The political control over religion in Ukraine is rising amid the Easter

Orthodox Church in Montenegro

Known for a controversial political situation the current confrontation of the political and religious institutes in Ukraine are on the agenda today.

Earlier in February, the split in the Ukraine became one of the main topics at the meeting of Primate and representatives of the Local Churches, devoted to the problems of inter-Orthodox unity in Amman, Jordan. The Primate of the Ukrainian Church, Metropolitan Onufry, contrary to the opinion of the “autocephalous” lobby inside the Institute stated that the canonical autocephaly that is the only “right” autocephaly in Ukraine.“Today, some say that a powerful means to avoid the split in tthe Ukraine’s Chhurch is to receive autocephalous status for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. I want to be honest with God and my conscience and I’ll say: I’m sure that the autocephalous status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will only foster the split. Some may return to the fold of the canonical Church, but not all. Autocephaly does not guarantee the absolute unity. And the autocephalous Churches existing in the world have their own splits, ”he said. In fact, Metropolitan Onufry once again demonstrated his support for the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church, an integral part of which is the integral part of the canonical Ukrainian Church.

After the brief in Amman, the Kiev metropolitan went to Montenegro, which is also far from accidental. Back in Amman, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Montenegro, Metropolitan of Montenegro-Primorsky Amphilochius spoke about the parallels between the situations in Montenegro and Ukraine.“There was a time when the people and their sovereigns were Orthodox, baptized. After the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and our revolution in Yugoslavia, as in many other countries, the states became secular. During this time, the Communists created new nations, for us it is the “Macedonian nation”, the “Montenegrin” … Many nations were separated from previously united Orthodox peoples. Probably, the Patriarch of Constantinople simply did not think about this when he began to build Ukrainian autocephaly on modern secular rules rather than ancient Orthodox principles, ”he said.

Every Sunday and Thursday in many cities of Montenegro, mass processions and prayers are held against the law on religious associations and in support of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Montenegrin police do not announce the total number of participants or data by region. According to opposition estimates, about 200 thousand people participated in the last peaceful processions and prayers, with a population of about 630 thousand.

Ukraine on the brink of losing its last values

With the current political regime and the policy that contradicts to the Ukraine’s national identity the country seems to be once again on the brink of a religious war. The conflict that started last year between the Ukraine’s Institute of Church and the national Parliament, The Verkhovna Rada, is getting to the new extreme today.

A number of Ukrainian politicians representing the political party “Svoboda” along with some members of the Rada have requested the Ukraine’s Ministry of culture for religious affairs to change the official name of the Ukrainian Orthodox church for the “Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine” claiming that Moscow had “grabbed” the Ukrainian national shrines. The move is allegedly explained by the growing Russian “aggression” in the Crimea and the Ukrainian region of Donbass.

According to experts from the Ukrainian Analytical Institute for policy management, the claims should be regarded as a typical blackmail policy aiming to undermine Russia’s credibility in Ukraine and among the Ukrainian authorities. Experts also suggest that the real reason behind these claims is to get the control over the Church and 12 million of its members to secure the victory of the ruling party in the upcoming elections. The fact that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church does not fall under the regulation of the Ukrainian Parliament by its Constitution adds even more irony to the overall situation.

However, such policy can lead to much more dramatic outcomes and destruct one of the last national values that still holds the country together – the people’s faith. Known for its deep cultural background defined by its history and religion that find its roots back in the 10th century the dominant part of the Ukrainian population is orthodox Slavic people who accurately keep their traditions and culture. Once they are destroyed the entire country might disappear from the map.

Saudi Arabia to raze Prophet Mohammed’s tomb to build larger mosque


Courtyard of the Prophet Mohammed Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Medina (AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)

The key Islamic heritage site, including Prophet Mohammed’s shrine,is to be bulldozed, as Saudi Arabia plans a $ 6 billion expansion of Medina’s holy Masjid an-Nabawi Mosque. However, Muslims remain silent on the possible destruction.

Work on the Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina, is planned to start as soon as the annual Hajj pilgrimage comes to a close at the end of November.

After the reconstruction, the mosque is expected to become the world’s largest building, with a capacity for 1.6 million people.

And while the need to expand does exist as more pilgrims are flocking to holy sites every year, nothing has been said on how the project will affect the surroundings of the mosque, also historic sites.

Concerns are growing that the expansion of Masjid an-Nabawi will come at the price of three of the world’s oldest mosques nearby, which hold the tombs of Prophet Mohammed and two of his closest companions, Abu Bakr and Umar. The expansion project which will cost 25 billion SAR (more than US $6 billion) reportedly requires razing holy sites, as old as the seventh century.

The Saudis insist that colossal expansion of both Mecca and Medina is essential to make a way for the growing numbers of pilgrims. Both Mecca and Medina host 12 million visiting pilgrims each year and this number is expected to increase to 17 million by 2025.

Authorities and hotel developers are working hard to keep pace, however, the expansions have cost the oldest cities their historical surroundings as sky scrapers, luxury hotels and shopping malls are being erected amongst Islamic heritage.

A room in a hotel or apartment in a historic area may cost up to $ 500 per night. And that’s all in or near Mecca, a place where the Prophet Mohammed insisted all Muslims would be equal.

“They just want to make a lot of money from the super-rich elite pilgrims, but for the poor pilgrims it is getting very expensive and they cannot afford it,” Dr. Irfan Al Alawi of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, told RT.

Jabal Omar complex – a 40 tower ensemble – is being depicted as a new pearl of Mecca. When complete, it will consist of six five star hotels, seven 39 storey residential towers offering 520 restaurants, 4, 360 commercial and retail shops.

But to build this tourist attraction the Saudi authorities destroyed the Ottoman era Ajyad Fortress and the hill it stood on.

The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimated that 95 percent of sacred sites and shrines in the two cities have been destroyed in the past twenty years.
The Prophet’s birthplace was turned into a library and the house of his first wife, Khadijah, was replaced with a public toilet block.

Also the expansion and development might threaten many locals homes, but so far most Muslims have remained silent on the issue.

“Mecca is a holy sanctuary as stated in the Quran it is no ordinary city. The Muslims remain silent against the Saudi Wahhabi destruction because they fear they will not be allowed to visit the Kingdom again,” said Dr. Al Alawi.

The fact that there is no reaction on possible destruction has raised talks about hypocrisy because Muslims are turning a blind eye to that their faith people are going to ruin sacred sites.

“Some of the Sunni channels based in the United Kingdom are influenced by Saudi petro dollars and dare not to speak against the destruction, but yet are one of the first to condemn the movie made by non Muslims,” Dr. Al Alawi said.

rt.com, 31 Oct 2012

Religion’s role in Arab Spring is promoting dignity, official says

Religion’s role in Arab Spring is promoting dignity, official says

By Cindy Wooden

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Religious communities can assist the North African and Middle Eastern pro-democracy movements by upholding human dignity and not trying to claim power for one religion or one movement within a religion, a senior Vatican official said.

Comboni Father Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, represented the Vatican at a conference in Istanbul Sept. 7-8 on “The Arab Awakening and Peace in the New Middle East: Muslim and Christian Perspectives.”

He told participants at the conference, sponsored by Marmara University in Istanbul, that democracy presumes respect for human rights, including the right to freedom of religion and worship.

“In the growing efforts to enable democracy to take hold in the fabric of society in the Arab world, the hope is that it will lead to greater consideration of these basic rights,” Father Ayuso said.

A hopeful sign, he said, was the publication in January of a “bill of rights of basic liberties” by Muslim scholars at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. The document encouraged recognition of the freedoms of worship, opinion, scientific research and art and creative expression in new constitutions throughout the Arab world.

The 2011 Arab Spring movements led to democratic elections in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt where Islam-inspired political parties won the most votes. The risk with democracy, Father Ayuso said, is that it “potentially could be used to legitimate extremist and fundamentalist ideologies,” which would make life difficult not only for the Christian minorities, but also for moderate Muslims.

The role of religion, he said, is to nourish an atmosphere of respect for all men and women created by God and endowed with equal dignity, rights and responsibilities.

Father Ayuso also spoke about the ongoing violence in Syria in his interview with Vatican Radio and at the conference.

The Vatican’s diplomatic efforts in that case are focused on achieving a cease-fire, promoting a negotiated settlement, preserving Syria’s multiethnic and multireligious character and getting the Syrian government to recognize the international community’s legitimate interest in the conflict as a potential source of instability to the entire region, he told Vatican Radio.

He told the conference that Syrian Christians want to live in peace and harmony with their fellow citizens, but they are “naturally fearful that the growing violence, destruction and displacement, the continuing loss of life, endangers not just Christians, but all Syrians, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.”

“The specter of what happened to Christians in Iraq” once Saddam Hussein’s regime fell increases Syrian Christians’ fears, he said.

Concerns over a future of peace for Christians in the region also were reflected in a papal message for the international prayer for peace gathering sponsored by the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sept. 9-11.

Writing in the name of Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, said, “The threat of terrorism continues, many wars bloody the earth, violence against one’s brothers and sisters seems to have no end.”

“Our world truly needs peace,” the cardinal wrote.

“In these days, the thoughts of the Holy Father go particularly to the Middle East, to the dramatic situation in Syria and to the apostolic trip he is preparing to make to Lebanon” Sept. 14-16, the cardinal wrote.

“His hope is that those lands, and all lands needing reconciliation and tranquility, will quickly find peace in coexistence, stability and respect for human rights,” Cardinal Bertone wrote.

END

via CNS STORY: Religion’s role in Arab Spring is promoting dignity, official says.

Daily chart: The Devil’s in the deterrent

Sep 3rd 2012, 13:05 by The Economist online

Crime rates and religious beliefs

GOVERNMENTS labouring to deliver effective crime-prevention policies could do worse than consider divine deterrence. In a paper published this summer in PLoS ONE, Azim Shariff at the University of Oregon and Mijke Rhemtulla at the University of Kansas compared rates of crime with rates of belief in heaven and hell in 67 countries. Citizens of those countries were asked which of heaven and hell they believed in, and each country’s overall “rate of belief” was calculated by subtracting the percentage of hell-believers from that of heaven-believers. The researchers found that the degree to which each country’s citizens believed more strongly in heaven than in hell predicted higher national crime rates. It seems that believing more strongly in the forgiveness of sins than in punishment in the after-life may help pave the way for further transgressions. The researchers also noted that the proportion of people believing in heaven almost always outweighed the proportion believing in hell. So a little more preaching on the fiery furnace might be beneficial in this life, if not also the next.

via Daily chart: The Devil’s in the deterrent | The Economist.