Al Qaeda hopes to exploit the plight of Myanmar’s embattled Muslims

A Pakistani man holds a pamphlet, allegedly distributed by the Islamic State (IS), on Sept. 3. The following day Al Qaeda announced a new South Asia front to "wage jihad" in neighboring India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Al Qaeda's global influence has been eclipsed by the rival terror group. A Majeed AFP/Getty Images

A Pakistani man holds a pamphlet, allegedly distributed by the Islamic State (IS), on Sept. 3. The following day Al Qaeda announced a new South Asia front to “wage jihad” in neighboring India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Al Qaeda’s global influence has been eclipsed by the rival terror group. A Majeed AFP/Getty Images

BANGKOK, Thailand — Myanmar’s Rohingya people have been hacked to death, driven from their homes and quarantined in grubby camps. Many are shrunken from malnutrition and disease.

But while most see their condition as a tragedy, Al Qaeda sees opportunity.

From obscurity, the Rohingya plight has in recent years exploded into an international scandal. No country will claim them as their own. Though about 800,000 Rohingya inhabit the western shores of Myanmar, the Buddhist-led government there labels them foreign invaders from Bangladesh. Vigilantes have purged them from cities using arson and murder. Human Rights Watch calls this bloody exodus “ethnic cleansing.”

The Rohingya also happen to be Muslim.

Patrick Winn reports for GlobalPost on Al Qaeda’s efforts to expand into Myanmar.

China imposes intrusive rules on Uighurs in Xinjiang

Kashgar, China Los Angeles Times Men rest at a tea shop in Kashgar's old town. "Religious repression has gotten much worse since Xi Jinping took over" as China's president, said Dilxat Raxit, a Sweden-based spokesman for the World Uygher Congress.

Kashgar, China
Los Angeles Times
Men rest at a tea shop in Kashgar’s old town. “Religious repression has gotten much worse since Xi Jinping took over” as China’s president, said Dilxat Raxit, a Sweden-based spokesman for the World Uygher Congress.

Forget privacy.

Chinese authorities here want to know what you eat and when you eat it. How you style your hair, how you dress, and what songs are on your iPad or smartphone.

Stung by a string of terrorist attacks by Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority who live in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region, the Communist Party has stepped up an intrusive campaign against expressions of religious identity in the group.

Throughout Kashgar, a Silk Road city of 500,000 considered the heartland of the Uighurs, restrictions are enforced by closed-circuit cameras and an army of police and neighborhood patrols.

Barbara Demick reports on Chinese restrictions on expressions of Islamic faith in the wake of terrorist attacks for the Los Angeles Times.

 

Cambodia: The Way of the Monk

In the forest, a group of monks tie saffron cloth around tree trunks while chanting a centuries-old Buddhist chant still relevant today. It is a chant of compassion, pity, and love and of a divinity that does not exist in a temple but in the forests that the monks and the villagers both call their home. Image by Kalyanee Mam. Cambodia, 2014.

In the forest, a group of monks tie saffron cloth around tree trunks while chanting a centuries-old Buddhist chant still relevant today. It is a chant of compassion, pity, and love and of a divinity that does not exist in a temple but in the forests that the monks and the villagers both call their home. Image by Kalyanee Mam. Cambodia, 2014.

 

Nature was born to rescue humanity, just as people were born to protect nature. Without nature we cannot survive.” – Venerable But Buntenh

After journeying seven hours on a bus from the capital city of Phnom Penh, Venerable But Buntenh and a band of 16 young, social-media savvy dissident monks pile onto the back of a pick-up truck and wind their way on a bumpy dirt road to Areng Valley, nestled in the Cardamom Mountain range in southwest Cambodia. The young monks arm themselves with cameras and video recorders, snapping shots along the way, their bright saffron robes flapping in the wind.

Kalyanee Mam reports for the Pulitzer Center on Cambodian monks’ mission to stop the imminent construction of the Stung Cheay Areng dam, a project the government of Cambodian has contracted to Sinohydro Corporation, China’s largest hydropower company.

Iraqi Christians are caught in the middle and hitting the road

Iraqi Christian families at a community center in Erbil, June 27, 2014. (Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images)

Iraqi Christian families at a community center in Erbil, June 27, 2014. (Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images)

KHAZIR CHECKPOINT, Iraq — Lilian stood by the side of the road at this dusty checkpoint along the Erbil-Mosul highway. In skinny jeans and a polka-dot blouse, she looked a bit out of place.

Most of the other Iraqis on the road are very poor, while Lilian an her family are middle class. Most of the other Iraqis fleeing now are doing so because they couldn’t afford to before. Lilian and her family are fleeing now because the violence finally hit too close to home.

A little after midnight Wednesday night, Lilian and her family heard shells drop near their home in Karamlish outside Mosul. Unable to tell if the violence was getting closer or not, they decided to hit the road. By 6 the next morning they were on their way to Erbil located in Iraq’s relatively safe, semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

“We heard that Daah doesn’t hurt civilians, but I don’t know,” said the 21-year-old student, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the insurgent group currently taking on the Iraqi government.

“Honestly, I don’t know what we will do,” she said with a nervous laugh.

Susannah George reports for GlobalPost on Iraqi Christians caught in the midst of the battle between the Sunni insurgents, ISIL, and the Shia-led government of Iraq

Spain decides to make up for its persecution of Jews, but won’t do the same for Muslims

Cesar Manso AFP/Getty Images

Cesar Manso
AFP/Getty Images

MADRID, Spain — Half a millennium ago, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand presented Jews living here with a stark choice: leave, convert or face burning at the stake.

Some 50,000 Jews would eventually flee after passage of the Edict of Expulsion in 1492, giving birth to the Sephardic diaspora — “Sepharad” meaning “Spain” in Hebrew.

Today their descendants live mainly in Israel, France, the United States and Turkey.

Among those who remained, some who formally converted secretly maintained their faith under fear of constant persecution by the merciless Spanish Inquisition.

Now the Spanish authorities are finally seeking to redress the injustice. Earlier this month, the government approved a draft bill that would grant dual citizenship to those who can prove themselves to be descendants of expelled Jews — in addition to passing a Spanish culture test. Officials say they expect up to 90,000 applications in the coming years.

The same privilege isn’t being conferred on members of another community that was expelled because of policies aimed at maintaining “clean Christian blood.” More than a century after the Jewish expulsion, the Moriscos — Arabs previously forced to renounce Islam and become baptized — suffered the same fate.

Antonio Pito reports for GlobalPost on the Spanish government’s approval of a draft bill  that would grant dual citizenship to the descendants of expelled Jews but does not offer redress to historically persecuted Muslims. 

U.S. agency urges Myanmar to scrap proposed religion laws.

myanmar

Draft laws in Myanmar aimed at protecting the country’s majority Buddhist identity by regulating religious conversions and marriages between people of different faiths have “no place in the 21st century” and should be withdrawn, a U.S. government agency said on Wednesday.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said the laws risked stoking violence against Muslims and other religious minorities, including Christians. If the laws are passed, it said, Washington “should factor these negative developments into its evolving relationship with Burma (Myanmar).”

The U.S. State Department said it had serious concerns about the pending legislation and had expressed them to the government of Myanmar, which is also known as Burma.

Reuters’ David Brunnstrom reports on the U.S. response to Myanmar’s proposed law against religious conversion.

 

 

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/11/us-myanmar-religion-usa-idUSKBN0EM2NZ20140611

After US sex abuse scandals, an accused priest rises again in Paraguay

Priest Carlos Urrutigoity celebrates Mass. (Courtesy of Vanguardia)CIUDAD DEL ESTE, Paraguay — A hush falls across the church, broken only by the rhythmic swish of the censer as it bestows acrid incense across the faces of the congregation.

A gaggle of monks in brown habits, their heads tonsured in repentant horseshoes, rises and begins to chant. They are joined by seminarians — priests in training — in floor-length, black soutanes, and Latin liturgy pulses over the pews. The words rise to a massive floor-to-ceiling mural that casts dozens of saintly eyes across the room.A noise behind the congregation. A door opening. He is here.

In an exclusive for Global Post Will Carless reports on accused child molestor Carlos Urrutigoity leading Mass in a remote South American church.

Myanmar seeks views on religious conversion bill

In this April 8, 2014 photo, Buddhist devotees carry their sons and nephews to circumambulate the Shwedagon pagoda in hopes of earning a blessing from Buddha ahead of their ordination as Buddhist monks, in Yangon, Myanmar.(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

In this April 8, 2014 photo, Buddhist devotees carry their sons and nephews to circumambulate the Shwedagon pagoda in hopes of earning a blessing from Buddha ahead of their ordination as Buddhist monks, in Yangon, Myanmar.(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

 

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – Myanmar’s government is trying to measure public support for a religious conversion bill put forward by nationalist Buddhist monks that would require anyone who wants to convert to another faith to get permission from local authorities.

If passed, anyone found guilty of proselytizing could face up to a year in prison.

The Associated Press reports on the draft bill proposed by a coalition of monks and lay people known as the Organization for the Protection of Race, Religion and Belief.

It’s a landslide for Hindu nationalism in India’s election

BJP leader Narendra Modi gestures to supporters in Ahmedabad, India on May 16, 2014 as initial vote tallies pointed to a landslide for Modi and his party. (Kevin Frayer/AFP/Getty Images)

BJP leader Narendra Modi gestures to supporters in Ahmedabad, India on May 16, 2014 as initial vote tallies pointed to a landslide for Modi and his party. (Kevin Frayer/AFP/Getty Images)

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by 63-year-old Narendra Modi, will take a commanding majority in India’s parliament, cementing a meteoric rise at the expense of the incumbent Indian National Congress and leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.

As vote tallies from across the country were announced Friday, it quickly became clear the BJP’s performance would surpass even many optimistic predictions, winning the first outright parliamentary majority in 30 years. Modi won his seat in the holy Hindu city of Varanasi and the BJP was projected to win more seats in the state of Uttar Pradesh alone than Congress in the entire country.

World leaders placed congratulatory calls to Modi after Congress conceded what may be its worst-ever defeat, while the financial markets continued to show approval for Modi. In his victory speech from his home state of Gujarat, Modi frequently referred to himself in the third person.

“Today every voter became Narendra Modi,” said the man who proudly displayed his humble origins throughout the campaign, standing before a sea of supporters. He celebrated the fact that his administration will be the first born in post-independence India and called for national unity.

Kevin Grant, senior editor of GlobalPost’s Special Reports, writes about India’s elections as part of  the series,  “The Saffron Election.”

 

Vatican to debate teachings on divorce, birth control, gay unions

Pope Francis meets with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, left, at the Vatican. On the pontiff's orders, the Vatican will convene a meeting of senior clerics this fall to reexamine church teachings that touch the most intimate aspects of people's lives. (Vincenzo Pinto / AFP/Getty Images / April 26, 2014)

Pope Francis meets with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, left, at the Vatican. On the pontiff’s orders, the Vatican will convene a meeting of senior clerics this fall to reexamine church teachings that touch the most intimate aspects of people’s lives. (Vincenzo Pinto / AFP/Getty Images / April 26, 2014)

 

Contraception, cohabitation, divorce, remarriage and same-sex unions: They’re issues that pain and puzzle Roman Catholics who want to be true to both their church and themselves.

Now those issues are about to be put up for debate by their leader, a man who appears determined to push boundaries and effect change.

On Pope Francis‘ orders, the Vatican will convene an urgent meeting of senior clerics this fall to reexamine church teachings that touch the most intimate aspects of people’s lives. Billed as an “extraordinary” assembly of bishops, the gathering could herald a new approach by the church to the sensitive topics.

Los Angeles Times’ Henry Chu reports from Vatican City on the synod taking place this fall.