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

Peacemakers gather under heavy guard to confront Nigeria's Christian-Muslim violence

An Irish activist and scholar who has dedicated much of his life to bringing peace to places like South Africa, the West Bank and Northern Ireland has convened a special meeting in Nigeria.
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Pastor James Wuye (L) and Imam Muhammad Ashafa (R) with conference organizer Padraig OMalley (C) in Kaduna, Nigeria. (Allan Leonard/GlobalPost)

KADUNA, Nigeria — Soldiers with automatic weapons flanked our convoy and armored personnel carriers guarded the entrance as we arrived at the opening of a peace conference here.

This city, which has been a flashpoint in Nigeria’s ongoing violence among Christians and Muslims and a counter-insurgency campaign against Islamic militants, is serving as host of the 4th International Conference of the Forum for Cities in Transition.


For Tanzania’s albinos, superstition leads to violence

People with albinism in rural Tanzania live in fear of attacks by those who believe their body parts will bring them riches.
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Zainab Muhamed's daughters play in their Dar es Salaam home, where the family fled after unfamiliar men attempted to enter their previous home in southern Tanzania. One year ago, a different group of men arrived here demanding to see one of the daughters, presumably with sinister motives relating to her albinism. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — One October night in Tanzania’s southernmost Mtwara region, a group of men with their faces covered pounded on the wooden door to Zainab Muhamed’s home and told her to open up. They would not say what they wanted — but it was obvious.

Muhamed had just given birth to the second of two daughters with albinism — a genetic abnormality resulting in an absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes that makes the bearer appear extremely pale.


Bombing in India may be related to religious, sectarian divisions

In Bihar state, several bombs went off at a rally for the Hindu nationalist party on Sunday. Though a suspect has been arrested, it may take more investigation to get to the bottom of the crime.
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An Indian police deputy superintendent and other bystanders assist an injured man when a series of bombs went off during an opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rally in Patna on October 27, 2013. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

PATNA, India — Bihar state in India is a land of faith and murder, belief and bombs. The most recent went off yesterday at a massive rally here for the BJP, the Hindu nationalist party.

Six people were killed and 83 injured.

The first bomb exploded at Patna's railroad station several hours before the rally, and six others detonated at the edges of the crowd. Another went off downtown.

Today police arrested a suspect. One news agency named him as a Muslim who is believed to be part of Indian Mujahideen, a radical terror group. Early reports say he confessed that he had organized a couple of teams to set off a series of small explosions in the hopes of causing a stampede.


Kenya: One month after Westgate attack, police still abusing Somali Muslims

As the nation grieves, few Kenyans direct their anger toward Somali immigrants. But that hasn’t stopped police from singling them out.
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A 20-year-old Somali refugee demonstrates the gate to her family's apartment that a Nairobi police officer threatened to break open before the family paid him a 2,000 Kenyan shilling ($25 US) bribe to leave. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

NAIROBI, Kenya — In the middle of a crowded downtown street stand two hundred men and women, listening to a religious debate between a Muslim cleric and a Christian priest.

The two take turns shouting into a microphone that amplifies their voices to the curious onlookers: ‘The Bible says...’ the priest begins. The cleric responds, “The Koran says…” and so on.


In Cambodia, monks get political after unpopular elections

A leading monk says rippling discontent about allegedly corrupt elections means "both the monks and the people are waking up now."
Seim Sovanny addresses supporters of the Cambodia National Rescue Party in Freedom Park on October 6, 2013 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Cambodian Opposition party supporters gathered to petition the United Nations to intervene following disputed Cambodian elections in September that lead to days of protests. (Nicolas Axelrod/Getty Images)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — During Pchum Ben, a Cambodian religious holiday that came to a close last week, Venerable Keo Somaly got up before dawn.

By 5 a.m. each day, the 32-year-old monk was dressed in his saffron robe and chanting prayers. Not long after, with the sun still hanging low in the sky, he was ready to talk politics.

Somaly is part of a growing but difficult to quantify network of monks who are publicly showing their discontent with the results of July’s national elections, which many Cambodians see as deeply flawed, as voiced during an opposition party congress attended by thousands here this weekend.

As someone who receives alms and donations, Somaly sees this dissent as his duty, even if the top-ranking monks see it the other way around.


Catholic elites' finery flouts Pope Francis' call for humility

As Pope Francis urges church officials to live more modestly, the chief judge of the Vatican's supreme court dons lavish vestments.
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke ((L) Jornal O Bom Católico/Flickr, (R) Geerlingguy/Wikimedia commons)

In trying to live up to Jesus’s message about solidarity with the poor, Pope Francis has called for a church geared to social justice. This pope wants church officials to live more modestly.

As he told newly-named bishops in Rome on Sept. 19, according to The Tablet, “We pastors must not be men with a ‘princely mindset.’”

But try telling that to Cardinal Raymond Burke, the chief judge of the Vatican’s supreme court.

The fruits of high officialdom come naturally to Cardinal Raymond Burke, an American, as found in photographs that show him in lavish procession with a train of watered silk, wearing fine scarlet gloves and jeweled red hats, suggesting nobility.


British tabloid's hit piece on Miliband dredges up anti-Semitic past

A recent Daily Mail story put Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and his father in the crosshairs with the headline, "The man who hated Britain."
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A general view of a clock on the side of Northcliffe House, where the offices of British newspapers the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday are located, on October 4, 2013 in London, England. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

LONDON — The British public is used to shock, horror and hyperbole in their tabloid newspapers, but even by British standards the headline that appeared in last Saturday's Daily Mail was outrageous: "The man who hated Britain".

The man in question was the late Ralph Miliband, Marxist scholar and the father of opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.

The headline went on to say that ‘Red Ed’ was honoring his father's memory by bringing back socialism.

Actually, this is not true. In fact, Miliband senior, who was a star professor at the London School of Economics, argued constantly with his son about the Labour Party's turn away from socialism.


Atheist Ireland: Oxymoron, or growing movement?

In a country where the Catholic Church and the state are joined at the hip, Ireland would seem barren ground for an atheist movement. But Atheist Ireland is building momentum.
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A man walks past the Papal Cross in Phoenix Park, in Dublin, Ireland. (Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON — Is there a less likely name for a political action group than Atheist Ireland

One of the most Roman Catholic countries on earth, a nation where the Catholic Church and the state are joined at the hip, Ireland would seem barren ground for an atheist movement. Slowly but surely, though, Atheist Ireland is building momentum.

That the first steps are being taken to add atheism to the religious studies curriculum in Irish schools is proof of that. And the fact that no one has been threatened with excommunication over it further demonstrates how much the country is changing.

Atheism Ireland's founder, Michael Nugent, said outsiders shouldn't be surprised about the increasing tolerance for a non-believing viewpoint in Ireland.


Pakistan: As third bomb hits Peshawar, Christians caught in the middle

One week after 84 churchgoers were killed in the northern city of Peshawar, militants struck with two additional bombings on other targets. Pakistani Christians remember how vulnerable they are.
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A Pakistani Christian woman mourn the death of relative, who was killed in suicide bombing, near damage at the All Saints Church in Peshawar on September 24, 2013. A devastating double suicide attack on a church in northwest Pakistan has triggered fears among the country's beleaguered Christian community that they will be targeted in a fresh wave of Islamist violence. (A. Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — There is little sign now of the blood and human remains that were strewn across the courtyard of the All Saints Church when two suicide bombers detonated their vests after Sunday mass last week.


US citizen sentenced to prison in Bahrain after anti-government protest

Unusual prison sentence draws international attention to the tiny Middle Eastern kingdom on the same day that Obama makes controversial remarks about its human rights issues.
Bahraini protesters wave their national flags as they take part in an anti-government protest in the village of Jannusan, west of the capital Manama, on September 27, 2013. Thousands took to the streets in Bahrain to condemn the arrest of ex-MP Marzooq, hours after clashes between protesters and police, officials and witnesses said. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH (MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images)

US citizen Tagi al-Maidan received on Tuesday a 10-year prison sentence in Bahrain for attempted murder charges.

Maidan, who is of Bahraini and Saudi descent, was detained in the tiny Middle Eastern kingdom last October in connection to his involvement in the anti-government protests that have been occurring there almost daily since February of 2011.

His sister, who attended the sentencing and said that US consular officials were present, said, "After the sentence was read, Tagi was calm and he looked down towards the ground. He was in a state of shock."