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....

Read it all.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.”

Read it all.

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.’

Read it all.


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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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

1 Comments
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.”

Read it all.

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]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There’s a thin line separating angry youth and the world of jihadists, one that underscores the risk European countries face from people they call their own.

It’s also one Berlin imam Mohamed Taha Sabri knows all too well. When the Arab-born mother of a 23-year-old German Muslim man noticed her son had started using the words “jihad” and “infidels,” it was Sabri she turned to.

“The difference between adopting an extremist opinion and terrorist extremism is sometimes a hair’s breadth,” Sabri, 50, said in an interview at his Dar Assalam Mosque in the German capital’s Neukoelln district.

Read it all.

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

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Posted May 18, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

University of Lethbridge sociologist Reginald W. Bibby has spent several decades surveying Canadians about their attitudes on faith.

He isn't optimistic about a Protestant turnaround anytime soon.

"The United Church, the Anglicans, the Presbyterians and the Lutherans were all being fed with these wonderful immigration pipelines for an awfully long time with people coming from Europe."

"What's happened," says Bibby, "is those pipelines have been shut down. And the reality is unless those groups do some proselytizing, they are going to continue to decline rapidly as far as numbers."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryCanada* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism

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Posted May 17, 2015 at 11:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This week marks one year since Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to 40 lashes for adultery, and death for apostasy. The campaign for her release was joined by thousands across the globe, including David Cameron, but although Ibrahim is now free, the situation for Sudan's religious minorities continues to worsen.

When the Court of Appeal declared Ibrahim innocent of all charges and released her from prison on 25 June 2014, there was cautious hope that the campaign would lead to wider respect for freedom of religion or belief in Sudan. But just five days after her acquittal, on 30 June, the Church of Christ in Thiba Al Hamyida, North Khartoum, was demolished after being given 24 hours' verbal notice.

As 2014 came to an end, religious minorities faced further restrictions. In particular, the Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church denomination (SEPC) has been embroiled in a legal battle to maintain ownership of its properties, which began with a court order to seize parts of the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaSudan* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 17, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Their ideals were lofty but simple: They would live off the land, farming with Colonial-era tools, along with a band of like-minded men dressed in homespun robes wielding scythes and pickaxes. They would sleep in atmospheric log cabins and other 18th-century structures that they had rescued from the area and that they began to reconstruct, painstakingly, brick by crumbling brick and log by log.

But what if you built a commune, and no one came?

It turns out it’s not so easy to cook up a utopia from scratch. There are 1,775 so-called intentional communities listed in the Fellowship for Intentional Community’s United States directory: eco-villages, pagan co-ops, faith-based retreats and everything in between. But how do you advertise, organize and thrive? “Don’t ask us,” Johannes said. “We failed that class.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychologyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths

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Posted May 16, 2015 at 10:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In my previous post, I detailed the sordid story by which the Episcopal Church (USA) has gotten into the debt collection business. Refugees designated to migrate to the United States are advanced travel money by an arm of the U.S. State Department. They land here, and are placed in the hands of (among other agencies) Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), which helps them relocate into specific communities, find jobs, and settle in. Then EMM sees that they repay their travel advances to the Government, and pockets one-quarter of its debt collection proceeds for its trouble.

It's a nifty racket, and ensures that annually over $300,000 comes into the Episcopal Church's coffers, to help with its bottom line. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government reimburses EMM for all of its other refugee relocation expenses, to the tune of some $14 million annually.

Now thanks to our good friend and frequent commenter El Gringo Viejo, your Curmudgeon has been pointed to this illuminating video message, which tells "the rest of the story," so to speak. It turns out that a good portion of the refugees EMM is assisting are not just any refugees, but are Muslims from some of the countries to which America has sent troops, bombs or both: Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and (soon) Syria. Listen to Ann Corcoran as she explains what she discovered...

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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Posted May 15, 2015 at 12:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The meeting includes reflections on questions such as: is there a radicalisation of Muslims in Europe? How is this issue tackled within Muslim communities? How is it possible to promote a culture of dialogue between Christians and Muslims? What is the cultural and religious vitality of the Muslims on the continent?

Speakers include Prof. Olivier Roy from the European University Institute in Florence; Dr. Omero Marongiu-Perria, an expert in the sociology of religions and member of CISMOC (Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Islam in the Contemporary World – University of Louvain, Belgium); Bishops Michel Dubost (France), Juan Antonio Martínez Camino (Spain) and Charles Morerod (Switzerland). Practical experiences in relations with Muslims are being shared by Fr. Christophe Roucou (France: dialogue between priests and imams); Helmut Wiesmann (Germany: co-operation in charitable work); and Bisho

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEurope* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Machete-wielding assailants followed Ananta Bijoy Das on Tuesday morning when he left his house in the northeastern city of Sylhet and hacked him to death, police and friends said.

Das wrote for Mukto-Mona, the blog founded by Avijit Roy, a U.S. citizen who was killed in a similar attack outside a book fair in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, in February. Another writer who protested Roy's killing on social media, Washiqur Rahman, was struck down on a Dhaka street in March.

Activists lay blame for the killings on ultraconservative Islamists who have gained prominence recently in the overwhelmingly Muslim country. They have complained about the slow pace of investigations and have accused authorities of allowing a culture of impunity to take hold.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaBangladesh* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 13, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In India... [Tony Joseph] suggests, Christianity is doing far worse than in most parts of the world, while Hinduism is booming. Presently, he declares, around 78 percent of Indians are Hindus.

Well, yes and no. Nobody can claim that Christianity has claimed major shares of the Indian population, or that it is likely to do so in the near future. But some counter-arguments do need to be stressed, especially about the overall numbers. No sane person believes the religious content of the Indian national census, which is one of the world’s great works of creative fiction. At all levels, there is enormous pressure of all kinds – cultural, political and bureaucratic – to minimize the presence of all non-Hindu religions, including Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. That pressure becomes overwhelming when dealing with people of low and no caste, those who are most tempted to defect to one of the alternative faiths. Bureaucrats are especially hard to convince in matters of religious conversion from Hinduism.

That matters because such low or no caste people are so very numerous. India presently has over 200 million Dalits, the so-called untouchables. If the census is failing to pick up just a few percent of those groups who have converted to other faiths, that is potentially a huge number. In consequence, the estimate of India as 78 percent Hindu represents an extreme higher-end estimate, achieved only by making that the default stance adopted and enforced by census takers and bureaucrats. I would confidently expect future estimates of Christian numbers to decline still further as the government attitudes become chillier – which has nothing whatever to do with actual numbers on the ground.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAsiaIndia* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsHinduism* Theology

1 Comments
Posted May 12, 2015 at 3:40 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Most of us were trained to minister to a culture that had a Christian baseline, but we weren’t trained how to reach people who don’t accept the Bible as true or know about Christ.
In other words, we were trained to focus on Nominals but now we increasingly need to reach Seculars.

There are resources to help with that.

I’m a big fan of Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God. Many use that curriculum for reaching secular people. I also recommend the work of George Hunter, a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary. His book How to Reach Secular People is good, as is James Emery White’s book called The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated.

Do you deal more with Nominals or Seculars? Has your church made progress in reaching either group? What have you found that works in bringing these people to Christ?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church GrowthMinistry of the LaityMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism* TheologyAnthropologySoteriology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Primate of Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Revd. Nicholas Okoh, has described the late chief Imam of the national mosque, Ustaz Musa Muhammad, as a pleasant and good natured cleric who lived a life of service to humanity and made an indelible impact on all who interacted with him.

The late Chief Imam, according to him, was a friendly person, bridge builder across religious barriers and a pleasant personality. He said the Chief Imam's death has further confirmed the transient nature of life.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of Nigeria* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 11, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“I was very active in the progressive community in my law school, and most of my friends were politically active progressives,” he said. “But I was unprepared for their response when word started filtering out that I had enrolled in divinity school. Some of them literally disowned me; my own roommates moved out. Several folks literally stopped speaking to me and acted as if I had lost my mind.”

His own background was thrown in his face, with friends saying: “Chris, you’re a scientist, you’re a chemist, you trained as a chemist as an undergraduate, how could you possibly believe this insane stuff...?”

Coons’s message was deceptively simple: that we must find ways of “getting past some of our misunderstandings of each other.” The problem: Respecting each other on matters of faith and politics seems beyond our current capacities.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsSecularism* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility on Tuesday for a weekend attack at a center near Dallas, Texas, that was exhibiting cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad - though it offered no evidence of a direct link to the attackers.

An audio statement on the extremist group's Al Bayan radio station said that "two soldiers of the caliphate" carried out Sunday's attack in Garland and promised the group would deliver more attacks in the future

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted May 5, 2015 at 3:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Small, winner of two national book awards for his recent novels, will discuss “East Meets West: What the Great World Religions Can Learn from Each Other.” He will attempt to weave the key themes of his suspense novels into a serious discussion of how interfaith dialogue can enlighten people’s lives.

In today’s world, Small explained, “when the headlines are too often about the animosity between the religions, I hope to help us build bridges across these conflicts.” He attempts to do this through talks, blog posts and his fiction writing, where he feels he can reach a different audience in a nonconventional way.

Specifically, the suspense/thriller author of “visionary fiction” will attempt to answer “Why do we have so many religions? What can we learn from this knowledge? Why do we need interfaith dialogue? What are the key teachings from Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism?”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryMulticulturalism, pluralismReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther Faiths* Theology

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Posted May 3, 2015 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The women said several were killed in the stoning, but they did not know how many.

The survivors said that when they were initially captured, the militants had killed men and older boys in front of their families before taking women and children into the forest.

Some were forced into marriage.

They said the Islamists never let them out of their sight - not even when they went to the toilet.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureTeens / YouthViolenceWomenYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Malaysian Anglicans have rallied to the support of a Pentecostal church in Petaling Jaya after a Muslim mob disrupted worship services...[recently] and forced the congregation to take down a cross mounted on the church’s facade.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAsiaMalaysia* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesPentecostalOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted May 3, 2015 at 6:18 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Such a pattern of religious Dualism did not last into modern times, but it used to be very commonplace to find some such dichotomy. Allegedly, Judaism was the faith of the wrathful, legalistic God of the Old Testament; Christians followed Jesus, and his words of love and mercy. Only a hundred years ago, the great Bible scholar Adolf von Harnack wanted to eject the Old Testament from the Christian Bible, an act he saw as the logical conclusion of the Reformation. Von Harnack himself was not anti-Semitic, although plenty of his sympathizers in such matters were. But the stereotypical dismissal of the Old Testament is certainly anti-Judaic, in the sense of stigmatizing the Hebrew Bible that is the foundation of Jewish faith and identity.

It is hard to know what is most incorrect about this cliché of “the wrathful, Old Testament Jehovah,” or most offensive. A century of Bible scholarship has made it absolutely clear that virtually everything Jesus preached can be found in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, including many sayings and pronouncements that seem most radical and innovative. Any attempt to separate Jesus from his Jewish roots – or the New Testament from the Old – is utterly misguided, and doomed to fail. The whole vision of God as loving and forgiving derives from the Old Testament, as is clear to anyone who has ever opened its pages. If you think of the Old Testament God as merely “wrathful,” your knowledge of the text is very slight.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted May 2, 2015 at 2:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Seculars are known for what they are not — religious — more than what they are. This is part of a wider reputation problem borne out by atheists (the most visible subset of secular America) emerging as the second-least popular religion-related category on a "feeling thermometer" study by the Pew Research Center, with Muslims barely edging out atheists for the dubious honor of being last.

A wide swath of the American public continues to equate God belief with morality. A reminder of this comes courtesy of the recent speech by conservative Christian icon Phil Robertson, who graphically described an atheist family being tortured and murdered and having no legitimate basis to object, given their non-belief in God. This notion is patently unfair and unsupported by data. Research shows, in fact, that non-religious families do well at fostering ethical behavior and moral values among their offspring. Secular people can be and generally are "good without God," to cite the slogan of the American Humanist Association. Even so, the movement has a way to go in convincing the rest of the culture.

Read it all.


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

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Posted April 29, 2015 at 6:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The rise of extremism has left Christians without hope for a future in the birthplace of their faith, according to a new petition to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.

Thousands of evangelicals who attended Spring Harvest are calling on the Conservative, LibDem and Labour leaders to set aside party differences and take new steps against persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

The 4,496 Christians warn that the faith is at serious risk of extinction in the region.

Read it all.

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

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Posted April 28, 2015 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One of the joys of traveling is seeing how other people worship. On vacation my daughter and I visited a shul in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands that had sand on the floor to represent either the Israelite journey through the desert or a homage to the congregants’ Murano Jewish ancestors who used sand to muffle the sounds of their secret prayer services during the Spanish Inquisition. They lived as Catholics publicly, but returned to their Judaism in their basements.

We happened to attend this Caribbean synagogue when the head of the women’s club was having an adult bat mitzvah. The highlight came during her speech, when she surveyed the crowd, appeared to do a mental calculation and announced: “Family hold back!” The lox was delicious, and the whole experience was so great—how could we not join for the off-island rate of $72 a year?

So if you are traveling to the ’burgh and looking for that special something from your synagogue experience: Ask and I’ll set you up. Just not during services. I’ll be busy talking to Finkelstein.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, Worship* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted April 24, 2015 at 6:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Check it out.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* General InterestHumor / Trivia* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* TheologySeminary / Theological Education

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Posted April 22, 2015 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nigeria’s military announced last week that it was raiding the Sambisa Forest, one of the last strongholds of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram. Liberating the forest might be the hardest part of the campaign against the group.

Aided by regional troops and foreign mercenaries, Nigeria’s military has managed to take back nearly all of the towns and villages controlled by Boko Haram in Nigeria’s northeast over the past few months.

But one area remains mostly under their control: Sambisa, a massive expanse of forest that spreads thousands of square kilometers over several states.

Read it all.


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

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Posted April 22, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Anglican Bishop for Ethiopia has hailed as martyrs 28 Ethiopian Christians shot or beheaded in Libya by members of the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL.

"I have just learned the horrifying news that as many as twenty-eight Ethiopian Christians have been shot or beheaded in Libya by members of the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL. This alarming act of violence against those that ISIS calls “people of the cross” comes just two months after twenty-one other Christians - twenty Egyptians and one Ghanian, were beheaded on a Libyan beach." Bishop Grant LeMarquand said in a letter to be read in Ethopian churches and distributed overseas.

Bishop LeMarquand is Anglican Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Ethiopia) and Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesThe Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaEthiopia* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 21, 2015 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Archbishop of Canterbury was in Cairo yesterday to show solidarity with Egyptian Christians murdered by jihadists two months ago. His visit was made more timely even as it was overshadowed by yet more murders. As he gave letters of condolence to the families of the victims of Islamic State’s last massacre of Christians, IS released sickening video footage of the next.

The latest film from the terrorist organisation holding the Middle East to ransom is as barbaric as anything it has produced. Prefaced with footage of jihadists vandalising Christian churches, the 29-minute video shows militants holding two groups of prisoners who they claim are members of an “enemy Ethiopian church”. Twelve are shown being beheaded on a beach. At least 16 more are shot in the head elsewhere. Both groups are thought to have been murdered in Libya.

Subject to verification of the footage this brings to more than 50 the number of Christians killed by IS in recent weeks. The strategy is clear. The leadership of the so-called caliphate, under pressure in Iraq, is seeking to expand its reign of terror in North Africa and in particular to sabotage efforts to bring stability to Libya.

Read it all (subscription required).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaEthiopiaLibya* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 20, 2015 at 5:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The confirmation of the murder of Ethiopian Christians by Daesh (IS) in Libya has been received with deep sadness. These executions that unnecessarily and unjustifiably claim the lives of innocent people, wholly undeserving of this brutality, have unfortunately become far too familiar. Once again we see innocent Christians murdered purely for refusing to renounce their Faith.

The Christians of Egypt and Ethiopia have had a shared heritage for centuries. Being predominantly Orthodox Christian communities with a mutual understanding of life and witness, and a common origin in the Coptic Orthodox Church, they now also share an even greater connection through the blood of these contemporary martyrs.

This sad news came on the day that His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury visited His Holiness Pope Tawadros II in Egypt to personally express his condolences following the similar brutal murder of 21 Coptic Orthodox Christians in Libya by Daesh in February of this year.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaEthiopiaLibya* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOrthodox ChurchOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted April 20, 2015 at 4:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A sharp-eyed visitor to Havana and other Cuban cities will notice some odd things: the carcasses of birds strewn at intersections, insignias consisting of a single eye and dagger affixed to doorways and displayed in taxis, people dressed head to toe in white. All are emblems of Santería, a religion with roots in the culture of Yoruba slaves who came to Cuba from Nigeria from the early 18th century. After a period of suppression, it appears to be making a comeback.

Santería is a blending of the Yoruba religion, which acknowledges 401 orishas, or deities, with the Catholicism of the Spanish colonisers. Although at least 60% of Cubans today call themselves Catholics, far fewer are regular churchgoers. Many see no reason not to incorporate Santería rituals into their spiritual lives. A Catholic priest will marry a couple, but a santero might foretell their destiny and, later on, counsel them on how to revive their flagging sex life.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAfricaCaribbeanCuba* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths

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Posted April 19, 2015 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

1. Hinduism’s core principle is pluralism.

Hindus acknowledge the potential existence of multiple, legitimate religious and spiritual paths, and the idea that the path best suited for one person may not be the same for another. The Rig Veda, one of Hinduism’s sacred texts, states Ekam sat vipraha bahudha vadanti, or “The Truth is one, the wise call It by many names.”

As a result of this pluralistic outlook, Hinduism has never sanctioned proselytization and asserts that it is harmful to society’s well being to insist one’s own path to God is the only true way. Hindus consider the whole world as one extended family, and Hindu prayers often end with the repetition of shanti – or peace for all of existence.

Read it all.

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

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Posted April 19, 2015 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Early indications from [a] new project by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) think-tank showed the number of people convicted of terrorism offences has increased in the last five years, as police make growing use of new legislation to disrupt extremist networks.

Hannah Stuart, research fellow at the HJS, said: “We are starting to see with lower level offences and those with a high degree of ideology behind them that there is a revolving door for them.

“We are seeing cases of terrorism recidivism – they serve a sentence and are released, then commit another crime and are jailed again.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPrison/Prison MinistryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted April 19, 2015 at 1:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Days after Islamists killed 148 people at Garissa university, Kenya's president held out an olive branch to Muslims and urged them to join Nairobi in the struggle against militant Islam by informing on sympathisers.

But as Uhuru Kenyatta launches a battle for Muslim hearts and minds, his security forces must first reckon with the deep mistrust among ethnic-Somali Muslims in the country's northeast regions bordering Somalia.

Kenyatta also faces an uphill task in reforming the violent ways of troops on the ground. A day before he spoke, a soldier in Garissa was seen by a Reuters reporter lashing at a crowd of Muslim women with a long stick.

"We live in fear," said Barey Bare, one of a dozen veiled Somali-Kenyan women targeted by the soldier.

"The military are a threat and al Shabaab are a threat. We are in between."

Read it all.

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

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Posted April 15, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A handful of families have taken refuge in the monastery, as Christians have done for centuries since Islamic armies first swept across the plain in the 7th Century with the Arab conquest.

Thirteen-year-old Nardine is all too aware of what IS fighters do to girls they regard as infidels. "They are very cruel, they are very harsh," Nardine whispered fearfully. "Everyone knows, they took the Yazidi girls and sold them in the market."

"Isis have no mercy for anyone. They select women to rape them," said Nardine's mother. "We were afraid for our daughters so we ran away."

Read it all.

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

3 Comments
Posted April 15, 2015 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"It is impossible to go there, and to meet especially the children, without being determined that they must have a future," the Cardinal said.

But the task ahead is vast: regaining land from Islamic State, rebuilding ruined town and cities, establishing law and order and rebuilding society.

Nichols said that in the project to rebuild Iraq, "the presence of the Christian community is essential".

"I say that not out of a nostalgic sense that this is a Christian community that's 2,000 years old. This not a cultural, historical, or an archaeological issue. This is an issue of how do you build a stable, balanced society, in that region, and I think... the Christian presence is essential to that mosaic."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Three decades ago, plainclothes Syrian agents went door to door in this border village seeking out young Christian men, who were abducted and killed in a notorious chapter of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war.

The village’s nearly 2,000 Christians now find themselves siding with the same Syrian regime they blame for what many call the 1978 massacre.

That is because a few miles away, hundreds of Islamist extremists tied to al Qaeda and Islamic State stalk the porous border region separating Lebanon and Syria. Standing between the militants and the village are Lebanese troops aided by the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, whose men are also fighting for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“Yes, I prefer the Syrian regime over these terrorist groups,” a 45-year-old Al-Qaa resident said, but it is a choice “between the bitter and more bitter.”

Read it all from the WSJ.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamJudaism* Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Events are taking place around the world to mark one year since Boko Haram militants abducted nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria, sparking global outrage.

The girls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, in the northeast of the country, leading millions around the world to call for their return as the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag exploded on social media.

A number of girls later escaped the militants, who often force those abducted to convert to Islam and fight or work as sex slaves, but 219 remain missing.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHistoryMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureTeens / YouthViolenceWomen* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 14, 2015 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Islamic State has allegedly burned boxes of food aid coming from the United States that were intended for Syrian civilians.

The Independent reports that two trucks containing the food parcels were intercepted at an ISIS checkpoint manned by the group's "Hisba" police force in Syria's Aleppo province. The boxes had the markings of Koch Foods, a chicken company based in the state of Illinois in the US.

According to The Independent, the Islamic State seized and burned the boxes, which contained chicken meat, claiming that the animal products were not slaughtered according to Islamic law.

The International Business Times, however, said that the boxes had markings to show that the chicken meat was "halal," or had been slaughtered according to the dictates of Islamic Law.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDieting/Food/NutritionPovertyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted April 12, 2015 at 4:56 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the wake of last week’s deadly attack against Christians at a college in Kenya, we talk with Father Thomas Reese, senior analyst at the National Catholic Reporter and a member of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, about growing concerns over anti-Christian violence around the world and the need for governments to protect religious communities.

Read or watch it all.

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

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Posted April 12, 2015 at 2:22 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

More to the point, the Paris attack struck close to home. The victims were journalists and journalists write the news. The terrorists hit a major Western city like the ones where the political leaders and opinion-makers live. The victims were aggressively secular. In marching for the victims, the famous and powerful were marching for themselves and their own.

Which does not apply to the victims in Nairobi and northern Nigeria. They were black Africans, not white Europeans; students, not journalists; living in the developing world, not Europe; and Christian, not modern and secular. No high official is going to fly to east Africa and march for them. The Kenyan and Nigerian victims are not their people.

They are ours. If someone could measure the amount of time American Christians spent reading about the three attacks, and the depth of of our emotional reaction, he would almost certainly find our time and emotional investment nearly as tilted to Paris as the secular Americans’. The more successful in the world, say in academia and publishing, the more this will be true. As a test, ask yourself what details of the Nigerian massacre you remember, compared with how much you remember of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. I remember a lot about the Nigerian massacre, but only because I read about it while writing this. Western journalists, even anti-Christian ones, are “our” people, Africa’s Christians a little less so.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchGlobalizationMediaReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAfricaKenyaNigeriaEuropeFrance* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEcclesiologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

3 Comments
Posted April 11, 2015 at 11:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...it is delusional for these terrorists to think that those who were killed in the line of “duty” are considered martyrs and will be rewarded with paradise. The terrorists who are killed aren’t considered martyrs according to Islamic law, even if they considered their act to be a form of jihad, had sincere intentions and were acting out of ignorance. Good intentions don’t justify illegal acts—and it is totally prohibited by Islam to kill innocent people. Thus terrorist acts like 9/11 in the U.S., 7/7 in London or any other similar horrendous attacks are sheer murder and have nothing to do with jihad.

In sum, the noble form of physical jihad—which is waged by legitimate state authorities to fend off aggression and establish justice—has nothing to do with the supposed jihad of these terrorists, who practice nothing more than the ruthless mass murder of innocents. Jihad is a war fought with honor and guided with moral codes of conduct.

Since terrorist groups have the audacity to interpret from the Quran selectively to suit their own agendas, their deviant ideology must be debunked by intellectual responses. The fight will be stronger with the help of the international media and academia in publishing and broadcasting the voices of authentic Muslim scholars who can counter the extremists’ false claims and their warped interpretation of the Quran.

Read it all.

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

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Posted April 10, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Despite the images we’ve seen splashed across the web of Islamic State fighters driving around Syria and Iraq in American Humvees and waving U.S.-made weapons, there really isn’t all that much American military gear floating around out there.

But what equipment has been captured by the radical Islamists has the tendency to float upward toward the leadership who covet the “elite” U.S. gear, according to a group cataloging illicit arms transfers.

Speaking to a small April 7 gathering at the Stimson Center in Washington, Jonah Leff, director of operations for Conflict Armament Research said that American equipment actually “represents a small fraction” of the 40,000 pieces of gear his teams have cataloged in northern Iraq and Syria since last summer. He said that includes only about 30 U.S.-made M-16s and roughly 550 rounds American-produced ammunition.

Read it all.

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

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Posted April 8, 2015 at 4:56 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Islamist Boko Haram militants disguised as preachers killed at least 24 people and wounded several others in an attack near a mosque in northeast Nigeria's Borno state, a military source and witness said on Monday.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted April 7, 2015 at 4:50 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Abdia Noor Abdi sat in the yard, exhausted after all the questions from the authorities. When she saw the face of her son on the front page of a daily newspaper, she pushed it aside and began to tear up.

He was not poor or marginalized, and did not seem especially angry. He strutted around in $200 suits, the son of a local chief.

But now her son, Abdirahim Abdullahi, has been identified as one of the four gunmen who killed nearly 150 people at a university in eastern Kenya last week, the authorities say.

Once a promising student himself, Mr. Abdullahi was killed along with the other gunmen as Kenyan forces stormed the campus in Garrisa. Police officers later paraded his naked, bullet-riddled body in the back of a pickup truck.

“He was a polite and obedient son,” his mother said. “We are in shock.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolenceYoung Adults* International News & CommentaryAfricaKenya* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted April 7, 2015 at 5:18 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On Easter, the holiest of holy days for Christians, a historic downtown Lutheran congregation will be worshiping not in a church but in a synagogue.

At 8 a.m. and again at 11 a.m., members of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church will gather in Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim’s historic synagogue during Passover to celebrate what Christians believe is the resurrection of the long-promised Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ.

It’s not the first time the members of KKBE have loaned their sanctuary at 90 Hasell St. to Christians. And it probably won’t be the last.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsEasterParish Ministry* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsJudaism* South Carolina

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Posted April 5, 2015 at 6:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The evening concluded with the story of how Wendy Stovall, an assistant pastor in Utah’s Unification Church, started by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, found her way from Zimbabwe to a London park, where she met a friend from that faith.

Raised as an Anglican, Stovall found little comfort in that tradition after her divorce as a young woman. The Unification Church, she said, held many answers to the theological questions that troubled her. “God,” she said, “was taking a role in my life.”

That view was a common thread in the evening’s tapestry.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureWomen* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesPresbyterianOther FaithsBuddhism

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In his fourth democratic bid for Nigeria’s presidency, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari finally claimed victory Tuesday, beating incumbent Goodluck Jonathan by more than 3 million votes, according to early counts of the polling.

Results are not yet official, but Buhari has claimed victory, and according to media reports, Jonathan has called his rival and conceded defeat.

The election marks the first time since Nigeria’s 1999 transition from military rule that the People’s Democratic Party has lost the country’s presidency and the first time an incumbent has been ousted from the office.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 31, 2015 at 3:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Every religious tradition has its skeletons and its saints, and sometimes they are the same people. Paul is warning his hearers not to count themselves better than their ancestors, for they all depend on the same rootstock – a root that nourishes the olive tree or the grape vine we cling to as intimate connection to God as Creator of all. That root is why we are here, and it is also why the LDS church is here.

When General Convention shows up here just over 3 months from now, many of the volunteers and dispensers of hospitality will be our sisters and brothers from that tradition. Will we recognize their welcome as a product of the same root, or will we assume that they come from a different and unrecognizable species?

Complexity defines human beings and their relationships, which just might convince us of the otherness of God. Difference is part of God’s creativity, from the riotous diversity of the species of creation to the inner chaos of most human beings. Paul names it when he says he wants to do the right thing, but he does something else instead.[8] Nevertheless, when people stay connected to that one rootstock, God can usually be found to bring something new and holy out of the mess.

Branches that seem radically different grow on the same tree and the same vine, even though we love to hate the ones who are not like us. We often in the church focus our attention on differences in reproductive customs and norms – yet both the grape vine and the olive tree has multiple ways to be generative. Flowers can be fertilized by pollen from the same plant or another one. The fruit and seeds that result are eaten by birds and animals and left to grow far from the original plant, yet they are still related. The vine also generates new branches from its rootstock or from distant parts of its branches. But all those kinds of vines and branches are related, however they come about.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons* Theology

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Posted March 31, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Scientology’s power over its followers is coming under new scrutiny because of the HBO documentary “Going Clear,” which premieres March 29 and is based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book of the same name. As Wright reported, Scientology has long relied on an arcane lingo that helps induct adherents into founder L. Ron Hubbard’s complex mythology while also isolating them from the outside world. “I’ve had a lot of former Scientologists tell me,” Wright said to me, “that it took quite a while for them to sort out what was a real word and what was a Scientology term.”

Hubbard began his superlatively prolific writing career in the 1930s as a sci-fi author for pulp magazines like Astounding Science-Fiction. At the time he started work on “Dianetics,” the ur-text of Scientology, he was corresponding with a group of prominent sci-fi writers who were all influenced by the ideas of Polish-American philosopher Alfred Korzybski. Korzybski believed that semantic training — correcting the flaws in abstract language that block one’s understanding of concrete things — could help cure various emotional and physical disorders. In part inspired by Korzybski, “Dianetics,” published in 1950, introduced a wide array of neologisms, jargon, and acronyms designed specifically for Hubbard’s new program.

Hubbard liked putting quirky twists on existing words: “Enturbulate,” using the Latin root from “disturb,” means “to upset”; to “hat,” as a verb, is to train for something; “havingness,” “beingness,” and “as-ising” (making something vanish) also pop up frequently. Many of his terms describe the central practice of Scientology: the “audit,” a space-age twist on Freudian psychoanalytic therapy. An “auditor” questions the subject, called the “preclear” — who is held back from spiritual progress by the “engrams,” or recordings of traumatic memories, in his “reactive mind,” a negative unconscious contrasted with the “analytic mind.” The goal is to discover the “basic-basic,” the subject’s original harmful memory, which sometimes dates back to before birth.

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

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Posted March 30, 2015 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A few years later, Thomas Jefferson resolved these difficulties quite simply in his “harmonized” account of the life of Jesus. The Jefferson Bible ends with the crucifixion and burial: “There laid they Jesus: and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.” The End. No Resurrection.

So, yes, Jefferson stood exactly in that century-old Deist tradition.

And you will see why I am very skeptical when I read that nineteenth or early twentieth century critics were so daring in their criticism of Biblical orthodoxy – for example, in the US during the years of the Briggs controversy of the 1890s and the rise of Fundamentalism. Those ideas were already very familiar indeed before Jefferson was born in 1743.

Here’s a thought. Maybe the most important theme to highlight in any history of Biblical criticism is that of serial amnesia.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* TheologyApologeticsTheology: Scripture

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Thousands of supporters of Nigeria's main opposition party on Sunday demonstrated in the oil-rich state of Rivers, calling for the cancellation of elections locally because of alleged irregularities.

The demonstrators from the All Progressives Congress (APC) converged on the local offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the state capital, Port Harcourt.

"We are here to register our protest that there was no election in Rivers state yesterday (Saturday)," Rivers state governorship candidate Dakuku Peterside told the crowd.

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

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Posted March 30, 2015 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In an act of extraordinary heroism, a parish warden stopped an Islamist terrorist from detonating a bomb during Sunday worship at Christ Church Youhanabad near Lahore, Pakistan. Fifteen people were murdered during twin attacks on Christ Church and the neighboring St John’s Catholic Church on 15 March 2015, but the heroism of Zahid Yousaf Goga (pictured with his wife, Akash and three children) prevented further bloodshed.

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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, Worship* Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAsiaPakistan* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted March 29, 2015 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Under the shadow of Boko Haram violence, Nigerians head to the polls Saturday (March 28) to elect a president and a deputy in a vote observers say is critical for the country’s stability and economic progress.

In a twist that might have been difficult to predict, many Christians in Nigeria’s north are backing a Muslim candidate to lead their country away from the brink of violence and chaos.

Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north and the leader of the All Progressives Congress party, is challenging the leadership of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south who heads the ruling People’s Democratic Party.

Some Nigerians fear that another term for Jonathan would mean institutionalization of corruption and emergence of more Muslim extremist groups in addition to Boko Haram. And they are willing to pin their hopes on a Muslim candidate.

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

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Posted March 28, 2015 at 10:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the past six years, Boko Haram has terrorized the northeast region and burned down entire communities, killing thousands of people and abducting many more, including more than 200 missing schoolgirls.

The people driven from their homes are posing a challenge for Nigeria's electoral commission. The U.N. Secretary General's special representative for West Africa and high representative for Nigeria, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, says displaced people must be allowed to vote.

"These elections must be inclusive," Chambas says. "I got the assurance of the electoral commissioner that all efforts would be made to ensure that Nigerians internally displaced, as a result of Boko Haram terrorist activity, are not denied their franchise."

Nigeria is also grappling with a new biometric, voter ID card-reading system, which had hiccups during dry runs ahead of Saturday's vote.

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

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Posted March 27, 2015 at 4:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Philip Jenkins's contribution to The Globalization of Christianity (edited by Gordon Heath and Steven Studebaker) offers sobering and exciting news by turns.

On the sobering side, he describes the statistical stagnation of Christianity, and compares it to the spread of Islam. For the past century, Christianity has held steady at 1/3 of the human population. It's grown, of course, but it has not grown as a proportion of the world's population.

Islam has. “In 1900, the 200 to 220 million Muslims then living comprised some 12 or 13 percent of humanity, compared to 22.5 percent today, and a projected figure of 27.3 percent by 2050. Put another way, Christians in 1900 outnumbered Muslims by 2.8 to 1. Today that figure is 1.3 to 1, and by 2050 it should be 1.3 to 1. Put another way, there are four times as many Christians alive as there were in 1900; but over the same period, Muslims have grown at least seven-fold” (21).

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalGlobal South Churches & Primates* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryMissions* Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted March 27, 2015 at 3:40 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Last month I visited the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan known as Za’atari. With 80,000 occupants, the camp would be the fourth-largest city in Jordan. It occupies a vast desert plain, filled with endless rows of tents that are gradually being replaced with rows of metal-sided caravans. Za’atari is a dreary place, but it is teeming with resilient people.

Residents of camps like Za’atari make up only 20% of the nearly four million refugees who have fled Syria. The rest live in cities, where they are often unregistered and therefore ineligible for services. These refugees tend to live in squalor and are vulnerable to exploitation. Nearly 80% of the refugees are women and children. These figures don’t include the 12.2 million within Syria who are either internally displaced or in urgent need of help.

About 200,000 people have been killed in Syria, many after torture. A photographer, who documented these horrors for the regime but defected, smuggled his photos out of Syria; they were passed on to me by a Syrian non-governmental organization. These emaciated, disfigured corpses could be skeletal Jewish inmates photographed during the liberation of Dachau, but they aren’t. They are Syrian Muslims and Christians—and this is happening now.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchPovertyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther FaithsIslamJudaism* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted March 27, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Much has been written about extremist groups such as IS and al-Qaeda, which directly threaten Westerners at home or abroad. But little is understood about Boko Haram, its leaders and its beliefs. This is partly because it has made little effort to explain itself to the wider world, unlike jihadists such as IS who reach out to potential recruits using social media, and partly because journalists are unable to enter territory it controls safely. Moreover, its limited regional focus means that most Western intelligence agencies have viewed it as posing little international threat.

This book by Mike Smith, a journalist, sheds light both on its crackpot ideas—Yusuf insisted that the world was flat and that rain was made by God—and on the deep contradictions faced by people who propose to return to a sixth-century lifestyle. When asked why he had computer equipment and hospital facilities at his home, Yusuf replied, “These are technological products. Western education is different. Western education is westernisation.”

Yusuf’s successor, Abubakar Shekau, is a particularly enigmatic figure who is known largely through the brief videos his group has released. In one he justifies selling into slavery the schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok: “Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell.” Each time Nigerian forces claim to have killed him, new videos emerge, though security officials question whether the same person appears in all the grainy images.

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

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Posted March 27, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Anti-IS Sunnis think they should be armed again, as they were when the Americans fought al-Qaeda in Iraq, IS’s predecessor. But nobody is willing to give them weapons. “We wanted a national army,” says Ghazi Faisal al-Kuaud, a tribesman fighting alongside the government in Ramadi. “Instead they formed the Shia equivalent of IS.”

And Shia distrust of the Sunnis grows at a pace that matches that of the losses from its militias. Overlooking Najaf’s sprawling tombs, gravediggers talk of the brisk business they are doing burying militiamen. “I’ve never had it so busy,” says one. “Not even after 2003 or 2006 [the height of Iraq’s civil war].” The Sunnis “never accepted losing power from the time of Imam Ali, so why would they now?” asks Haider, a Shia shop owner. “Wherever you find Sunnis and you give them weapons, you will find IS,” says Bashar, a militiaman. Many Shias feel that the fight against IS justifies them in excluding Sunnis from government and the security apparatus.

The state that IS wanted to build looks more unlikely than ever to become a lasting reality, and that is good. The ruined territory on which it hoped to build, though, may end up even more damaged than it was at the outset.

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

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Posted March 26, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“Each week that passes we learn of more brutal Boko Haram abuses against civilians,” Mausi Segun, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement. “The Nigerian government needs to make protecting civilians a priority in military operations against Boko Haram.”

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

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Posted March 26, 2015 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Councillors are to discuss how best to manage large-scale funerals after one for a traveller from Cheshire attracted hundreds of mourners.

Holy Trinity Church in Blacon and Chester Crematorium were packed for the service marking 54-year-old Elton man "Pudgie" Evans's life on 30 January.

Cheshire West and Chester Council and Cheshire Constabulary worked together to manage the funeral.

Local residents were advised beforehand and roads shut for the funeral cortege....

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* Theology

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Posted March 25, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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