Syrian War Affecting Sunni-Shiite Relations: News Roundup

In the news this week: the Syrian war is growing more sectarian – and the conflict is springing up in more countries, plus other news stories.

The Syrian civil war is increasingly drawing in nations across the Middle East, a regionwide conflict that threatens to pit world powers against each other and Muslim against Muslim.

In a war that is now clearly pitting the two main branches of the Islam — Sunni and Shiite Muslims — against one another, the dithering and differences between world powers is bringing about a desperate situation, according to experts.

“The longer this conflict goes on the more chances it has of spilling over,” said Vali Nasr, dean of John Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.  Washington Post

Security forces on Wednesday struggled to bring peace to a northern city in Myanmar after Buddhist mobs set fire to a mosque, a Muslim school and shops, the latest outbreak of religious violence in Myanmar and a sign that radical strains of Buddhism may be spreading to a wider area of the country.

The violence afflicting the city, Lashio, in the north near the border with China, is hundreds of miles from towns and villages affected by religious violence this year.

One Muslim man was killed and four Buddhists were wounded in the clashes, said U Wai Lin, an official with the Information Ministry in Lashio.  New York Times

He has criticized the “cult of money” and greed he sees driving the world financial system, reflecting his affinity for liberation theology. He has left Vatican officials struggling to keep up with his off-the-cuff remarks and impromptu forays into the crowds of tens of thousands that fill St. Peter’s Square during his audiences. He has delighted souvenir vendors near the Vatican by increasing tourist traffic.

Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, has been in office for only two months, but already he has changed the tone of the papacy, lifting morale and bringing a new sense of enthusiasm to the Roman Catholic Church and to the Vatican itself, Vatican officials and the faithful say.

“It’s very positive. There’s a change of air, a sense of energy,” said one Vatican official, speaking with traditional anonymity. “Some people would use the term honeymoon, but there’s no indication that it will let up.”  New York Times

More than three in four of Americans say religion is losing its influence in the United States, according to a new survey, the highest such percentage in more than 40 years. A nearly identical percentage says that trend bodes ill for the country.

"It may be happening, but Americans don't like it," Frank Newport, Gallup's editor in chief, said of religion's waning influence. "It is clear that a lot of Americans don't think this is a good state of affairs."

According to the Gallup survey released Wednesday, 77% of Americans say religion is losing its influence. Since 1957, when the question was first asked, Americans' perception of religion's power has never been lower.  CNN