From the “not what you might expect” files, here’s a fact about Catholicism in the early 21st century that flies in the face of conventional wisdom: It’s growing by leaps and bounds in the heart of the Muslim world. Many Americans have heard or read reports about an exodus of Christians out of the Middle East, and in terms of the indigenous Arab Christian population that’s all too real. Christians now make up only 5 percent of the region’s population, down from 20 percent a century ago. In places like Iraq, whole Christian communities are on the brink of extinction. Yet the Arabian Peninsula today is also, improbably, seeing one of the most dramatic Catholic growth rates anywhere in the world. The expansion is being driven not by Arab converts, but by foreign ex-pats whom the region increasingly relies on for manual labor and domestic service.
09 March 2014
Catholicism growing in heart of Muslim World, by John Allen, Jr. (Boston Globe, 8 March 2014)
08 March 2014
This is the modern axis of Buddhist hate, by Jake Scobey-Thal (Foreign Policy, 7 March 2014)
The photo of the two monks above looks innocent enough. One of the men presents the other with a birthday present. It's difficult to make out, but it looks to be some sort of gold figurine on a red velvet base. In fact, the photo would be totally uninteresting if it weren't for the fact that these men are two of the world's most important leaders of a dangerously radical brand of Buddhism. The man on the right is Burma's Ashin Wirathu. Known as the "bin Laden of Buddhism," Wirathu leads the country's 969 movement, which sees the country's Muslim minority as an existential threat to its majority Buddhist population. The man on the left is Sri Lanka's Galagoda Atte Gnanasara, the face of hardline Buddhism in the island nation. Together, these two robed radicals anchor a powerful, violent, and new political force in Asia.
For further Reading:
- "As Fighting Flares in Civil War, Key Buddhist Shuns Nonviolence" (Washington Post, 26 March 2008)
07 March 2014
The 160-Year Christian History Behind What's Happening in Ukraine, by Philip Jenkins (Christianity Today, 5 March 2014).
In recent days, the Crimean peninsula has been at the heart of what some have described as the greatest international crisis of the 21st century. But this is not the first time the region has been so critical to international affairs. Many educated people have at least heard of the great struggle known as the Crimean War (1853-56), although its causes and events remain mysterious to most non-specialists. If the conflict is remembered today, it resonates through the heroic charitable efforts of Florence Nightingale and the foundation of modern nursing. Actually, that earlier war deserves to be far better known as a pivotal moment in European religious affairs. Without knowing that religious element, moreover—without a sense of its Christian background—we will miss major themes in modern global affairs, in the Middle East and beyond.
Related: Far-right party jeopardises Ukraine's path to democracy (The Conversation, 7 March 2014)
Link: The 160-Year Christian History Behind What's Happening in Ukraine
Link: The 160-Year Christian History Behind What's Happening in Ukraine
Japanese Bishops Make Synod Report Public (UCA News, 19 February 2014)
Japan's bishops have led the way in Asia by publishing the findings of their consultation with the nation's Catholics, in preparation for the October Rome Synod on the family. The report is a straightforward account of what being a Catholic in a minority Church context means, where the challenges of a minority status constitute a challenge to the acceptance of views and Church teaching that may be persuasive in cultures where Catholics dominate the population. Many of the views of the wider society about divorce, remarriage, contraception and abortion are taken for granted in Japan and the efforts to share Catholic views are hampered by the lack of resources that a small Church has.
Related article: Japanese bishops: Vatican mindset doesn't fit Asian church (National Catholic Reporter, 19 February 2014)
- Japanese Bishops Make Synod Report Public (UCA News, 19 February 2014)
- Japanese bishops: Vatican mindset doesn't fit Asian church (National Catholic Reporter, 19 February 2014)
The Experience of Worship in late medieval Cathedral and Parish Church is an ongoing research project initiated at Bangor University (2009 to 2013), as part of the UK-wide research programme exploring Religion & Society. This website enables you to explore questions about late medieval religious buildings and the rituals and worship that took place in them.
- What was it like to worship in a late medieval cathedral and parish church?
- If we enact medieval worship now, what can we find out about the total experience of those taking part – as ministers, as singers, as congregation – and about the buildings, artefacts, texts, and rituals that are used?
- And how does this kind of investigation help us better to understand the people and religious culture of the late Middle Ages?
Global Religious Landscape (Pew Research, 18 December 2012)
Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.
The demographic study – based on analysis of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers – finds 2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23%), 1 billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%) around the world as of 2010. In addition, more than 400 million people (6%) practice various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions. An estimated 58 million people – slightly less than 1% of the global population – belong to other religions, including the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism, to mention just a few,
Pope Francis moves beyond Europe with first class of cardinals (Pew Research Center, 21 January 2014)
Pope Francis named his first group of new cardinals, often called “princes of the church,” last week. The 19 men will be formally appointed next month. Media reports have observed that Francis, the first pope from outside Europe in modern times, chose several cardinals from the developing world.
Buddhist Cave Temples Are Jaw-Droppingly Gorgeous (HuffPost Religion, 7 March 2014)
After seeing these stunning Buddhist temples located inside caves, we want to drop everything that we are currently doing and visit them.The isolation of these sites serves to intensify the spiritual connection experienced by visitors. While some places of worship use architectural height to draw attention up to the heavens, these cave temples highlight the value of spiritual treasures that lie within.
06 March 2014
Spain To Grant Jews Citizenship After Expulsion 522 Years Ago, But What About Muslims? By David Kashi (International Business Times, 21 February 2014)
After the Spanish Parliament approved a draft bill that would grant citizenship to Jews whose ancestors were forced to leave during the Inquisition, 522 years ago, the country’s Muslim population is demanding the same rights, as their ancestors were also expelled. “The Spanish state should grant the same rights to all those who were expelled,” Bayi Loubaris, president of the Association for Historical Legacy of al-Andalus, an organization that promotes the heritage of Muslims in Spain, told the Spanish news agency EFE. “Otherwise their decision is selective, if not racist.” Loubaris was responding to a draft bill introduced Feb. 10 that would naturalize descendants of Spanish Jews, who now live all over the world. He and many other prominent Muslims see a double standard. However, Loubaris did say that Spain’s decisions were "very positive" and an acknowledgement of the "guilt of the Spanish state in expelling its own citizens."
A nun's secret ministry brings hope to the transgender community, by Nathan Schneider (Al Jazeera America, 2 March 2014)
Nathan Schneider explores the unresolved challenge of transgender identity for the Catholic Church and one woman's courageous, life-saving response.
The Doctor and the Saint: Ambedkar, Gandhi and the battle against caste, by Arundhati Roy (The Caravan, 1 March 2014)
ANNIHILATION OF CASTE is the nearly eighty-year-old text of a speech that was never delivered. When I first read it I felt as though somebody had walked into a dim room and opened the windows. Reading Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar bridges the gap between what most Indians are schooled to believe in and the reality we experience every day of our lives.