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Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men demonstrating against Women of the Wall in February. Credit Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In 2012 I was arrested for the first time. I was 54 years old — a mother, an executive and a leader of my community. My crime? Praying while wearing a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl, at the Western Wall. My father, an immigrant to Israel of German descent, never got a parking ticket. He would have rolled in his grave if he knew his daughter was being cuffed and fingerprinted by the Israeli police.

In the years since, I have been arrested on four other occasions for the same crime. So have my friends — other members of Women of the Wall, the feminist organization I lead — which for the past 28 years has defied fundamentalist religious decree by wearing prayer shawls and reading the Torah, rituals traditionally restricted to men, at the Western Wall at the beginning of every Jewish month.…  Seguir leyendo »

Más de 50 millones de personas en el mundo son perseguidas por sus creencias, lo que iguala el número de refugiados de toda la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Esta es la principal conclusión de un Informe Internacional sobre libertad religiosa, presentado recientemente (Fundación Ayuda a la Iglesia que Sufre, julio 2016) en la Universidad colombiana de La Sabana. Tras un ligero repunte a la baja -indica el Pew Forum en sus informes de abril de 2017- las restricciones impuestas a la libertad religiosa en muchos países parecen incrementarse.

El cristianismo, la religión con más seguidores del mundo es, paradójicamente, una de las más perseguidas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Monks look at the view following a terrorist attack against a group of Coptic Christians traveling to a monastery in southern Egypt on Friday. Credit Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

“At this rate Copts will be extinct in 100 years. They will die, leave, convert or get killed,” a friend wrote on Facebook as news broke of the latest bloody attack on Egypt’s Coptic Christians. Less than two months ago, while attending church in Cairo on Palm Sunday, my friend told me she’d mused to herself that it was a blessing her daughter wasn’t with her: If there was a bombing, at least her child would survive. Forty-five Copts were murdered that day by the Islamic State in churches in Alexandria and Tanta. Such are the thoughts of Coptic parents in Egypt these days.…  Seguir leyendo »

Relatives mourn during the funeral of victims killed in an attack on Coptic Christians in Minya Province, central Egypt on Friday. They were on a bus en route to a monastery when gunmen opened fire on them, killing at least 20 and injuring dozens. Credit Mohamed Hossam/European Pressphoto Agency

When Pope Francis visited Egypt last month, he called on the leaders of the Muslim world “to unmask the violence that masquerades as purported sanctity.” This was timely: Just a few weeks before, on Palm Sunday, Egypt’s Coptic Christian community had been viciously hit by suicide bombers enlisted by the so-called Islamic State. That bloody episode was just one of many instances of violence and harassment that Middle Eastern Christians have faced recently. The latest came on Friday, when gunmen attacked a convoy of Copts in Upper Egypt, leaving at least 26 people dead.

The wave of persecution is so severe that some fear it may bring about the end of Christianity in the region where it was born two millenniums ago.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of Jakarta’s former governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, gathered to show their support in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia, on Thursday. Credit Made Nagi/European Pressphoto Agency

The reports are greatly exaggerated: Liberal, multicultural democracy in Indonesia isn’t dead yet.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is commonly called “Ahok,” recently lost the gubernatorial election in Jakarta, the capital, after his rivals waged an ugly campaign against his ethnicity and his religion: Indonesia is a majority-Muslim country, and Ahok is ethnic Chinese and Christian. Then this week he was handed an especially harsh prison sentence for a dubious charge of blasphemy.

Ahok’s loss at the polls came as a surprise. Jakarta’s governor since 2014, he was well known and well liked for his administration’s efforts to fix the city’s failing infrastructure, among other things.…  Seguir leyendo »

Egipto fue la cuna de la antigua civilización egipcia, que junto con la mesopotámica fue el origen de la historia de la humanidad. Egipto posee hoy una población cercana a los ochenta millones de habitantes, conformando una sociedad multiétnica, multicultural y multirreligiosa. El grupo étnico más importante es el árabe (88 por ciento), seguido por coptos (10), beréberes, nubios, beduinos y beja (2). La religión predominante es el islam suní (90 por ciento), y los cristianos coptos tomados en conjunto –ortodoxos, católicos y otros (10 por ciento)– son el grupo más numeroso después de los islámicos (cerca de 8.000.000 habitantes).

Los cristianos coptos son fruto de las predicaciones de san Marcos, el apóstol de Jesús, que llegó a Alejandría entre los años 40 y 49 y donde encontró el martirio el 24 de abril del año 68.…  Seguir leyendo »

Vivimos tiempos en que se predica la tolerancia hacia cualquier doctrina porque el relativismo imperante convierte a todas en equivalentes, pero la virtud de la tolerancia consiste en que, conociendo la verdad, se respeta a la persona que vive o sostiene el error, no por el propio error sino por la persona que lo padece. La tolerancia siempre se dirige a las personas, nunca a los conceptos.

A lo largo de la historia las ideas de tolerancia e intolerancia han estado claramente definidas y los actos respondían a ese conocimiento: durante la Edad Media española, los monarcas, acendrados cristianos, fueron los casi únicos defensores del pueblo hebreo, fueron tolerantes con ellos no con su doctrina hasta que en aras de la unidad exigida por el Estado recién nacido, Fernando e Isabel –que se habían apoyado en numerosos personajes conversos– mudaron a intolerantes y decretaron la expulsión de los judíos, y fueron intolerantes con las personas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hundreds of crosses have been removed from churches and buildings across China.

How bad is religious persecution in China?

This is a question I've thought a lot about over the past few years. Since 2010 I've been working on a project documenting a religious revival in China, and seen new churches, temples, and mosques open each year, attracting millions of new worshipers.

But I've also seen how religion is tightly proscribed.

Only five religious groups are allowed to exist in China: Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism. The government controls the appointment of major religious figures, and decides where places of worship can be built. It tries to influence theology and limits contacts overseas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Anti-Christian religious persecution on the rise

Religious differences run deep in our pluralistic world. It may come as no surprise that such disagreements sometimes end up in violence.

Yet that rarely is the case in what might be called Christendom. Indeed, in large part there is little discrimination let alone persecution against spiritual minorities in majority Christian nations. The exceptions tend to be countries that suffered under communism or other authoritarian forms of rule.

In contrast, brutal mistreatment of religious minorities of all faiths is the norm in majority Muslim countries. The degree of harm varies—Christians live better in the small Gulf States than in Saudi Arabia, for instance, where not a single church is allowed to exist.…  Seguir leyendo »

Religious Freedom Problems in Turkey Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

I walked into the Ankara airport on Dec. 20, after a long day of eye-opening meetings, to the news on CNN International — the Russian ambassador to Turkey had just been shot. Our U.S. ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, a career diplomat who expertly navigated our previous 24 hours of intensive meetings, was standing next to me. He calmly pulled out his cellphone and started making calls.

This attack was shocking, but it represents a sad, new normal for Turkey. Days before I arrived, a car bomb exploded near a bus in Kayseri, Turkey, killing 13 soldiers and wounding 55 people.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rohingya from Myanmar at a refugee camp in Teknaf, Bangladesh, in December. Some 65,000 Muslims have since fled to Bangladesh, according to the United Nations. Credit Associated Press

Just days before the November 2015 general election, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was asked how she would remedy the long-running repression of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority, if her party came to power. She replied: “There’s a Burmese saying: You have to make big problems small and small problems disappear.”

Less than a year after the National League for Democracy’s sweeping victory, the big Rohingya problem had only gotten bigger. Violence broke out in the western state of Rakhine, where most Rohingya live, and Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was already being lambasted for seeming indifferent to their hardships, is now accused of silently standing by outright abuses.…  Seguir leyendo »

De nouvelles explosions de violence ont remis sur le devant de la scène la question des Rohingya de Birmanie. La cause paraît entendue : une minorité ethnique musulmane non reconnue par son Etat, contrainte au statut d’apatride, et effroyablement maltraitée – le terme de génocide est de plus en plus souvent agité par les ONG et médias occidentaux aussi bien que dans le monde musulman. Le nouveau pouvoir birman, pourtant animé par le Prix Nobel de la paix Aung San Suu Kyi, accomplirait là par son inaction une véritable trahison de ses idéaux démocratiques.

Que les musulmans de Birmanie subissent depuis des années de graves persécutions ne fait aucun doute.…  Seguir leyendo »

Algunos episodios judiciales recientes nos han permitido ver tanto la capacidad de unos para perdonar las ofensas sufridas como la de otros para pedir perdón por las cometidas. La absolución final de Rita Maestre puede alegrarnos sea cual fuera nuestra opinión sobre la gravedad de los hechos y a pesar de nuestra inmensa preocupación por su significado profundo, que, claramente, va más allá de la conducta de una joven en una circunstancia muy concreta de edad y de ambiente ideológico. La petición de disculpas y la aceptación de las mismas por los más altos representantes de quienes podían sentirse directamente agredidos por aquellos hechos, deberían ser suficientes para todos.…  Seguir leyendo »

An ethnic Rohingya Muslim refugee breaks down during a protest in Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia Photograph: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images

Two sets of high-definition images of Myanmar taken from outer space: both are shot in the morning, both show the same villages populated by Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine state. The first set, collected from 2014, displays a small collection of homes where the virtually stateless minority has settled. The buildings, lying between trees and set back from dirt roads, number more than 100. In the second set of images, taken in the past two months, the homes have vanished, and all that remains is square patches of burnt earth.

Provided by Human Rights Watch, the images reveal 430 buildings that have been destroyed in three different villages, and support the claim from a United Nations official that Myanmar is seeking the “ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya” from its territory.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sajjad and Marwa are in love. It's obvious from the moment you meet them.

Sitting close together on the sofa in my office in Basra, Iraq, Marwa cannot stop talking about how happy she is; Sajjad just gazes adoringly into his new wife's eyes.

Like millions of other couples around the world, they are both enjoying those first few precious months of married life.

For this couple, things could have been very different. After they became friends and started going out together, they realized they had a very big problem. Sajjad is a Shiite Muslim; Marwad is a Sunni.

In this part of the world, this was a relationship that would normally have been doomed to failure.…  Seguir leyendo »

Amnesty describes it as "collective punishment." A senior UN official suggested the goal appears to be "ethnic cleansing." Regardless of how it is described, it is clear the violence unleashed by Myanmar against its minority Rohingya Muslim population has been devastating.

John McKissick, with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said security forces in Myanmar were "killing men, shooting them, slaughtering children, raping women, burning and looting houses, forcing people to cross the river into Bangladesh." He accused the Myanmar military and border guard police of engaging in collective punishment of the Rohingya minority, arguing that they are using the killings of nine border guards in October as an excuse for the current crackdown.…  Seguir leyendo »

November 16, the International Day for Tolerance, is an important time to reflect on the urgent need to promote greater understanding among all people, and bring cultures together.

Divisiveness and polarization are on the rise across the world, and -- if left unchecked -- this trend will undermine global stability and peace. The UAE is pushing against this rising tide by creating a model that can serve as a road map for others to promote greater tolerance and openness.

Unique government policies, innovative partnerships and interfaith dialogues are three of the ways the UAE is leading by example.

Just this month, the UAE hosted a group of religious leaders -- including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Dr.…  Seguir leyendo »

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man swings a chicken over his wife while performing the Jewish ritual called ‘kapparot’ in Jerusalem on Oct. 10. (Atef Safadi / European Pressphoto Agency)

Every year, Jews around the world seek repentance before the holiday of Yom Kippur through an atonement ritual known as kapparot. In exchange for a donation, a rabbi gently waves a chicken over one’s head, reads a blessing, and then the bird is humanely slaughtered according to the precepts of Jewish dietary laws. Animal rights groups have repeatedly tried — and failed — to stop this ancient ritual. They tried again this year, filing a federal lawsuit in California against Chabad of Irvine, and seeking a restraining order just 12 days before Yom Kippur.

With less than 72 hours left to complete the ritual, U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Fragment du Coran calligraphié en coufique, style développé dans la ville de Koufa en Irak. Donation au Vatican en 1946. Photo Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana

Le christianisme a toujours fait partie du tissu même du Moyen-Orient depuis plus de deux mille ans. Loin d’être une importation occidentale comme certains semblent le suggérer, de manière surprenante, il est né ici et a été exporté comme un cadeau pour le reste du monde. Les communautés chrétiennes ont contribué de manière intrinsèque au développement de la culture et de la civilisation arabe.

Eu égard à ce rôle central dans notre région et notre civilisation, il est aberrant, pour nous, musulmans et juifs, de voir le christianisme et les chrétiens subir cette agression sauvage dans notre région. Nous sommes consternés face aux attaques révoltantes contre tout être humain où que ce soit dans le monde.…  Seguir leyendo »

El trágico dilema de los cristianos de Oriente

Con motivo de la llamada «Primavera árabe», causaron sorpresa y cierta incomodidad algunas manifestaciones de la jerarquía eclesiástica y de cristianos relevantes de Oriente, primero mostrando sus reservas ante los cambios que se promovían desde Europa y Estados Unidos, más tarde claramente negativos. En más de una ocasión esas personalidades no han dejado de expresar un indisimulado apoyo a los regímenes autoritarios o claramente tiránicos y corruptos que se veían desafiados por las revueltas. Un ejemplo ciertamente llamativo lo protagonizó el arzobispo de Alepo, monseñor Jean-Clément Jeanbart, cuando en octubre pasado mostró su satisfacción por el apoyo ruso a las tropas gubernamentales sirias, llegando a decir que esa intervención devolvía la esperanza a los cristianos sirios.…  Seguir leyendo »