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Reporting and analysis of the religious forces that drive and influence global news. 

India needs zero discrimination in schools to lift up marginalized children

Commentary: Teacher training and tough discipline can help overcome bias against poor pupils.
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An Indian school child looks at a display exhibited at a science fair at a government primary school in Hyderabad on March 24, 2014. The science exhibition has been organized for the first time at primary school-level to encourage the development of talent and activities. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI — India’s six-week-long election, in which about 537 million out of 814 million eligible voters went to the polls, is finally over with the election of a new government led by Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

While the hopes of all voters are for a future of opportunity and progress, the politicians all too often campaigned along retrograde lines, perpetuating divides on the basis of caste, religion, or ethnicity. Overcoming those enduring obstacles to social development is particularly important for the millions of children from poor and marginalized communities—Muslims, tribal groups, and Dalits—who are being denied a basic education.

India produces well-trained professionals who excel in the world economy; so much so that in the United States, there is a growing concern that the US education system is unable to keep up with India and China. Yet, India’s public education system, especially at the elementary levels, is excluding children because of bias.

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Rise of Hungary's right-wing Jobbik party bodes poorly for Jews and Roma

Part One: Exploring Jobbik's appeal as far-right parties across Europe head strongly into this week's EU Parliamentary elections.
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A participant holds a picture with the text "No vote for hatred" as Hungarian and foreign anti-fascist activists march at the Freedom Bridge of Budapest on April 3, 2014 during their peace march to demonstrate against the far-right policy in Hungary. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor's note: As Europeans go to the polls to elect a parliament, the most identifiable trend is the remorseless rise of xenophobic political parties. But they are not the crude neo-Nazi operations of yore. Their origins may be based in anti-Semitic feelings that never completely died out after World War Two, but now the messaging is more sophisticated. Michael Goldfarb reports from Hungary in this two-part series.

BUDAPEST, Hungary — What does anti-Semitism look like, feel like and sound like in modern Europe today?

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Hungary's Jobbik: part Occupy Wall Street, part Tea Party, part KKK

Part Two: Using a selective version of history and appealing to 'gut feelings' is proving effective for Jobbik, one of several far-right parties surging in Europe.
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The commander-in-chief of the New Hungarian Guard, Istvan Meszaros, nominated as candidate for nationalist Jobbik party for the Hungarian National Assembly, answers a journalist's question during an interview in Baja, southern Hungary on March 24, 2014. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor's note: As Europeans go to the polls to elect a parliament, the most identifiable trend is the remorseless rise of xenophobic political parties. But they are not the crude neo-Nazi operations of yore. Their origins may be based in anti-Semitic feelings that never completely died out after World War Two, but now the messaging has become more sophisticated. Michael Goldfarb reports from Hungary in this two-part series.

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Nigeria's kidnapped generation

As the world appeals to Boko Haram for the release of more than 270 schoolgirls, millions of young Nigerians are growing up without a future.
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Women hold banners during a march of Nigeria women and mothers of the kidnapped girls of Chibok, calling for their freedom, in Abuja on April 30, 2014. Nigerian protesters marched on parliament today to demand the government and military do more to rescue scores of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. (Philip Ojisua/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor's note: This story is part of a GroundTruth project we call "Generation TBD," a year-long effort that brings together media, technology, education and humanitarian partners for an authoritative, global exploration of the youth unemployment crisis.

ABUJA, Nigeria – The world’s media has turned its gaze to Nigeria with the kidnapping of more than 270 girls from a boarding school last month.

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Ritual animal slaughter becoming a more contested issue in Europe

Commentary: Ancient tradition of ritual slaughtering is increasingly a target for legislative action.
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Animal rights activists lay down in cardboard boxes - covered in fake blood, wrapped in plastic, and with bar code labels - as they take part in a protest action against meat overconsumption, against cruelty to animals in livestock raising and for the closure of slaughterhouses, on April 24, 2014, in Toulouse, southwestern France. The protest by a handful of French animal rights activists was called by the 'Mouvement pour la cause animal' activist group. (REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — In February and March, 2,500 Hasidic Jews from Eastern Europe, North America and Israel undertook a yearly pilgrimage to the small town of Lezajsk in southeastern Poland for the 228th anniversary of the death of one of the movement’s founders, Tsadik Elimelech Weisblum, who is buried in a tiny Jewish cemetery.

As they do every year, the pilgrims arrived on tour buses, rented rooms in private residences, prayed and drank kosher vodka from the town’s supermarket. But this year, the carnivores among them were out of luck. Long a major exporter of kosher meat, Poland followed other European countries in January to ban ritual slaughter.

The conflict over shechitah and dhabihah practices, as they are called in Hebrew and Arabic, center on one aspect of the process.

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Two years after Paris' first LGBT-friendly mosque opened, attitudes are mixed

A gay rights activist says the new mosque and the legalization of gay marriage have sparked a willingness within France’s Muslim community to engage in dialogue.
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People celebrate and deploy a rainbow banner on April 23, 2013 on Capitole square in Toulouse, south western France after the French national assembly adopted a bill legalising same-sex marriages and adoption for gay couples. (Eric Cabanis/AFP/Getty Images)

PARIS — When Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed announced his intentions to launch the first gay-friendly mosque in Paris, it was difficult for him to imagine what lay ahead.

The mosque’s launch in November 2012 was a monumental step in raising awareness and providing a place of worship for Muslims who are also part of the LGBT community. At the time, the news stirred a media frenzy, as well as considerable controversy within the Muslim community.

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Exit polls say Narendra Modi will be India's next prime minister

Five weeks of voting brought record-setting turnout, with Modi poised to win a mandate from voters.
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A banner applauding Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at a busy intersection in Mumbai on May 13, 2014. (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)

As five weeks of voting concluded Monday, exit polls indicated Hindu nationalist phenomenon Narendra Modi will become India's next prime minister behind the highest voter turnout in the country's history.

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Four decades later, War Crimes Tribunal seeks justice for Bangladesh genocide

Commentary: The world should decide on which side of history they would rather stand — with a people and their quest for justice or with those who would, with impunity, escape the consequences of the crimes that they perpetrated.
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Shadows of Bangladeshi police officials are seen as they stand guard at the International Crimes Tribunal court premises in Dhaka on January 21, 2013. Bangladesh's controversial war crimes court sentenced to death a top Islamic televangelists for genocide and other atrocities during the country's 1971 liberation struggle against Pakistan, a prosecutor said. (MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

HOUSTON, Texas — Himmler. Heydrich. Hoess.

The very mention of these reviled names conjures up indelible images associated with the deliberate and coordinated murder of millions of innocent civilians by National-Socialist Germany during the Second World War.

The Polish jurist Raphael Lemkin used the term “genocide” to describe what had transpired in the German concentration camps — an organized and planned destruction of Jews, the Romani, the disabled, homosexuals and other groups targeted by Adolf Hitler and his regime.

After the end of that conflict and within a few years of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, civilized nations vowed never again to allow perpetrators of such horrors to escape justice with impunity by adopting a Genocide Convention through the United Nations Organization.

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This is not the Nigeria I know

Commentary: On this Mother's Day, my mind remains on the 276 girls who were ferociously kidnapped from their boarding school in Nigeria.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

NEW YORK — On this Mother’s Day, the 276 girls ferociously abducted from their boarding school in Nigeria are heavy on my mind.

The question has gripped me: what would it be like if someone at this exact moment stormed in, kidnapped me, burned down my house and threatened to sell me into slavery? This for the so-called crime of being a female who is working or reading or using a computer.

It’s not lost on me, it could have been me. I attended an all-girls boarding high school my sophomore year in Northern Nigeria, not far from Chibok where the girls were taken. I know those girls figuratively. They probably look a lot like the mixed ethnicities of my classmates from all over the country. When I went to school we fully expected to make it home that evening, which is exactly my experience today when I put my daughter on the bus every morning to a New York City suburban elementary school.

What’s happened in Nigeria is outrageously incomprehensible. Simply shocking. Even for someone like me who spent years as a journalist covering monstrosities all over the world.

I try to stop myself from imagining the horrors they have experienced. I have no idea what has or has not happened. But I do know it is catastrophic for them, their families, their mothers and the nation. I alternate among terror for their safety, sheer rage it happened, and tremendous sadness. And on this Mother’s Day, which is celebrated Sunday in the United States and in many other countries around the world, I think we all need to stop for a moment and reflect on this atrocity and join in a global expression of outrage and a commitment to justice that is coming together through the Twitter feed #BringBackOurGirls.

This is not the Nigeria I know.

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Obama must be pro-active on Syrian civil war before it merges with Iraq’s Sunni-Shia violence

Commentary: Working with Putin is a key to solving Syria and slowing radicalization of Mid East.
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Iraqi demonstrators, some victims of violent attacks, and other family members who lost loved ones, gather in Baghdad's Firdos Square, on April 8, 2014, asking for the government to recognize their rights and to compensate for their loss. The latest violence in Iraq is part of a protracted surge in nationwide bloodshed that has left more than 2,400 people dead since the start of the year and sparked fears Iraq is slipping back into the all-out sectarian conflict that plagued it in 2006-07. (SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images)

OWL’S HEAD, Maine — President Obama's key foreign policy focus these days is the Ukraine, where military confrontation between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian activists increases daily. Whether the next step will involve undisguised Russian troops moving across Ukraine's eastern border or further devolution into civil war, the only certainty is that the crisis will worsen.

US and Russia on opposite sides of a civil war in a European country of nearly 50 million people? Russian troops marching into a sovereign nation in the center of Europe? Nightmares no one could have imagined in the early 1990s when more than four decades of a nuclear-rattling Cold War suddenly evaporated. Or even just a few months back when Russian President Putin rightly reveled in the Sochi glow.

The Ukraine is not the most dangerous place in today's messy world. Nor is it the place where Obama most needs to be pro-active.

That place is Syria, which Obama or someone must move to control before it drags its far bigger neighbor Iraq into the maelstrom. Dexter Filkins, a correspondent for The New Yorker, with long experience in the Middle East, just returned from a month in Iraq, where, he writes, "the sectarian violence has returned, with terrifying intensity."

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