Faith at Occupy Wall Street: News Roundup

In the news this week: clergy find a role at Occupy Wall Street, a prisoner exchange may facilitate peace between Israel and Palestine, Saudi Arabia plans to build a religious dialogue center in Vienna, and other stories.

A group, calling themselves the "Protest Chaplains," traveled from Boston to join the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, which claims to advocate for "the 99 percent" of Americans against the "1 percent" who control much of the country's wealth.
 
The Protest Chaplains, a loose group of mostly Christian students, seminarians and laypeople organized though Facebook, expressed support for the movement the best they knew how: through their faith.
 
While many of the religious elements of the Occupy movement have been spearheaded by laypeople and students organized through social media, more established clergy are starting to follow the lead of groups like the Protest Chaplains. Huffington Post
 
In a much-anticipated prisoner exchange that could have broad implications, Israel and Hamas on Tuesday announced that an Israeli soldier abducted to Gaza five years ago would be swapped for about 1,000 Palestinians held by Israel and accused of militant activity. The very fact of any agreement between Israel and its archenemy seemed to offer a beguiling prospect of a new dynamic in the region.
 
To date, Hamas has not abandoned its ideology that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. For its part, Israel has never accepted the violent Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007. Though neither side hinted at changes in those basic policies, the prospect of even lukewarm relations developing between Israel and Hamas could open a new window for peace efforts. Time
 
In a statement issued on Friday, the Free Egyptians Party stressed the need for Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to abide by the promise made in May to pass a law criminalizing all forms of discrimination, including religious, and safeguarding rights and freedoms. Ahram Online
 
Saudi Arabia has defended its plan to fund a religious dialogue center in Vienna, saying Judaism and other faiths would be represented and that it would be free from political interference. Critics of the center say Saudi Arabia’s austere version of Sunni Islam means it is an unsuitable country to promote religious debate. Austria and Spain will also fund the Vienna-based “King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.” Reuters
 
A former employee has sued one of the government’s most secretive security agencies, alleging he lost his security clearance because his wife attended an Islamic school and worked for a Muslim charity.
 
Mahmoud Hegab filed the discrimination lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria against the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency at Fort Belvoir. Washington Post
 
A Muslim woman has won her fight against a west suburban school district after being denied unpaid leave to go on a religious pilgrimage to Mecca.
 
The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday announced it settled Safoorah Khan’s religious discrimination lawsuit against the Berkeley School District, forcing the district to pay $75,000 in lost back pay, compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees.
 
The district also will have to develop a policy accommodating religions consistent with the Civil Rights Acts to ensure something similar will not happen again. Chicago Sun-Times