International Religious News Updates (1st Week of July, 2018)

 In Buddhism, Christianity, Islam

International Religious News Updates (1st Week of July, 2018)


Malaysia : Zakir Naik will not be Deported, says Malayasia PM

Controversial Muslim preacher Zakir Naik will not be deported as he has been granted a permanent resident status here. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad told a media conference on Friday that Zakir shall remain in Malaysia for now.

Several groups previously urged the government to deport Zakir following his alleged tendecies to make racial and religiously insensitive statements. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad told a media conference today that Zakir shall remain in the country, for now.”As long as he is not creating any problem, we will not deport him (and at the same time) because he has been given a permanent resident status,” Dr Mahathir said.

On matters relating to Malaysia’s policy on sheltering refugees, Dr Mahathir said the country would continue to play its humanitarian role. Dr Mahathir said the same should be emulated by European countries. “We have always been hospitable to refugees coming into our country despite the fact their numbers are very, very big. We have accepted them.For humanitarian reasons, we think that the European countries must exercise the belief that they have, that they must be sympathetic towards refugees and allow them to come in.I understand that some countries have too many, and they would like to share (the humanitarian responsibility) with other countries…that is something they should do. But I understand some countries are closing their borders completely to the refugees. That is not humane.”

The reports say India had asked for Naik to be sent back for allegedly inciting youth to engage in terror activities via his hate speeches. Naik, 52, has described the media reports as “totally baseless and false”, adding that he has no plans to return to India until he felt “safe from unfair prosecution”.

In 2010 Naik was reportedly barred from entering Britain after the Home Secretary cited “numerous comments” which showed his “unacceptable behaviour”. In a July 2008 TV broadcast Naik suggested that Al-Qaeda was not responsible for flying hijacked airliners into New York’s World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, killing almost 3,000 people.

South Korea : UNESCO declares seven Monasteries to World Heritage List

Recently UNESCO announced in a press release that seven Buddhist mountain monasteries in South Korea were added to the World Heritage List. The monasteries that were declared are Seonamsa, Daeheungsa, Beopjusa, Magoksa, Tongdosa, Buseoksa, and Bongjeongsa, which belong to the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

The Korea Joongang Daily reported that Jong Min, a monk in the Jogye Order, said he was “pleased at the news, especially at the fact that all seven [temples] have been inscribed together.”

UNESCO said in its release that each temple has a cultural and religious significance to the region. The monasteries “contain a large number of individually remarkable structures, objects, documents, and shrines.”

Each temple consists of an open courtyard (“madang”) flanked by four buildings (main hall, pavilion, lecture hall, and dormitory) — a spatial arrangement specific to Korea. The most important building, the main hall, is located on the highest level of the sloped courtyard.

Buddhism was introduced to Korea in the fourth century where it was established as the national religion of three ancient kingdoms for more than a thousand years. Monasteries were often built in hilly regions due to the traditional reverence for mountains. Buddhism started to dwindle after Confucianism led to a religious crackdown in the 14th century. Many urban temples closed, leaving only those in remote hills.

UNESCO says all seven monasteries are living centers of Buddhist faith and daily practice.

Ireland : Senior members of Presbyterian Church hurt over recent decision by Church

Around 232 Senior members of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland have expressed profound hurt over recent decisions taken by the church, including barring those in same-sex relationships as full members.

They wrote a letter expressing their dismay and anger in the wake of the controversial move by the church. The church’s decision will also deny baptism to the children of gay couples. The church has further loosened its ties with its Scottish counterpart due to its more liberal attitude to same-sex marriage. This level of feeling is unprecedented in our pastoral experience.

Those who signed a letter in response said: “We are committed to doing all we can to ensure that the decisions which have prompted such a level of concern will be subject to the urgent attention they deserve, and for which many in the church are calling. We gladly acknowledge that we ourselves have been constantly enriched and challenged by the diversity of views found in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Therefore, as we participate in this work of critical engagement and discernment, we hold that any unnecessary narrowing of the range of acceptable theological perspectives within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will damage our credibility and limit our future. We make this statement: as a prayerful expression of appropriate loyalty to the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at this moment in our history; as a necessary consequence of our ordination vows, which we take with the utmost seriousness; and by the grace of God, as an imperfect yet credible witness to our trust in Jesus Christ alone.”

It comes after former Stormont Speaker Lord Alderdice quit the church last month over concerns at the decisions, resigning as both an elder and a member. The former Alliance Party leader said he had been concerned by the “trajectory” the Presbyterian Church had been on for quite some time.

Vatican : The Cardinal who propagated cordial relationships with Islam dies at 75

French cardinal and former Vatican foreign minister Jean-Louis Tauran, who helped improve ties between the Roman Catholic Church and the Muslim world, has died aged 75, the Vatican said on Friday.

Tauran served as the Vatican’s foreign minister from 1991 to 2003 and in 2007 he was put in charge of the office that oversaw the Church’s relations with other faiths, including Islam. Tauran was the man who announced to the world from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square that Francis had been elected pope on March 13, 2013.

Cardinal had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for many years and died in the United States on Thursday. Despite his illness, he remained head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue to the end. In April he met Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in Riyadh on the first visit to the kingdom by such a senior Catholic authority.

Tauran was well respected in the Muslim world, having helped heal the wounds opened among by Pope Benedict’s notorious Regensburg speech in September 2006, which appeared to link Islam and violence. Benedict quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor as saying Islam had only brought evil to the world and that it was spread by the sword, contrary to God’s nature.

As foreign minister, Tauran was one of the leaders of the Vatican’s opposition to the 2003 war in Iraq and irritated Washington more than once, denouncing the U.S.-led invasion as “a crime against peace”.


Bon dance is the most essential part of the Obon festival

USA : Orange County gears up for annual Obon Festival

More than 1,000 people are expected to gather July 14-15 for the Orange County Buddhist Church’s annual Obon festival, a traditional Japanese celebration that honors ancestors through music and dance.

The festival, which will take place at the OCBC in Anaheim, features games, taiko drum performances, tours of the newly-renovated hondo, or main hall of the temple, and homemade Japanese dishes, including sushi, udon, wontons and teriyaki plates.

The highlight of the event will be evening time dancing called bon odori. “We’re dancing in celebration of the Buddha’s teachings, but also we are remembering our loved ones,” said the Rev. Marvin Harada, resident minister at OCBC. “There are some traditional dances, and people invent new ones, sometimes with contemporary music.”

The Obon festival is also about bringing family and the community together. According to the committee members it is a multi-generational event. Many of the participants have been attending the festival as children and now with their children, our children wear the same kimonos we wore to dance. So it’s passing on the tradition, mused one of the participant.

“Depending on where you are in your life, the festival has a different meaning to you.” OCBC has been holding Obon festivals since it was founded more than 50 years ago. What began as a celebration for church members has grown into an event for the entire Orange County community, even those who aren’t Buddhist or Japanese, said Tanioka.

Jon Turner, a minister at OCBC, estimates that up to one-quarter of attendees aren’t Japanese, so the festival has also become a way to do outreach in the community. And for some, like Turner the festival is an entry point to a longer relationship with the church -, without any knowledge of Buddhism “You look for something to do on the weekend, and you say, ‘Oh wow, there’s this thing at the Japanese temple, let’s go check that out,’” he said — and two years later, Turner started reading about the religion and attending services with his family and became a minister in 2012.

“You get a sense of warmth and calmness and peace that I think is the Buddhist way,” Turner said of the festival. “It’s Buddhism being lived out in everyday people’s lives.”

Must Read : South India Religious News Updates (1st Week of July)

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