Thousands attend Hindu festival amid Covid-19 surge

Tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims have gathered in the northern Indian city of Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad) for a festival amid a massive surge in Covid-19 infections. Devotees believe that bathing in the river Ganges during the Makar Sankranti festival would cleanse their sins. A similar gathering had contributed to India’s deadly second wave last year. But the authorities in Uttar Pradesh state, where Prayagraj is located, have refused to ban this year’s event. TV footage on Friday showed crowds at the river bank as pilgrims offered prayers with little regard to social distancing. Hindi news channel ABP reported that … Continue reading Thousands attend Hindu festival amid Covid-19 surge

Pope Francis says choosing pets over kids is selfish

Pope Francis has suggested people who choose to have pets over children are acting selfishly. The Pope’s comments came as he was discussing parenthood during a general audience at the Vatican in Rome. “Today … we see a form of selfishness,” he told the audience. “We see that some people do not want to have a child. “Sometimes they have one, and that’s it, but they have dogs and cats that take the place of children. “This may make people laugh, but it is a reality.” The practice “is a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away … Continue reading Pope Francis says choosing pets over kids is selfish

Women-only beach scrapped in Bangladesh after social media outcry

Authorities in Bangladesh have reversed their decision to open a women-only beach after facing accusations they were pandering to hardline Islamists. On Thursday officials had opened a 150m (492ft) section of Cox’s Bazar for women and children, but hours later announced they were scrapping the idea. The decision to segregate the beach was made following requests from some women, officials had said. Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country and remains largely conservative. “(The women) requested a dedicated beach section for themselves, because they felt shy and insecure in a crowded place,” Abu Sufian, a senior official in Cox’s Bazar, told AFP. … Continue reading Women-only beach scrapped in Bangladesh after social media outcry

India blocks foreign funding for Mother Teresa charity

India’s government has refused to renew the foreign-funding licence for a charity founded by Mother Teresa. The Missionaries of Charity has thousands of nuns supervising projects like homes for abandoned children, schools, clinics and hospices. On Christmas Day, India’s home ministry announced it had not renewed the registration due to “adverse inputs”. Hindu hardliners have long accused the charity of using its programmes to convert people to Christianity. The charity has denied these allegations. In a statement on Monday, it confirmed that its renewal application had been denied, and that it would not operate any foreign funding accounts “until the … Continue reading India blocks foreign funding for Mother Teresa charity

Murder In God’s Name: Man beaten to death at Sikh Golden Temple in India

Police in the Indian city of Amritsar say a man suspected of trying to commit a sacrilegious act at Sikhism’s holiest shrine has been beaten to death.  The incident took place during a prayer service at the city’s Golden Temple on Saturday, according to local media. The man allegedly barged into the inner sanctum, where Sikhism’s holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, is kept. He then grabbed a ceremonial sword placed next to the book, but was overpowered by guards and worshippers. Sikhs regard the Guru Granth Sahib as not just the holy scripture of their religion but also as … Continue reading Murder In God’s Name: Man beaten to death at Sikh Golden Temple in India

Murder In God’s Name: Brutal mob killing of Sri Lankan sparks protests

A brutal mob killing of a Sri Lankan man accused of blasphemy in Pakistan has sparked protests in both countries, with Pakistan’s leader condemning the vigilante violence. Priyantha Diyawadanage, 48, a factory manager in the city of Sialkot, was beaten to death on Friday and his body set alight. More than 100 people have been arrested so far, said Pakistan PM Imran Khan. He has described the incident as a “day of shame” for his country. The victim’s family in Sri Lanka have told the BBC they are in despair. His wife, Nilushi Dissanayaka, called on both Pakistan and Sri … Continue reading Murder In God’s Name: Brutal mob killing of Sri Lankan sparks protests

Four killed, hundreds wounded in clash with police as radical Islamists move to march on Pakistan’s capital

Four police officers were killed and hundreds injured after armed members of a hard-line Islamist group clashed with Pakistani security forces on Wednesday near the northeastern city of Lahore during a protest over a French newspaper’s publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.Supporters of Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan celebrate after capturing a police vehicle during their protest march toward Islamabad on Wednesday. The violence occurred during a demonstration led by the outlawed Islamist group Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan outside the capital city of Punjab province, as they prepared to march on the national capital, Islamabad. More than 250 people were injured in the clash, according … Continue reading Four killed, hundreds wounded in clash with police as radical Islamists move to march on Pakistan’s capital

Montenegro clashes as Serb Orthodox Church leader installed

There have been fierce clashes in Montenegro as the Serbian Orthodox church installed a new leader in a ceremony that exposed divisions in the Balkan country. Police used tear gas against protesters who threw rocks and bottles in the city of Cetinje. Montenegro split with Serbia in 2006 but its church remains under the Serbian Orthodox church. Some, including Montenegro’s president, see it as a symbol of Serb influence. President Milo Djukanovic had urged protesters to disrupt the inauguration of Joanikije II to the top clerical position, known as the Metropolitan of Montenegro and Archbishop of Cetinje. On Saturday, hundreds … Continue reading Montenegro clashes as Serb Orthodox Church leader installed

Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah creates stir with remarks on Taliban

Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah has created a stir over comments he made about the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. In a video, Shah admonished “sections of Indian Muslims” against celebrating the group’s victory, saying they were setting a dangerous precedent. He drew a parallel between “Indian Islam” and what is practiced in other parts of the world. His comments irked Muslims in India who accused him of making false binaries. But many supporters of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) praised Mr Shah and said more Muslims should speak up against the Taliban. Speaking in Urdu, the 71-year-old actor … Continue reading Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah creates stir with remarks on Taliban

UK court stops Christie’s sale of stolen 16th century Quran smuggled out of Turkey

A 16th century Quran that authorities say was stolen in a robbery and smuggled out of Turkey has been withdrawn from an auction in London. Police in Turkey raised the alarm after seeing the Quran, which was said to date from the 16th century and was signed by Mustafa Dede, a celebrated calligrapher of the time, for sale in a Christie’s catalogue. Turkish authorities are now seeking its return as a cultural artefact. A judge at London’s High Court dismissed an application by Zaher Al Hajjeh, from Lebanon, for its return and damages. Mr Al Hajjeh claimed he was the … Continue reading UK court stops Christie’s sale of stolen 16th century Quran smuggled out of Turkey

Vatican’s Cardinal Becciu on trial in $412m fraud case

A Roman Catholic cardinal who was once a close ally of Pope Francis is going on trial in the Vatican, accused of misusing Church funds in a ruinous London property venture. Cardinal Angelo Becciu, 73, is the most senior cleric in modern times to face trial for alleged financial crimes. He is charged with spending €350m (£299m; $412m) of church money on a botched deal to buy a property in Chelsea that incurred huge losses. He denies wrongdoing. Nine other defendants are also accused of charges including extortion, embezzlement and abuse of office. Cardinal Becciu was sacked by the Pope … Continue reading Vatican’s Cardinal Becciu on trial in $412m fraud case

Papacy: Pope ‘responds well’ to colon surgery at Rome hospital

Pope Francis has undergone successful surgery to treat a colon problem at a hospital in Rome, the Vatican says. The 84-year-old “responded well” to the treatment, which was performed under general anaesthetic, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said. It is the first time Pope Francis has been admitted to hospital since his election in 2013. Earlier on Sunday, the Argentine pontiff addressed thousands of visitors in St Peter’s Square. In an earlier statement, the Vatican said Pope Francis was being treated at the Gemelli University Hospital for “symptomatic diverticular stenosis” of the colon. Diverticular disease is a condition that involves bulges … Continue reading Papacy: Pope ‘responds well’ to colon surgery at Rome hospital