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Religion Today

Aleksandr Pakhay

VATICAN CITY (AP) — African Cardinal Peter Turkson says the Islamic militants who kidnapped almost 300 girls in Nigeria won’t be affected by people expressing their dismay with slogans like “Bring Back Our Girls.”

Rallies and tweets are taking place all over the world calling for the safe return of the school girls.

But in an interview at the Vatican, Turkson said Boko Haram is “a pretty tough group” that won’t be “influenced readily by public outcry and a public call for a release of our girls, or ‘send our girls home’ and all of that.”

The Ghanaian cardinal said he finds it “very distressing” that Nigeria’s government has failed to provide basic protection and security for its people.

NIGERIA-EXPLOSION

Car bomb in north Nigerian city of Kano kills 5

KANO, Nigeria (AP) — Police in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim city of Kano say a car bomb exploded in its Christian neighborhood, killing five people, hours before another massive car bomb was discovered.

Kano’s Christian quarter is a popular area where people dine, play games, dance and drink alcohol late into the night — all anathema to the Islamic extremists blamed for previous attacks in the neighborhood.

Previous explosions have been blamed on the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram that claimed responsibility for two explosions last month in Abuja, the capital, that killed more than 120 people and wounded more than 200.

World attention turned on the group with its mass abduction a month ago of 276 schoolgirls whom it is threatening to sell into slavery if the government does not release detained militants. Officials say Nigeria will not swap the girls for detainees.

NYC TERROR

London cleric guilty in NYC terrorism trial

NEW YORK (AP) — An Egyptian Islamic preacher brought to the United States on charges that he supported terrorism around the world from his perch at a London mosque has been found guilty.

Jurors in federal court in New York City returned their verdict Monday in the case against Mustafa Kamel Mustafa.

The verdict came only weeks after another preacher who served as al-Qaida’s spokesman immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks was convicted.

Prosecutors cited speeches and taped interviews to show that Mustafa conspired to aid terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida. Prosecutors say he aided kidnappers of 16 tourists in Yemen in 1998 and tried to build an al-Qaida training camp in Oregon in 1999.

Mustafa insisted during testimony that he never supported terrorists.

SUDAN-NEW HAMPSHIRE

NH senators trying to help man from Sudan

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire’s senators are trying to help a U.S. citizen from Sudan who is trying to save his wife from a death sentence there.

Daniel Wani was born in Sudan and has ties to New Hampshire. His wife, Meriam Ibrahim, who is eight months pregnant, has been sentenced to death in Sudan, accused of marrying outside of the Muslim faith.

Ibrahim’s father was Muslim, but her mother was Christian. Her father left when she was young, and she grew up as a Christian. Wani also is Christian.

She and the couple’s 2-year-old son have been in jail since September.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte has written to Secretary of State John Kerry, asking for Ibrahim to be granted political asylum. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said the death sentence is an abhorrent violation of fundamental freedoms.

CONGRESS-PRAYER

Guest chaplain opens House with prayer to his “savior”

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two weeks after the Supreme Court upheld sectarian prayers before government meetings, a guest military chaplain has pushed the envelope slightly in a prayer before the U.S. House of Representatives.

In a chamber accustomed to non-sectarian invocations by the House chaplain, Father Patrick Conroy, a Baptist chaplain, Lt. Cmdr. Tavis Long, prayed “in the name of the one who can truly set us free, my savior.”

Long is a U.S. Navy chaplain who graduated from Pensacola Christian College in Florida.

In Monday’s House invocation, he prayed that members of Congress would be “ever mindful that in that last day, we must all give an account.”

 

BRAT FEST-RELIGION

Madison’s Brat Fest to have religious flavor

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The annual Brat (braht) Fest in Madison, Wisconsin, will have a religious flavor this Memorial Day weekend as organizers are planning to add a fifth stage to provide Christian music and lectures.

The idea came from a co-owner of the grocery chain that sponsors the event. Tim Metcalfe told the Wisconsin State Journal that he was inspired last year after he attended Lifest, a large Christian music festival in Oshkosh.

Metcalfe said Christian music has a huge following so it’ll be there for people who want it, while those who aren’t fans will have alternatives such as rock. Featured Christian artists will include Building 429, Scott Stapp and Seventh Day Slumber.

Brat Fest, which spans four days from Friday through Memorial Day, donates proceeds to the nonprofit organizations whose members volunteer to staff the booths. Now in its 32nd year, the event has raised more than $1.3 million for local charities.

BILLBOARD MUSIC AWARDS

Christian artists win Billboard Music Awards

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Chris Tomlin has been named the top Christian artist at the Billboard Music awards ceremony in Las Vegas.

The award for top Christian album went to “Precious Memories: Volume II,” by Alan Jackson.

The Billboard Music awards’ top Christian song was “Hello, My Name is,” by Matthew West.

BOX OFFICE

‘Godzilla’ is king of box office, but God’s there too

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Godzilla” was a towering hit at the box office, but faith-based films are still attracting audiences.

The monster remake “Godzilla” sold more than $93 million worth of tickets in its opening weekend.

But “Heaven is for Real” was the sixth most popular film. It’s been in theaters for five weeks, and has earned more than $82 million at the box office.

“Moms’ Night Out” was the weekend’s tenth most popular film, and “God’s Not Dead” was in 14th place after nine weeks in theaters.

COLOMBIA-BUS FIRE

Colombia probes bus fire that killed 33 children

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombian authorities have detained a bus driver and are questioning him in the deaths of 33 children who were killed when the overcrowded vehicle bringing them home from Sunday school caught fire.

Luz Estella Duran, mayor of the village of Fundacion where Sunday’s tragedy took place, said witness accounts suggest the driver may have left the vehicle running with the children on board when he got out of the bus to fill its tank from a portable gas container.

The death toll rose to 33 on Monday when a 7-year-old died in a hospital in the city of Barranquilla with burns on 92 percent of his body. Nineteen other victims are also hospitalized, with about half in delicate state.

Mayor Duran said the children, ranging in age from 1 to 12, were traveling home from Sunday school classes at an evangelical church.

VATICAN-FINANCE

Vatican says bank needs ‘corrective measures’

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican’s financial watchdog agency says “corrective measures” are needed at the Holy See’s troubled bank to continue the path toward financial transparency and compliance with international anti-money laundering norms.

Financial Intelligence Authority Director Rene Bruelhart said a long-awaited investigation of the bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, included looking into its practice of not disclosing the names of the true account holders in its transactions with Italian banks.

Bruelhart spoke to reporters after his annual report showed a spike in the number of suspicious financial transactions being reported last year: 202 in 2013 compared with only six a year earlier and just one in 2011. Five of those 202 were referred to Vatican prosecutors for possible investigation.

Bruelhart stressed that the spike didn’t mean that more illicit activity took place last year, just that new laws and procedures put in place in 2013 were working to flag potentially problematic transactions that may be innocent or may require further investigation.

TUNISIA-JEWISH-PILGRIMAGE

Jewish pilgrimage in Tunisia grows despite debate

DJERBA, Tunisia (AP) — Despite years of security concerns and a harsh debate over Israeli passports, officials say the number of Jewish pilgrims taking part in an annual rite in Tunisia was up dramatically for the first time in years.

Rene Trabelsi, who helps organize the trek to Africa’s oldest synagogue, on the Tunisian island of Djerba, said 2,000 people, including 1,000 from abroad, took part in the three-day pilgrimage ending Sunday.

The first Jews who arrived in Djerba in the Sixth Century B.C. were said to have brought a stone from Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem that was destroyed by the Babylonians. The stone is kept in a grotto at the synagogue.

This year was the first time that Israeli pilgrims have been allowed to use their passports rather than a special document issued by the Tunisian government, prompting an outcry among some lawmakers. Tunisia has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

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