraqJordanLebanonSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 14, 2015 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What led you to write How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization? Did it begin more as a hypothesis to be tested or a thesis to be proved?

Like many Americans who have visited Europe, I was struck repeatedly by how secular some of the Continent’s societies are and how empty their churches. So the first reason I started researching into theories of secularization was simple curiosity: What makes formerly Christian precincts lose God?

And the interesting thing about the existing literature is that none of the going answers really explain the decline of Christianity in parts of the West. As chapters in my book go to show, prosperity alone doesn’t drive out belief in God, and neither does education, rationalism, or science per se. Nor do the two world wars explain it, another commonly accepted explanation.

So little by little I started re-arranging the pieces of this great intellectual puzzle, and what emerged was a new way of looking at it: one in which the fate of Christianity turns out to be more tightly tethered to the fate of the family than has been understood before.

Read it all from 2013.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.England / UKEurope* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism* Theology

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Posted June 14, 2015 at 2:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Caitlyn Jenner may have given Americans a crash course in transgender acceptance. But progressive pockets of Europe are moving toward an even higher plane — embracing what advocates describe as a post-gender world that critics say is leaving no room for women to be women and men to be men.

In Berlin, for instance, fresh rules for billboard ads in a district of the liberal German capital read like a new constitution for a land without gender identity. Girls in pink “with dolls” are basically out, as are boys in blue playing “with technical toys.” In ads showing both adult women and men, females cannot be depicted as “hysterical,” “stupid” or “naive” alongside men presented as “technically skilled,” “strong” or “business savvy.”

Adult women — featured alone or otherwise — must not be shown “occupied in the household with pleasure.” And in one stipulation pounced upon by critics, the equal-opportunity board of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg — home to Checkpoint Charlie and remnants of the Berlin Wall — no longer wants to see images of women “smiling for no reason.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyMenReligion & CultureSexualityWomen* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 14, 2015 at 1:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Iraqi city of Mosul fell to the Islamic State on June 10, 2014. When the militants laid out an ultimatum -- convert, pay a tax or be killed -- thousands of Christians and other religious minorities fled to neighboring cities, like the northern city of Erbil.

Even though it’s been more than a year, Erbil’s Chaldean Catholic leader, Bishop Bashar Warda, still vividly remembers what it was like to watch the streams of refugees enter his city.

“It was [a] really sad occasion,” Warda said in an interview with Vatican Radio. “The memories that we have is the queue of thousands of people arriving, tired, crying and leaving behind everything, memories and properties.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam

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Posted June 12, 2015 at 4:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When jihadi forces over-ran Iraq’s strategic city of Ramadi last month, officials and analysts rushed to explain how militants could claim a major win nine months after the world’s most powerful military set out to destroy them. But for residents, the only surprise was how such a predictable attack caught everyone off guard.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as Isis) used the same playbook it employed when it shocked the world with its capture of Iraq’s second city Mosul last summer: it set up sleeper cells and assassinated security officials months before it blitzed across Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

“We knew they were coming,” says resident Abu Abbas. “Everybody in Ramadi knew where they were, and we warned security forces for months, but it was useless. Eventually they spread messages to civilians saying ‘Isis is coming to save you from the apostates’, and then the blasts came.” He fled Ramadi as at least five trucks driven into the city by suicide bombers exploded, and amid reports of the army retreating.

“Isis hasn’t changed at all,” Abu Abbas says, almost in disbelief. “They don’t need to.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted June 11, 2015 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Most of our schools are rated good or outstanding, with pupils attaining academic benchmarks. But we want more for our children. Church of England schools focus on spirituality and creativity which values the arts and religion as much as it looks for the beauty in maths, the wonder in science and the emotional understanding enhanced through poetry and music.

We also focus on the development of character and virtue that enables pupils to play their part in transforming the neighbourhood and world in which they live. That is why we are delighted to be one of fourteen from more than a thousand applicants, to be awarded a grant from the DfE Character Fund to carry out a substantial research project examining how various approach to teaching and pedagogy might better develop not just resilience and grit but ways of thinking which lead to service and mutual understanding.

We are also pleased to be developing ways in which schools and colleges can help communities live well together. This is not simply about fundamental British values which might be driven by the fear of extremism, but flows from a desire to use the diversity that is present in our schools to demonstrate what living well together really means.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchChildrenClimate Change, WeatherEducationMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* Theology

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Posted June 10, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Middle East crisis that peaked one year ago Wednesday when the Islamic State captured Mosul may result in the breakup of Iraq and an indefinite continuation of a war in Syria that’s already out of control, analysts say.

Yet still worse things could happen.

“The conditions are very much like 1914,” says Michael Stephens of the Royal United Service Institute in London. “All it will take is one little spark, and Iran and Saudi Arabia will go at each other, believing they are fighting a defensive war.”

Hiwa Osman, an Iraqi Kurdish commentator, was even more blunt: “The whole region is braced for the big war, the war that has not yet happened, the Shiite-Sunni war.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

2 Comments
Posted June 10, 2015 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Hisham: "Daily life has changed in an indescribable way. Those who were in the military and day labourers no longer have any income because there are no jobs anymore. The rich have been relying on their savings, those with a salary are just about getting by, but the poor have been left to the mercy of God.

"I have lost my job and have been forced to abandon my studies. Like everyone else, I am denied my basic rights. According to IS, everything is 'haram' (forbidden) and so I end up just sitting at home all the time. Even simple leisure activities like picnics are banned now in Mosul, under the pretext that they are a waste of time and money.

"IS takes a quarter of everyone's salary as a contribution towards paying for rebuilding the city. People can't say no because they would face harsh punishments. The group controls everything. Rent is paid to it and the hospitals are for its members' exclusive use.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 9, 2015 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To learn about the enigmatic group, CT editorial resident Morgan Lee spoke with Virginia Comolli, the author of Boko Haram: Nigeria's Islamist Insurgency and a fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

Why are the origins of Boko Haram so unclear?

During my research, I was struck by the amount of confusion and contrasting views among high-level politicians and members of the military. There are people who believe it is a group purely motivated by violent religious extremism. Other people say it is a political movement. Other people think it’s an opportunistic criminal entity.

However, if we look at the history of northern Nigeria in the post-colonial period, you’ll see the emergence of a number of groups framing their discourse in religious-revival terms, with people advocating a return to true Islam as a way of addressing societal evils. But although these critics were speaking in religious terms, they were all critical of the corrupt government. They also represented those from the north who were socioeconomically and politically marginalized.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 9, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Father [Junipero] Serra spent most of his missionary life in Mexico. However, his greatest legacy was founding California’s first nine missions—there are 21—and the 600-mile connecting trail El Camino Real that runs from San Diego to Sonoma. Dozens of roads and schools, including NFL quarterback Tom Brady’s alma mater, are named in his honor. Generations of California fourth-graders have had to construct miniature cardboard models of the missions.

While being Christianized, natives learned how to cultivate crops, raise livestock, weave clothes, make soap and perform other tasks necessary to sustain themselves. Father Serra was as integral to California’s founding as John Winthrop was to the settlement of Plymouth Bay. Gov. Jerry Brown has hailed the priest as “a very courageous man and one of the innovators and pioneers of California.”

Yet revisionist historians take a dim view of the missions. A fourth-grade state history textbook (which my class used in 1997) noted that “for the people who had lived in California for hundreds of years before the Spanish arrived, the growth of the missions was tragic . . . Thousands of Indians died, and by the end of the 1800s much of the Indian way of life had died also.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryMissions* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther Faiths* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologySoteriology

0 Comments
Posted June 5, 2015 at 11:19 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When the United States gave more than 3,000 armored Humvees to Iraqi security forces over the past 12 years, U.S. officials could not have imagined that the humble utility vehicles would become a decisive weapon in the hands of Washington’s enemies from the Islamic State.

But that is exactly what has happened. Humvees were some of the 30 vehicles converted into mobile suicide bombs that the Islamic State used to blast through Iraqi security forces’ defenses during its three-day conquest of Ramadi in mid-May. The militants also used an armored bulldozer and at least one U.S.-made M113 armored personnel carrier. There’s a simple reason the militants are using Humvees and other armored vehicles as rolling bombs: Their protective armored plating prevents defenders from killing the trucks’ drivers before the militants can detonate their loads, while the vehicles’ capacity to carry enormous amounts of weight means the Islamic State can sometimes pack in a ton of explosives. Some of the bombs used in Ramadi contained the explosive force of the deadly Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 that devastated a federal office building and killed 168 people.

The attack on Ramadi was the latest assault in which the Islamic State used armored Humvees as shock weapons to breach security force perimeters, scare beleaguered Iraqi troops into fleeing their positions, and become the centerpieces of flashy videos the group released through social media to its supporters around the globe.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 4, 2015 at 6:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An online video posted this week purportedly shows Boko Haram fighters using the logo “Islamic State in West Africa.”

In the video, a militant accuses countries fighting Boko Haram of lying about the extent of their success in pushing back the group.

The video comes just days after newly inaugurated President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to make fighting Boko Haram a top priority, an issue that he discussed with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who attended the inauguration last Friday.

It is that change in leadership last week that analysts say could breathe new life into US. efforts to assist the country in fighting Boko Haram, by giving the countries a chance to reset relations that had become strained under former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeriaAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 3, 2015 at 6:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Today, nonbelievers often seem inclined to describe atheism and secular humanism as an “identity” whose claimants should focus on winning cultural acceptance rather than intellectual debates. Here, they are taking their cues from the civil rights movement, particularly the rhetoric of gay liberation. Some organizations, for example, declared April 23 the first “Openly Secular Day,” “a celebration of secular people opening up about their secular worldview, and an opportunity for theistic allies to show their support for secular friends and family.”

“Many atheists are still in the closet,” said Nichelle Reed of Sunday Assembly. Nonbelievers like her hope that if they emphasize good works over grand argument, they can convince the bigots that atheists are decent human beings. Kelly Damerow, the interim executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, said that there is little discussion of moral philosophy among the activists she works with. “We get it. We know we’re good to each other,” she told me. “We would rather show people that we’re good.”

In the short term, this is a smart strategy. The language of tolerance and personal identity has particular appeal to millennials, who account for 40 percent of the atheist and agnostic population, according to the Pew Research Center’s latest study. August E. Brunsman IV, who directs the Secular Student Alliance, said that “nowadays you’re seeing a whole lot of people for whom it’s more important that they’re understood and valued by fellow citizens, not seen as being too weird.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted June 3, 2015 at 3:59 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An internationally renowned atheist activist has relocated from India to the U.S. after receiving death threats from an extremist group that has claimed responsibility for at least one of three machete killings of South Asian atheists this year.

Taslima Nasrin, a Bangladeshi gynecologist, novelist and poet, arrived in New York state last Wednesday (May 27). The move was orchestrated by the Center for Inquiry, an organization that promotes secularism and has been working with atheist activists in countries where atheism is unprotected by blasphemy laws.

“Extremist groups have been pretty public that they want Taslima killed,” said Michael de Dora, CFI’s director of public policy and president of the United Nations NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief. “In the last couple of weeks this has been ramping up and that’s why we were so concerned.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychologyReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAsiaBangladesh* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 3, 2015 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The five Coptic families that were last week forcefully evicted from their home village of Kafr Darwish in al-Fashn, Beni Sweif some 100km south of Cairo, are now back home and receiving warm ‘welcome home’ visits from their neighbours, Muslim and Copt. A general air of festivity and jubilation reigns as the family members settle home weeping with joy.

The five families form one extended family whose patriarch Youssef Tawfiq is 80 years old and matriarch is 75. The sons: Atef, Emad, Nour, and Ayman, are married and have their own families. They had been forced to leave the village on account of claims that Ayman Youssef Tawfiq, who currently works in Jordan while his wife and children remain in Kafr Darwish, posted cartoons offensive to the Prophet Muhammad on his Facebook page. The family says Ayman is illiterate and has no FB page; they claim he was framed and had lost his mobile phone a few days before the alleged FB posting having.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesCoptic ChurchOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 2, 2015 at 3:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Syrian rebels appealed for U.S. airstrikes to counter a new offensive by the Islamic State in the northern province of Aleppo that could reshape the battlefield in Syria.

The surprise assault, launched over the weekend, opened a new front in the multi-pronged war being waged by the extremist group across Iraq and Syria, and it underscored the Islamic State’s capacity to catch its enemies off guard.

The push — which came on the heels of the miltants’ capture of the Syrian city of Palmyra and the western Iraqi city of Ramadi late last month — took them within reach of the strategically vital town of Azaz on the Turkish border.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraqSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 2, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Membership of the Church of England has dropped sharply in Britain in the last two years while the number of Muslims has grown, a new survey has revealed.

The British Social Attitudes survey found that the proportion of British adults describing themselves as Anglican has fallen from 21 per cent in 2012 to 17 per cent in 2014, a loss of around 1.7 million. That brings the number of Anglicans in Britain to 8.6 million people.

The proportion of Catholics remained roughly stable at 8 per cent, or just over 4 million, as did that of “other” Christians, including Methodists, Presbyterians and non-denominational Christians.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureSociology* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther Faiths

0 Comments
Posted June 2, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Islamist terror group Boko Haram conducted a three-day spree of assaults that killed at least 42 people in northeast Nigeria, marking a grim beginning to the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The attacks began on Friday, when a bomb killed 10 people at a wedding in the town of Hawul, two residents said. The blast took place around the time Mr. Buhari was reciting his oath of office in the capital, Abuja, about 400 miles away.

“Some of us managed to escape,” said Haruna Musa, who was at the wedding.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 1, 2015 at 4:03 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What has been at stake here is not just a single employer that has discriminated against one individual. The largest employer in America – the Department of Defense – has a rule in place that discriminates against anyone who wears a hijab or turban or maintains facial hair for religious reasons. Individuals who maintain articles of faith, such as these, are not allowed to serve in the U.S. military without a rarely granted accommodation.

A large majority of Americans affected by such discriminatory policies belong to minority faith communities, and the Supreme Court’s decision directly impacts how we think about equal opportunity and religious freedom in this country.

Elauf demonstrated that she recognizes her case would have bearing for a number of different communities. “I am not only standing up for myself, but for all people who wish to adhere to their faith while at work,” she said, following the oral arguments. “Observance of my faith should not prevent me from getting a job.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor Market* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 1, 2015 at 3:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Right Rev. and Right Hon. George Carey includes among his passions his wife, Eileen; the Barclays Premier League football club Arsenal; and “certain things such as a peaceful world,” he told The Blade during an interview at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Detroit.

The former archbishop of Canterbury elaborated on obstacles to peace that he sees.

“I really do feel very worried about” what is happening to Christians in the Middle East at the hands of the Islamic State, Lord Carey said. “I think we’re now living in a world more dangerous than ever.”

He said that “our biggest enemy now is [ISIS] and Islamic fundamentalism, which now exists in America in all those Muslim families that you have graciously invited and said, following the Statue of Liberty, ‘Come and make your home here.’

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury Anglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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Posted May 30, 2015 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A leading witch and herbalist shared a Church of England platform last night with other women religious leaders including the Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church and Gogglebox tv vicar Rev Kate Bottley.

Helene Mobius, who heads the prison chaplain ministry of the Pagan Federation, challenged stereotypes of women at the event, the latest in the Westminster Faith Debates series at London's liberal flagship church, St James's Piccadilly.

The Pagan Federation and the Druid Network have recently become fully-fledged members of Britain's religious establishment, having been voted into the Inter Faith Network UK as a body representative of its community.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)Episcopal Church (TEC)Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsWicca / paganism


Posted May 29, 2015 at 4:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nigerian President-elect Muhammadu Buhari's promised campaign to defeat Boko Haram could drive more militants over the country's borders, raising the need for cooperation between governments across the region, senior U.N. officials said on Thursday.

Speaking on the eve of the former army general's inauguration, they voiced hope that the new Abuja government would crush the Islamist militants accused of using women and children as sexual slaves and suicide bombers

"There is this concern that success inside northeast Nigeria spells trouble for Niger, Cameroon, and even potentially Chad. So there is a lot of focus on regional cooperation," Robert Piper, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General and regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel, told a news briefing.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 29, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

More than half of the world’s countries are now producing jihadis to fill the ranks of violent Sunni terrorist organisations in the Middle East, according to a UN report.

The al-Qaeda network and its schismatic rival, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) have seen more than 25,000 mujahideen join them in recent years, it states, creating an “unprecedented” threat to national and international security in both the “immediate and long-term” that most governments have failed to grasp the significance of so far.

The report — prepared by the UN Security Council’s special permanent committee for monitoring violent Islamism — amounts to one of the most bleak and comprehensive assessments of the global foreign fighter phenomenon compiled yet. Its findings are based on “robust and detailed” evidence from 27 intelligence and security services spread across UN member states, its authors state.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureTeens / YouthViolenceYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 28, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The UN children's agency says there has been an "alarming" increase in the number of suicide attacks in northern Nigeria, with many of them involving women and children.

There had been 27 attacks so far this year, compared with 26 for the whole of last year, Unicef said in a statement.

Three-quarters of the attacks were carried out by female bombers, some as young as seven, it added.

Militant Islamist group Boko Haram is waging an insurgency in Nigeria.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 26, 2015 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In 1967, as part of the Communist campaign to make Albania an “atheist state”, the 400-year-old church at Laç was destroyed with explosives. Until then it had borne an inscription recording its consecration in 1557 by “Giovanni Bruni, Archbishop of Bar”.

Bruni’s extraordinary life (and more extraordinary death) feature in a remarkable new book by Sir Noel Malcolm, the Oxford historian. With unpublished manuscript evidence, it paints a portrait of the Bruni family, before and after the battle of Lepanto in 1571. What distinguishes the book is the way it integrates their tale into the power struggle between Spain and France, Venice and Rome, and, that behemoth of the Levant, the Ottoman Empire, ruled from 1566 to 1574 by Selim II (pictured here). The soldiers, spies and clerics of the Bruni family were among the Agents of Empire of the title. I can’t tell you how good it is, a future classic. My purpose here, though, is not to review the book but to mention a single fascinating chapter.

Giovanni Bruni was an Albanian speaker, born at Ulcinj (now in Montenegro), then part of Venetian Albania. In the little city of Bar, of which he became Archbishop in 1551, there were 18 churches, with another 48 in the rural parts of the diocese, which extended into the regions beyond the coast occupied by the Turks. Among Bruni’s titles was Primate of Serbia. But, if his task was great, his income was pitiful.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeSerbia* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted May 26, 2015 at 12:11 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In late April, a commander for Islamic State said his forces were ready to launch an offensive to take Ramadi, and the group called for fighters to redeploy to Iraq from Syria.

Three weeks later, the jihadist group seized the capital of Anbar province after relentless waves of suicide bombings.

U.S. defense chief Ash Carter has blamed Ramadi’s fall mainly on Iraqi forces’ lack of will to fight. But Islamic State’s battlefield performance suggests the terrorist group’s tactical sophistication is growing—a development the Iraqis and the U.S.-led coalition have so far failed to counter, said Iraqi officials, former U.S. officials and military analysts studying the organization.

An examination of how Ramadi fell indicates that Islamic State commanders executed a complex battle plan that outwitted a greater force of Iraqi troops as well as the much-lauded, U.S.-trained special-operations force known as the Golden Division, which had been fighting for months to defend the city.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureScience & TechnologyViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 26, 2015 at 6:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One morning last week, Lance Laver went to visit a dying friend. Mr. Laver is Jewish and his friend is a retired Episcopal priest, and they had formed a bond over nearly a decade of working together here on an annual interfaith walk for peace.

By the time of this year’s procession, however, the Rev. Frank Toia could not take more than a few steps. He was bound to his home with recurrent pneumonia, tethered to an oxygen tank and a feeding tube. As he turned 78, he decided to use his home as a hospice and await the end.

When Mr. Laver came over, he brought a book written by his rabbi. He and Mr. Toia turned to several verses from Psalm 25, which the rabbi had selected for that particular day. The passage began with the poet asking God, “May we be shown the paths to travel,” and those words drove straight to a fading minister’s heart.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted May 23, 2015 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Islamic State fighters are celebrating their second major conquest in a week in Syria and Iraq as they pick through the ruins of the historic city of Palmyra.

The sudden advance of the militants into the UN heritage site in central Syria resulted in the rout of a national army, the exodus of refugees and a fresh pulse of regional alarm at the resilience of the self-styled caliphate force.

The UN said one-third of Palmyra’s 200,000-strong population had fled. And Isis militants used social media to show themselves posing amid ancient columns in Palmyra on Thursday. Other images displayed a more familiar theme: the summary slaughter of local men whose blood drenched the road.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraqSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 22, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Southern Iraq’s long-shuttered museums are also finally reopening. The National Museum of Iraq reopened in February 2015 after a $40 million renovation. And in Nasiriya, a city famed for its step ziggurat, the director of the antiquities museum, Iqbal Ajeel, proudly displayed the museum’s exquisite Sumerian miniatures and naked figurines to her first group of high school visitors since the 1991 Gulf War forced its closure.

Few Iraqis in the south openly champion separation from the rest of the country, but the chasm is widening. It is not only a question of ISIS imposing its rules on personal behavior and punishing people only slightly out of line. While ISIS destroys museums, the south refurbishes them; while ISIS destroys shrines, the ayatollahs expand them; and while ISIS is burning relics and books, the Imam Ali shrine hosts a book fair where scripture shares space with romantic novels. On the new campus of Kufa University, a burned-down wreck under American occupation when last I saw it, three engineering professors spoke of the golden age that awaits a united Iraq, or at least its Arab provinces, once the militias defeat ISIS.

But a dissenting fourth engineer quietly questioned why the south should bother. As long as al-Sistani’s jihad was defensive he supported it, but why, he asks, shed blood against ISIS for a Sunni population that is neither welcoming nor particularly wanted? The further north the militia advances, the more lives are lost, and the returns from the battle diminish. Compared to the south’s mineral wealth, the Sunni provinces offer few natural resources. Much of their territory is desert, and their feuding tribes will only cause trouble. Better, he argued, to safeguard what the south already has. In short, he said, breaking a taboo by uttering a word he claims many privately already espouse, why not opt for taqsim, partition? A heavy silence followed.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryRural/Town LifeViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 21, 2015 at 4:18 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Last year, a death penalty sentence slapped on a Sudanese doctor for refusing to renounce her Christian faith stirred international outrage and heightened calls on the government to increase religious liberty.

Meriam Yahya Ibrahim was released a month later, but now two Christian pastors have been jailed and they also face a possible death sentence.

The Rev. Michael Yat and the Rev. Peter Yein Reith, both from the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, have been charged with undermining the constitutional system and spying, offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment.

The clerics are charged with waging a war against the state and assault on religious belief.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaSudan--South Sudan* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesPresbyterianOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 21, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is religious persecution on a horrific scale, involving massacres, bombings, slavery, beheadings and mass rape.

So why don’t our churches protest against this slaughter of their own?

Yes, Christians are now the prime target of unbelievably barbaric attacks in the Middle East and Africa, yet Australia’s bishops, ministers, priests, church “social justice” units and Christian aid groups — usually so vocal — are now near mute.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureSexualityViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeriaAustralia / NZMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 20, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Speaking thirty years ago, Attorney General Meese warned that “there are ideas which have gained influence in some parts of our society, particularly in some important and sophisticated areas that are opposed to religious freedom and freedom in general. In some areas there are some people that have espoused a hostility to religion that must be recognized for what it is, and expressly countered.”

Those were prophetic words, prescient in their clarity and foresight. The ideas of which Mr. Meese warned have only gained ground in the last thirty years, and now with astounding velocity. A revolution in morality now seeks not only to subvert marriage, but also to redefine it, and thus to undermine an essential foundation of human dignity, flourishing, and freedom.

Religious liberty is under direct threat. Just days ago the Solicitor General of the United States served notice before the Supreme Court that the liberties of religious institutions will be an open and unavoidable question. Already, religious liberty is threatened by a new moral regime that exalts erotic liberty and personal autonomy and openly argues that religious liberties must give way to the new morality, its redefinition of marriage, and its demand for coercive moral, cultural, and legal sovereignty.

A new moral and legal order is ascendant in America, and this new order is only possible, in the arena of American law and jurisprudence, if the original intent and the very words of the Constitution of the United States are twisted beyond recognition.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesPhilosophyReligion & CultureSexuality* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOther FaithsSecularismReligious Freedom / Persecution* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 19, 2015 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Hundreds of women and girls captured by Boko Haram have been raped, many repeatedly, in what officials and relief workers describe as a deliberate strategy to dominate rural residents and possibly even create a new generation of Islamist militants in Nigeria.

In interviews, the women described being locked in houses by the dozen, at the beck and call of fighters who forced them to have sex, sometimes with the specific goal of impregnating them.

“They married me,” said Hamsatu, 25, a young woman in a black-and-purple head scarf, looking down at the ground. She said she was four months pregnant, that the father was a Boko Haram member and that she had been forced to have sex with other militants who took control of her town.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureSexualityTeens / YouthViolenceWomen* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 19, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Islamic State leaders in Syria have sent money, trainers and fighters to Libya in increasing numbers, raising new concerns for the U.S. that the militant group is gaining traction in its attempts to broaden its reach and expand its influence.

In recent months, U.S. military officials said, Islamic State has solidified its foothold in Libya as it searches for ways to capitalize on rising popularity among extremist groups around the world.

“ISIL now has an operational presence in Libya, and they have aspirations to make Libya their African hub,” said one U.S. military official, using an acronym for the group. “Libya is part of their terror map now.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaLibya* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 19, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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