Afghanistan's Taliban is back, vowing war against aid workers
The Taliban, the Muslim extremists who once controlled Afghanistan until ejected by U.S.-led military forces, is still killing people in the country.

Mullah Abdul Samad today said the Taliban was responsible for attacking a vehicle with aid workers from the Voluntary Association for Rehabilitation of Afghanistan. Aid worker Abdul Waheed and his driver, both Afghans, were killed in the attack. A third passenger was unhurt.

"We take responsibility for all the attacks on NGOs (non-governmental organizations) … who are spoiling the Islamic faith of the Afghan people. They are preaching Christianity and distributing books on Christianity among the people," Samad told Reuters. "All those working in Afghanistan for the interests of America and the Crusaders deserve to be killed."

Weblog doesn't know much about VARA, but it doesn't seem to be religious at all, and it proclaims itself "nonsectarian."

Last year, notes the Associated Press, " three of the agency's employees were abducted in Nimroz and have not been heard from since."

"We have temporarily stopped work on all our projects in the southern region and workers in the field have been asked to return to the offices," said VARA's Mohammed Ismail.

Amina Lawal, whose case rallied the world against Shari'ah law, is free
The Nigerian woman who was sentenced to death by stoning under Islamic law was acquitted by a Shari'ah Appeal Court yesterday, bringing cheers around the world.

"Amina Lawal's case should not have been brought to a court of law in the first instance," Amnesty International said in a press release. "Nobody should ever be made to go through a similar ordeal."

The case brought to the attention of the world the horror of Shari'ah law as human rights organizations and governments pleaded for her freedom. The court, faced with dueling political necessities of freeing her and supporting the Islamic law, found itself twisting in knots. By four-to-one, the court said that pregnancy was not enough evidence of adultery, though she has been separated from her husband for two years and admitted to sex outside of marriage.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom welcomed the verdict, but noted "the overturning of yesterday's decision for technical reasons does not address larger concerns about the criminal application of Islamic law in northern Nigeria and its interference with the religious freedom of Muslims and non-Muslims alike."

In fact, those cries of victory are a bit muted today: As Lawal's verdict was made public, so was news that three other Nigerians face execution under Shari'ah law: two for sodomy, and another for child molestation.

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What do you call the leader of one of the world's largest Christian bodies?
Speaking of Nigeria, it's worth noting that Peter Akinola, head of the Church of Nigeria, the largest Anglican body in the world, is the new head of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa. There's much that can be said about Akinola, but some, such as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, summarize him in this headline: "Africa's Anglican council elects anti-gay head."

Bono and Steve Taylor, together at last
There are many interesting stories on combating AIDS below, but Christian music fans shouldn't miss this story from The Tennessean, where U2's Bono, Sixpence None the Richer's Matt Slocum, and musician/producer Steve Taylor met up with Sen. Bill Frist on U.S. funding on anti-AIDS efforts.

More on AIDS:

More articles

Politics and law:

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  • Wall between church & state is lawyers' con | With some exceptions, the legal theorists at the elite law schools of the country who support the "wall of separation" and their journalistic supporters are agnostics or atheists. Like any religious group, they want to establish their own religion, and they have done so (Andrew W. Greeley, New York Daily News)

  • Reagan and Thatcher: 'linked by the Lord' | The extraordinary friendship between President Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher - seen by outsiders as an historic alliance of political soulmates - was viewed by Mr Reagan as evidence of divine intervention, according to letters he wrote to her (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Churches attack 'beast' Mugabe | Christian churches in Zimbabwe have demanded the repeal of oppressive media and security laws as nine reporters for the country's only independent daily were charged with violating the laws (Associated Press)

  • Also: Clergy vow campaign against Mugabe's rule (SAPA, South Africa)

  • Tas priest says Parliament prayers outdated | A Tasmanian priest says he supports moves to do away with the Lord's Prayer in State Parliament (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

  • Should church be allowed to use hallucinogenic tea? | Religious leaders respond (Los Angeles Times)

Religion in the workplace:

Religion on the playground:

School vouchers:

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Religious symbols:

Staines verdict analysis:

  • Law, order, and religious conversions | The impact of the Staines judgement (Subhash Agrawal, The Financial Express, India)

  • Hindu extremism in powerful hands | The BJP is only one member of a congerie of Hindu nationalist groups known as the sangh pariwar, whose goal is "Hindutva": a Hindu rather than a secular India (Nick Hordern, Financial Review, Australia)

Church life:

  • Praying and playing—together | Some churches are making their facilities work overtime, combining the Biblical with the practical (St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

  • Unholy row as church turns the other cheek | Calcot neighbours are furious that a spate of vandalism on a local church could go unpunished after officials at a church—the latest target for attack—say they don't want the culprits to be prosecuted (Reading Chronicle, U.K.)

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  • Featured attraction: sermon in Cineplex I | Increasingly, churches nationwide are choosing multiplex cinemas as their worship homes - seeing the comfortable theaters as well located, easily accessible, and attractive to people who might not otherwise attend church (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • New church adds a charismatic flare | Type of Christian worship isn't widespread in county (Deerfield Review, Ill.)


  • Disconnected youth | The connectedness deficit is the difference between what the biological makeup of human beings demands and what many children's social situations supply in the way of connections to other people and to institutions that satisfy the natural need for moral and spiritual meaning (George F. Will, The Washington Post)

  • Groups with Christian message ready to rock Civic Center Sunday | The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association will pull from 200 area churches Sunday to put on its biggest Asheville event since the 1975 crusade (The Asheville Citizen-Times, N.C.)

  • Teen ministries: A time of testing | Several evangelical youth ministries in Wichita were hit hard by the slumping economy but are working to regroup (The Wichita Eagle)

  • Keeping the faith | Churches in Australia are struggling to remain relevant to young people (The Advertiser, Adelaide, Australia)

  • Diocese focuses on youth's needs | Nearly 4,000 teenagers attend a special Mass today at Cal State San Bernardino (The Press-Enterprise, inland California)

  • School policy allows formation of 'pagan' club | Senior tried unsuccessfully to launch club two years ago (Azle News, Tex.)

Missions and ministry:

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  • Teen mag aims to be Christian style Bible | Despite the hip fashion-magazine format, with images of stylish, smiling young women, quizzes and celebrity birthdays, Revolve delivers a conservative message to its young Christian audience (Scotland on Sunday)

  • The testament of youth | In the US, the Bible has just been relaunched as a teen magazine for girls (The Guardian, London)

  • Church rewrites Bible in feminist language | The term disciple is to be changed to "disciples and disciplesses" and forms of address such as Lord or Our Father are to be omitted (Ananova)

Life ethics:

Gay marriage and related issues:

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  • Gay marriages are still far from approval by Albany | The state of New York, known nationally as a relatively liberal place, is not yet ready to lead the way on civil marriages for gays and lesbians, despite this week's decision by the Democratic State Committee to support such a measure, lawmakers and aides said (The New York Times)

  • Foes of partner law file suit | A state senator and others contend that the expansion of rights for gay couples 'subverts' a 2000 initiative on marriage (Los Angeles Times)

  • Marriage and the GOP platform | Marriage, as of one man and one woman, has been the bedrock of civilization from the beginning of recorded history. We should not allow intolerance by the few to pre-empt the settled moral judgment of civilization (Editorial, The Washington Times)

  • Why marriage is not a civil right to be redefined | It is a profound theological, psychological, sociological and biological reality with a twofold purpose: lifelong relationship and procreation (Mark E. Powell, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.)

  • Gay marriage and the Ten Commandments | If marriage is treated as a civil institution by government, rather than a religious sacrament, then gay and lesbian couples should have the same legal rights and benefits as heterosexual couples (Jim Maynard, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.)

More on sex, marriage, and family:

  • Gay priest rebellion in church | A new Uniting Church alliance that claims to represent up to 80 per cent of members was formed yesterday to reverse gay ordination and restore "biblical principles" (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Church slams Chile divorce plans | The Roman Catholic archbishop Francisco Errazuriz said divorce would threaten the family and undermine the sanctity of marriage (BBC)

Anglican tensions:

  • Episcopalians voice outrage on gay bishop | Episcopal Diocese of Virginia called the meeting to give parishioners a chance to tell Diocesan Bishop Peter J. Lee and Assistant Bishops Francis Gray and David Jones what they thought of the election of Canon V. Gene Robinson, a homosexual, as the new bishop of New Hampshire (The Washington Times)

  • Forum airs tensions over gay bishop | Many criticize va. Episcopal leader for voting to confirm N.H. colleague (The Washington Post)

  • Evangelicals side with church rebels | Support sent to Americans resisting blessing of gays (The Guardian, London)

  • Evangelicals 'must learn from gays' | Leading evangelical academics said homosexual sex was outlawed by the Bible, and they rejected liberal arguments that the Scriptures could be reinterpreted in a modern context. But they emphasized the need to welcome homosexual couples in their churches (The Daily Telegraph, London)

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Eastern Orthodox:

  • Russian Patriarch Alexy II visits Estonia | His first since a bitter dispute over the status of the faithful in the former Soviet republic threatened to split Orthodox Christians worldwide (Associated Press)

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  • Temple transformation | Some so-called synagogue change initiatives borrow from evangelical Protestant megachurches, which aspire to win over "spiritual seekers." (The Denver Post)

  • 'Storahtelling' enlivens worship | New approach welcomed as Jewish new year begins (The Washington Post)

  • OSU study on family wealth riles Jewish leaders | Critics worry study fosters anti-Semitic stereotypes (Associated Press)

  • Earlier: US study: Jews richer because of religion | The average net worth of American Jews is three times that of the general population and that of conservative Protestants is half of the average, according to a new national study by Ohio State University on religious affiliation and wealth (The Jerusalem Post)

Muslim military chaplains:

  • Military probes hiring of clerics | Policy includes the requirements for individual applicants for the chaplaincy and the requirements for the religious organizations that certify religious ministry professionals for the chaplaincy (The Washington Times)

  • Muslims in the military | The arrest of two Muslim-American servicemen based at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, raises some complex questions about the conflicting loyalties of Muslim-American soldiers in the war against radical Islamic terror (Editorial, The Washington Times)


  • After strange gods | Avishai Margalit reviews Norman Podhoretz's The Prophets: Who They Were, What They Are (New York Review of Books)

  • The transforming power of faith | Blair Worden reviews Reformation: Europe's House Divided by Diarmaid MacCulloch (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Religion in the News: Alan Wolfe's culture anti-war | Wolfe says most Americans are amiable souls in matters of religion, too, and that the powerful American culture sands down the rough edges of how believers behave, regardless of what official creeds might command (Associated Press)


  • 'Joan' asks: What if God was one of us? | CBS' Joan of Arcadia isn't the year's most promising new drama just because it has the most intriguing premise: God visits a high school girl, his wonders to perform (USA Today)

  • Residents back KOCE sale to group keeping PBS link | About 75% support such a sale at a below-market price to keep it out of televangelists' hands, a Cal State Fullerton survey shows (Los Angeles Times)

  • Residents want KOCE as it is | More than 80% of Orange County residents favor keeping KOCE-TV as a PBS affiliate, committed to airing local programs, rather than selling it to a religious broadcaster for a higher price (The Los Angeles Times)

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The Passion:

Interfaith efforts:



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  • Catholic Church pays Dade youth | The Miami Archdiocese's first settlement of a clergy abuse case since the U.S. scandal began comes with no confidentiality pact (The Miami Herald)

  • Miami Archdiocese pays first settlement (Associated Press)

  • N.H. Catholics demand ouster of 2 bishops | Victims of pedophile priests and groups seeking change within the church rallied outside Bishop John McCormack's parish church for two hours before and during a morning Mass (Associated Press)

  • Irish victims of clergy abuse seek others in Hub | Four years ago, the Irish government offered an apology, and a blank check, to thousands of people who suffered abuse in those institutions. But victim advocates accuse the government of doing nothing to alert those who left Ireland after abuse that they are entitled to settlement money (The Boston Globe)

  • Openness vowed on clergy abuse policy | Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley has pledged that any future changes to the Archdiocese of Boston's child protection policies will be put through a thorough, open process designed to head off accusations that the church is slipping back into excessive secrecy in handling accusations of clergy abuse, a spokesman said (The Boston Globe)

  • Anglicans at odds on sex protocol | Australia's Anglican bishops are at odds over a national sexual abuse protocol, with the bishops of Melbourne and Bendigo preferring to keep their present system (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • The last bastion of trust must never be violated | As if priests were not already under enough scrutiny, their right to security in the confessional is now under attack (James Murray, The Australian)

More articles of interest:

  • Derek Prince dies at age 88 (

  • American researchers launch study of religion in public life | Backed by a $3.3 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, scholars from Rice and Notre Dame will embark on a long-term study of religious beliefs and behaviors among various ethnic groups (Voice of America)

  • Stressed motorists seek divine inspiration | Nearly three in four drivers admitted to saying the odd prayer while behind the wheel and 22% said they prayed on a regular basis (Ananova)

  • Ancient Roman church discovered in Burdur | A villager from Yusufca applied to the district governor of Golhisar after stumbling across painted frescos and he delivered these frescos to the district governor (Turkish Daily News)

  • Divining nature's plan | A generation after his pioneering work in the Burgess Shale, Conway Morris is convinced that far from being a random, directionless process, evolution shows deep patterns, and perhaps even a purpose (U.S. News & World Report)

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  • Dolphins punter Royals keeps faith, may lose job | Mark Royals credits his Christian faith with helping him enjoy a 15-year NFL career, but the Dolphins' punter now wonders whether his recent on-field difficulties are a sign to begin preparing for life after football (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  • Religion news in brief | Beyond What Would Jesus Drive, Georgian president promises reforms, and other stories (Associated Press)

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