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The story behind the U.S.’s restrictions on religious freedom: Top 5 news stories

The U.S. Puts ‘Moderate’ Restrictions on Religious FreedomExtremist religion is at root of 21st-century wars, says Tony BlairU.S. to Expand Rules Limiting Use of Profiling by Federal Agents • Hatred of Outsiders Kicks in Between Ages 6 and 8 • German archbishop’s comment on families offends Muslims

 

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:

 

The U.S. Puts ‘Moderate’ Restrictions on Religious Freedom

the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project has said the United States places a “moderate” level of restrictions on religious practice compared to the other countries in the world. According to Pew, the U.S. saw a marked increase in hostility toward religion starting in 2009, and this level remained consistent in the following years.

What does this rating actually say about the state of religious freedom in the United States? At first glance, one might assume this is bad news for religious folks in the land of the free, but that may not actually be the case. Especially in comparison with the rest of the world, the United States still has fairly robust protections for spiritual practice.

 

Extremist religion is at root of 21st-century wars, says Tony Blair

Tony Blair has reignited debate about the west’s response to terrorism with a call on governments to recognise that religious extremism has become the biggest source of conflict around the world.

Referring to wars and violent confrontations from Syria to Nigeria and the Philippines, Blair, writing in the Observer, argues that “there is one thing self-evidently in common: the acts of terrorism are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion. It is a perversion of faith.”

Identifying religious extremism as an ever more dangerous phenomenon, the spread of which is easier in an online age, he says: “The battles of this century are less likely to be the product of extreme political ideology, like those of the 20th century – but they could easily be fought around the questions of cultural or religious difference.”

 

U.S. to Expand Rules Limiting Use of Profiling by Federal Agents

The Justice Department will significantly expand its definition of racial profiling to prohibit federal agents from considering religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation in their investigations, a government official said Wednesday.

The move addresses a decade of criticism from civil rights groups that say federal authorities have in particular singled out Muslims in counterterrorism investigations and Latinos for immigration investigations.

The Bush administration banned profiling in 2003, but with two caveats: It did not apply to national security cases, and it covered only race, not religion, ancestry or other factors.

 

Hatred of Outsiders Kicks in Between Ages 6 and 8

New research from Germany suggests love for people we think of as members of our group precedes hatred for those we perceive as outsiders. This may present a teaching opportunity.

 

German archbishop’s comment on families offends Muslims

A German Catholic leader was forced to apologise Wednesday over comments that sparked indignation among the country’s Muslim community and proponents of a multicultural society.

Cologne Archbishop Joachim Meisner, 80, had praised the high birth rate of many Catholics, telling followers: “I always say, one of your families to me makes up for three Muslim families”.

Bekir Alboga of the Turkish-Islamic Union Ditib said the comments promote “fear and misunderstanding”, telling broadcaster Deutsche Welle that “we need a bridge-builder, not a polariser.”

Fox News? “Faith Swap”? What next?

Did you see Tanenbaum’s op-ed about the Duck Dynasty controversy?

Apparently, Fox News did!

Its entertainment desk called to talk with our CEO, Joyce Dubensky. Take a look at what she said in Is there a ‘Duck Dynasty’ replacement series in the works?

We hope you to read the piece and see how Tanenbaum is imagining a more peaceful world – in new ways.

And if you haven’t seen it, check out Joyce’s op-ed on A&E’s response to the controversy.

8 worst countries for religious freedom: Top 5 news stories

8 worst countries for religious freedomUK anti-Muslim hate crime soars, police figures showBill de Blasio, New York’s new ‘spiritual but not religious’ mayorMuslims Blacklisted For U.S. Citizenship Under Secret Government Program, Says ACLU • Reported Christian ‘martyr’ deaths double in 2013: report

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:

8 worst countries for religious freedom

At its core, freedom of religion or belief requires freedom of expression. Both fundamental rights are protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, yet nearly half of all countries penalize blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion. In 13 countries, atheists can be put to death for their lack of belief.

The U.S. State Department names and shames eight “Countries of Particular Concern” that severely violate religious freedom rights within their borders. These countries not only suppress religious expression, they systematically torture and detain people who cross political and social red lines around faith. The worst of the worst are:

UK anti-Muslim hate crime soars, police figures show

Hate crimes against Muslims have soared in the UK this year, figures show. Hundreds of anti-Muslim offences were carried out across the country in 2013, with Britain’s biggest force, the Metropolitan police, recording 500 Islamophobic crimes.

Many forces reported a surge in the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes after the murder of soldier Lee Rigby by two Islamic extremists in Woolwich, south-east London, in May.

But the figures could be much higher as nearly half of the 43 forces in England and Wales did not reveal how many hate crimes had targeted Muslims.

Bill de Blasio, New York’s new ‘spiritual but not religious’ mayor

From its historic black churches to large Jewish enclaves to landmark Catholic and Protestant churches, New York City is the ultimate religious melting pot. And now, overseeing it all is a new mayor whose only religious identity seems to be “spiritual but not religious.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio is now perhaps the nation’s most visible “none,” an icon of one of the nation’s fastest-growing religious groups — those without any formal religious identification.

Muslims Blacklisted For U.S. Citizenship Under Secret Government Program, Says ACLU

A government program to screen immigrants for national security concerns has blacklisted some Muslims and put their U.S. citizenship applications on hold for years, civil liberties advocates said Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said in a report that the previously undisclosed program instructs federal immigration officers to find ways to deny applications that have been deemed a national security concern. For example, they flag discrepancies in a petition or claim they didn’t receive sufficient information from the immigrant.

Reported Christian ‘martyr’ deaths double in 2013: report

Reported cases of Christians killed for their faith around the world doubled in 2013 from the year before, with Syria accounting for more than the whole global total in 2012, according to an annual survey.

Open Doors, a non-denominational group supporting persecuted Christians worldwide, said on Wednesday it had documented 2,123 “martyr” killings, compared with 1,201 in 2012. There were 1,213 such deaths in Syria alone last year, it said.

“This is a very minimal count based on what has been reported in the media and we can confirm,” said Frans Veerman, head of research for Open Doors. Estimates by other Christian groups put the annual figure as high as 8,000.

Problems with religious rights and opportunity at UN: Top 5 news stories

United Nations too Christian, claims reportReport: 8 countries on UN Human Rights Council restrict religious freedomConcern Over an Increasingly Seen Gesture Grows in FranceNazi graffiti on Stockholm mosqueThicker brain sections tied to spirituality: study

Last week’s top news stories, from our perspective:

 

United Nations too Christian, claims report

Christianity dominates the United Nations and more diversity is needed to increase non-Christian representation in world peacemaking, according to a study.

Research undertaken by Prof Jeremy Carrette, with colleagues from the University of Kent’s department of religious studies, has revealed that more than 70% of religious non-government organisations (NGOs) at the UN are Christian, and that there is historical privilege in allowing the Vatican a special observer status, as both a state and a religion.

The report, called Religious NGOs and the United Nations, calls for greater awareness, transparency and equality in the way religious NGOs operate within the UN, and more emphasis on religious tolerance.

 

Report: 8 countries on UN Human Rights Council restrict religious freedom

Eight of the 47 countries that hold seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council imprisoned people in 2013 under laws that restrict religious freedom, according to a new report from Human Rights Without Frontiers International, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Belgium.

The eight UNHRC member states on the group’s second annual World Freedom of Religion or Belief Prisoners List, released Monday (Dec. 30), are Morocco, China and Saudi Arabia (whose new three-year terms begin Wednesday) and current members India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Libya and South Korea.

Hundreds of believers and atheists were imprisoned in these and 16 other countries for exercising religious freedom or freedom of expression rights related to religious issues, according to the report. These rights include the freedom to change religions, share beliefs, object to military service on conscientious grounds, worship, assemble and associate freely. Violations related to religious defamation and blasphemy are also included in the report.

 

Concern Over an Increasingly Seen Gesture Grows in France

No one seems to know just what is meant by the “quenelle,” the vaguely menacing hand gesture invented and popularized by a French comedian widely criticized as anti-Semitic, but it is clearly nothing very nice, and it appears to be spreading.

Fans of the performer, Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, send him photos of themselves performing the gesture in front of historic monuments, next to unwitting public officials, at weddings, under water and in high school class photographs, but also, increasingly, beside synagogues, Holocaust memorials and street signs displaying the word “Jew.” At least one young man appears to have posed for a quenelle outside the grade school in Toulouse where, in 2012, four Jews were killed by a self-proclaimed operative of Al Qaeda.

 

Nazi graffiti on Stockholm mosque

Swedish police have opened a hate-crime investigation after swastikas were spray-painted on the entrance of a mosque in downtown Stockholm.

Omar Mustafa, the head of Sweden’s Islamic federation, says employees discovered the vandalism as they arrived to open the mosque Thursday morning. He posted pictures of the graffiti on Twitter.

Mustafa said the mosque is targeted by hate mail or vandalism about twice a month, but this is the first time the entrance was defaced with swastikas since the mosque was built in 2000.

 

Thicker brain sections tied to spirituality: study

For people at high risk of depression because of a family history, spirituality may offer some protection for the brain, a new study hints.

Parts of the brain’s outer layer, the cortex, were thicker in high-risk study participants who said religion or spirituality was “important” to them versus those who cared less about religion.

“Our beliefs and our moods are reflected in our brain and with new imaging techniques we can begin to see this,” Myrna Weissman told Reuters Health. “The brain is an extraordinary organ. It not only controls, but is controlled by our moods.”

Different perspectives on “The War on Christmas”: Top 5 News Stories

Why The Religious Right Is Losing ‘The War On Christmas’

The annual “war on Christmas” took an unexpected twist this holiday season, when the UK-based website the Freethinker published the ironic headline “First known casualty in America’s 2013 ‘War on Xmas’ turns out to be a Salvation Army member”. The Gospel According to Fox News preaches a tale of Christian persecution running rampant through America. While others around the world face imprisonment or even execution for their religious beliefs, Christians in the states suffer the indignity of facing a holiday season sans baby Jesus Christ’s omnipresence in the public square.

Why atheists should quit the ‘War on Christmas’

The “War on Christmas:”  what — or who—is it good for? In a recent Fox News appearance, American Atheists President Dave Silverman said, “The point that we’re trying to make is that there’s a whole bunch of people out there for whom religion is the worst part of Christmas, but they go to church anyways, and we’re here to tell them they don’t have to.”

Bradford synagogue saved by city’s Muslims

It was around this time last year that the trustees of Bradford’s final remaining synagogue faced a tough choice. The roof of the Grade II-listed Moorish building was leaking; there was serious damage to the eastern wall, where the ark held the Torah scrolls; and there was no way the modest subscriptions paid annually by the temple’s 45 members could cover the cost. But rather than close, Bradford Reform Synagogue’s future is brighter than ever after the intervention of Bradford’s Muslim community, which according to the 2011 census outnumbers the city’s Jews by 129,041 to 299.

Archbishop and Imam Are United Across Battle Lines in Central African Republic

BANGUI, Central African Republic — When the killing began, Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga did what many would have expected of him: He opened his church to hundreds of Christian families fleeing the Muslim militias hunting them. But he also provided refuge to an unusual friend and partner: the most senior Muslim cleric here, Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, who was under threat himself from vengeful Christians.

The Words of our Mouths

Town of Greece v. Galloway, the case before the Supreme Court, is not about personal prayer, which requires no court sanction and violates no legal rules. As the saying goes, as long as teachers hand out tests, there will be prayer in school. The issue is organized public prayer: a leader’s call to prayer in a secular setting. Such prayers follow a tradition dating back to the same Continental Congress that wrote about religious non-establishment, so the question of constitutionality is complex. But the separate question of sensitivity is more straight-forward: given today’s pluralistic society, how specific or “sectarian” can a public prayer be before it is simply inappropriate?

Syrian regime systematically making people ‘disappear’: Top 5 News Stories

Syrian regime systematically making people ‘disappear,’ UN panel charges

GENEVA—A UN panel reported Thursday it believes the Syrian government is committing a crime against humanity by making people systematically vanish, and that rebels have also recently begun making their opponents disappear.

The expert panel said it found “a consistent country-wide pattern” of Syrian security, armed forces and pro-government militia seizing people in mass arrests or house searches and at checkpoints and hospitals, then making them disappear — and denying that they even exist. Most of the victims have been young men.

New York Archdiocese Wins Ruling on Contraception

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York was granted a federal injunction on Monday that blocks an Obama administration requirement to provide contraceptive care to employees at its nonprofit affiliates.

The ruling found that the regulation violated the religious freedom of the four nonprofit groups — two high schools and two health care systems — that are affiliated with the archdiocese but employ people of any faith. Under the Affordable Care Act, the nonprofit groups were required to provide the contraceptive coverage, authorize a third party to voluntarily pay for and provide the coverage, or pay steep fines.

The ruling, by Brian M. Cogan of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, found that forcing the groups to authorize a third party to provide contraceptive care still violated their religious beliefs even if they were not financially support contraception. Churches are already exempt from the mandate to provide contraceptive care.

The Panic Over Whether Religion Is “Even Legal”

There’s a new ripple of panic this week about religious freedom. In the National Review, Kathryn Jean Lopez, reacting to the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, asks: “Is religion even legal?” Lopez worries that the lawsuit, which seeks to hold the USCCB liable for providing substandard medical care at Catholic hospitals owing to directives prohibiting abortion services, is “essentially against the concept of Catholic health care.”

In season of giving, atheist groups’ charity rebuffed

As the holiday season peaks, atheist and humanist groups around the country have seen their charitable impulses rebuffed by both Christian and secular organizations. Recent incidents of “thanks, but no thanks,” include:

  • A group of Kansas City, Mo., nonbelievers was told their help was not needed after they volunteered to help a local Christian group distribute Thanksgiving meals.
  • A $3,000 donation to a Morton Grove, Ill., park, collected by a local atheist group, was returned. Park officials said they did not wish to “become embroiled in a First Amendment dispute.”
  • A group of Spartanburg, S.C., atheists  was denied the opportunity to help at a Christian-run soup kitchen. The soup kitchen’s executive director told local press she would resign before accepting the atheists’ help and asked, “Why are they targeting us?”

For devout Muslim cabbies in New York City, parking tickets are the price of prayers

Roughly half of the city’s 40,000-odd cabbies are Muslims who hail from countries all over the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere — and a great number of the drivers are observant, praying five times a day.

When you spend your days driving a taxicab, it’s impossible to say where, at any given moment, you might wind up. Followers of Islam can perform their five daily prayers in any relatively clean space, even bowed down on the side of the road. But the process isn’t so simple. You first need to ritually wash with water and then to prostrate yourself facing east, toward Mecca.

I found Kamal praying alone at the BP gas station on the corner of Houston and Lafayette streets. He’d taken a prayer mat from the cardboard box kept there for drivers, laid it down in front of the pumps and was kneeling in the cold.

Atheists face death: Top 5 news stories

Atheists face death in 13 countries, global discrimination: study • Romanian state TV airs Christmas carol about burning Jews, celebrating Holocaust • Insisting Jesus Was White Is Bad History and Bad Theology • Rick Warren’s bogus Jewish deli analogy • Health Matters: Medicine’s Growing Spirituality

Last week’s top news stories, from our perspective:
Atheists face death in 13 countries, global discrimination: study

In 13 countries around the world, all of them Muslim, people who openly espouse atheism or reject the official state religion of Islam face execution under the law, according to a detailed study issued on Tuesday.

And beyond the Islamic nations, even some of the West’s apparently most democratic governments at best discriminate against citizens who have no belief in a god and at worst can jail them for offences dubbed blasphemy, it said.

The study, The Freethought Report 2013, was issued by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), a global body uniting atheists, agnostics and other religious skeptics, to mark United Nations’ Human Rights Day on Tuesday.

(Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)
Romanian state TV airs Christmas carol about burning Jews, celebrating Holocaust

A Romanian public broadcaster distanced itself from a Christmas carol celebrating the Holocaust that aired on the new channel. TVR3 Verde, a television channel for rural communities, presented the carol on December 5 during its maiden transmission.

Sung by the Dor Transilvan ensemble, it featured the lyrics: “The kikes, damn kikes, Holy God would not leave the kike alive, neither in heaven nor on earth, only in the chimney as smoke, this is what the kike is good for, to make kike smoke through the chimney on the street.”

In a statement Tuesday, TVR3 said it did not select the carol but only broadcast songs that were chosen and compiled by the Center for Preservation and Promotion of Traditional Culture, which belongs to the eastern county of Cluj.
Insisting Jesus Was White Is Bad History and Bad Theology

Fox News television host Megyn Kelly told viewers on her December 11 broadcast that Jesus and Santa are both white men.

“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change,” Kelly said. “Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?”

Setting aside the ridiculousness of creating rigidly racial depictions of a fictitious character that does not actually exist—sorry, kids—like Santa, Kelly has made a more serious error about Jesus. The scholarly consensus is actually that Jesus was, like most first-century Jews, probably a dark-skinned man. If he were taking the red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York today, Jesus might be profiled for additional security screening by TSA.
Rick Warren’s bogus Jewish deli analogy

Speaking on Huffpost Live a couple of days ago, Rick Warren compared Obamacare’s contraception mandate to a law requiring Jewish deli owners to sell pork, saying that if the latter took place, “I would be out there with the rabbis protesting that. Why? I don’t have a problem with pork, but I believe in your right to not have to sell pork if it’s not in your faith.”

Let it be noted that Warren plagiarized…well, appropriated…this analogy from Archbishop William Lori, who, testifying before Congress in his capacity as chairman of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty in February of last year, delivered himself of The Parable of the Kosher Deli. As I tried to make clear, the analogy didn’t work then, and it hasn’t improved with age. If I may be permitted to cannibalize myself…
Health Matters: Medicine’s Growing Spirituality

In a health crisis, patients and families may turn to a member of the hospital staff who offers help beyond the physical aspects of medical treatment: the chaplain.

With growing recognition of the role of spirituality in health care, hospital chaplains are being called on to help patients cope with fear and pain, make difficult end-of-life decisions and guide families through bereavement after a loss. They may help sick or dying patients reconnect with estranged family members. New guidelines call for chaplains to be included on teams of doctors and nurses who provide palliative care—which specializes in relieving the pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness. And chaplains often step in to help clinicians deal with their own feelings of stress and burnout.

Remembering Nelson Mandela: Top 5 news stories

Shaped by Methodists, Mandela paid tribute to the role of religion • Moscow mayor: No more mosques in my city • Ohio Amish Girl, Family Flee to Avoid Forced Chemo • Woman sues over Catholic hospitals’ abortion rule • The number one target for religious lobbyists isn’t what you think
Last week’s top news, from our perspective:
Shaped by Methodists, Mandela paid tribute to the role of religion

Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who died Thursday (Dec. 5), had a deep connection with religious institutions.

Mandela was educated, first at Clarkebury and then at Healdtown, Methodist boarding schools that provided a Christian liberal arts education.

(Photo: South Africa The Good News / www.sagoodnews.co.za, via Wikimedia Commons)
Moscow mayor: No more mosques in my city

In an interview with the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda on Wednesday, Mr. Sobyanin said that Moscow has about two million foreign residents, the vast bulk of them migrant workers from former Soviet Central Asia who are mainly Muslim. The city’s economy “could not manage without them,” he admitted.

But he insisted that the vast throngs of Muslims who fill Moscow streets and wait, often for many hours, to enter the city’s few existing mosques are mostly people who come from outside the city limits and therefore have no right to be catered to.
Ohio Amish Girl, Family Flee to Avoid Forced Chemo

A 10-year-old Amish girl with leukemia and her parents have fled their home in Ohio, leaving the country at one point, so that she won’t be forced into resuming chemotherapy treatments, the family’s attorney said Wednesday.

The family has been fighting a hospital in court for months after the parents decided to halt the treatments because they were making the girl sick.
Woman sues over Catholic hospitals’ abortion rule

A Michigan woman is taking on the nation’s Catholic hospitals in federal court, alleging they are forcing pregnant women in crisis into having painful miscarriages rather than terminate the pregnancy — and not giving them any options.

The Muskegon woman, who developed an infection and miscarried 18 weeks into her pregnancy, sued the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Monday, alleging the group’s anti-abortion directive denies proper medical care to women like herself.
The number one target for religious lobbyists isn’t what you think

Which bill in Congress affects the deficit, abortion funding, gay rights, religious liberty, peace, nuclear arms, Israel, and even homeschooling?  The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

We reviewed the lobbying activity of over 300 religious interest groups.  Of the over 500 bills that these interest groups lobbied on over the past two years, the annual defense spending bills were, by far, the biggest target of their advocacy.

Are for-profit businesses religious entities? Top 5 news stories

Supreme Court takes up contraceptive mandate • Church of England approves female bishops plan • Could Spreading European Anti-Semitism Drive Jews From Homelands? • Soy Sex Story: Atrocious ‘Reporting’ on Insular Religious Groups • Hate Crime Incidents Were Down Slightly Last Year

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:
Supreme Court takes up contraceptive mandate

The Supreme Court announced on Tuesday (Nov. 26) that it will decide whether for-profit businesses can be treated like religious entities in a politically and constitutionally freighted test of the Obama administration’s mandate that employers include free contraception coverage as part of their health plans.

The cases, which will probably be argued in March and decided in June, will not deal with a string of other lawsuits over the mandate that have been filed by nonprofit faith-based groups. Those complaints are still working their way through the lower courts.

(Photo: Johnny Armstead/Demotix/Corbis)

Church of England approves female bishops plan

The Church of England is on course to give its final approval to female bishops next year after its General Synod voted in favour of new proposals to bring women into the episcopate, raising hopes of an end to the damaging and frequently bitter 20-year standoff between modernisers and traditionalists.

On the third and final day of its meeting in London, the synod voted in favour of the new plans by an overwhelming majority of 378 to eight, with 25 abstentions.

Could Spreading European Anti-Semitism Drive Jews From Homelands?

Conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, known as the FRA, “Discrimination and hate crime against Jews in E.U. Member States: experiences and perceptions of anti-Semitism” surveyed 5,847 individuals 16 years old and over who considered themselves Jewish, residing in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The headline figures were frightening enough. Across Europe, 66% of Jewish people see anti-Semitism as a problem in their respective countries today — as high as 90% in Hungary and 85% in France. The perception, moreover, is that over the past five years, the level of anti-Semitism has increased, with 76% of respondents saying it had gone up a lot or a little.

Soy Sex Story: Atrocious ‘Reporting’ on Insular Religious Groups

Multiple news outlets, including the Independent and Slate, recently linked to a story, originally posted in English on YourJewishNews.com, claiming that a Hasidic group banned soy products because they ‘lead to homosexual sex.’

The problem with this outlandish story was that it was completely unverified; none of the outlets actually interviewed or did any on-the-ground investigation. Ultimately the story was retracted, but the damage was already done.

Misreporting on insular religious societies like the Amish or Hasidic Jews may be due to a number of issues, from the difficulty of contacting individuals for interviews to the fact that insular communities are less likely to challenge a story.

Hate Crime Incidents Were Down Slightly Last Year

The FBI is reporting that hate crime incidents were slightly down last year.

Numbers released by the FBI Monday showed there were 5,796 such incidents in 2012, compared to 6,222 in 2011.

All but six of the incidents were motivated by a single bias. Of those, just under half were motivated by racial bias; about one in five were motivated by sexual orientation bias; just below one in five were motivated by religious bias; and just over one in 10 were motivated by ethnicity/national origin bias. Bias against people with disabilities accounted for 1.6 percent of the incidents.

Religion in the Philippines: Top 5 news stories

Philippines typhoon aftermath: Religion as solaceReligious conflict rips through Central African Republic • Casting Light on Little-Known Story of Albania Rescuing Jews From Nazis • Myanmar rejects U.N. resolution on Rohingya Muslims • Frescoes Some Say Show Early Women Priests

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:
Philippines typhoon aftermath: Religion as solace

The day after the typhoon, Father Edwin Bacaltos stepped out of the compound of the Church of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in central Tacloban and began his work.

The scene was one of unspeakable horror. Dead bodies were strewn all over the place. The debris of shattered buildings and their contents filled the street.
Religious conflict rips through Central African Republic

A cycle of violence in the Central African Republic is quickly degenerating into a religious conflict between Christians and Muslims, amid a deteriorating humanitarian crisis, church leaders and U.N. officials warn.

The armed conflict has produced 400,000 internally displaced persons and 64,000 refugees. International groups say people are in urgent need of relief aid.
Casting Light on Little-Known Story of Albania Rescuing Jews From Nazis

There were a handful of European nations where the Nazi killing machine sputtered, but few seem more remarkable and less illuminated than Albania.

With ordinary Albanians moving Jews from hide-out to hide-out to elude capture, Albania saved virtually all of its 200 native Jews and 400 Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria. The country also helped spirit hundreds more over from Nazi-occupied Balkan lands.

“Albania was one of the only European countries that had more Jews at the end of the war than at the beginning of the war,” said Michael Berenbaum, former project director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Myanmar rejects U.N. resolution on Rohingya Muslims

Myanmar rejected on Thursday a U.N. resolution urging it to grant citizenship to the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority group, and accused the United Nations of impinging on its sovereignty.

The U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee resolution, which passed on Tuesday, also called on Buddhist-majority Myanmar to curb an increase in violence against Muslims since military rule ended in March 2011.

“Citizenship will not be granted to those who are not entitled to it under this law no matter whoever applies pressure on us,” government spokesman Ye Htut said in a statement. “It is our sovereign right.”
Frescoes Some Say Show Early Women Priests

The Vatican on Tuesday unveiled newly restored frescoes in the Catacombs of Priscilla, known for housing the earliest known image of the Madonna with Child — and frescoes said by some to show women priests in the early Christian church.