Religion news in brief

AP News
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Posted: Apr 20, 2011 11:00 AM
Religion news in brief

Sectarian violence turns deadly following election in Nigeria

KADUNA, Nigeria (AP) _ The mobs poured into the streets by the thousands in this dusty city separating Nigeria's Muslim north and Christian south, armed with machetes and poison-tipped arrows to unleash their rage after the oil-rich nation's presidential election.

Muslim rioters burned homes, churches and police stations in Kaduna after results showed Nigeria's Christian leader beat his closest Muslim opponent in Saturday's vote. Reprisal attacks by Christians began almost immediately, with one mob allegedly tearing a home apart to look for a Quran to prove the occupants were Muslims before setting the building ablaze.

The rioting in Kaduna and elsewhere across Nigeria's north left charred bodies in the streets and showed the deep divisions in Africa's most populous nation, as politics mesh with religious and ethnic identity in the country of 150 million people.

While curfews now stand in many areas, it remains unlikely the unrest will be soothed before the nation's gubernatorial elections next Tuesday _ meaning even more attacks could threaten this young democracy.

Christians and Muslims have lived and worked alongside each other for centuries. However, results from Saturday's election showing President Goodluck Jonathan's more than 10 million vote lead over Muslim candidate Muhammadu Buhari spread accusations of rigging in a nation long accustomed to ballot box stuffing.

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Egypt Islamists defiant over Christian governor

CAIRO (AP) _ Protesters led by hardline Islamists in southern Egypt are holding their ground, saying they won't end their campaign of civil disobedience until the government removes a newly appointed Coptic Christian governor.

The protesters, many from the ultraconservative Salafi trend of Islam, have sat on train tracks, taken over government buildings and blocked main roads in the southern city of Qena, insisting the new governor won't properly implement Islamic law.

Attempts by the newly appointed interior minister, who hails from the same area, to defuse the crisis Monday were rebuffed and protesters insisted their sit-in, which began Friday, would continue.

Since the Feb. 11 ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in popular protests, Islamist groups have been flexing their muscles and are vowing to take a more active political role as Egypt is still drawing its transition to democracy.

The prominent role of these ultraconservative Islamic movements, which were once politically quiescent, has worried many, including the secular activists and youth groups that were the driving force behind the uprising.

Egypt's Coptic minority, which makes up about 10 percent of the country's 82 million people and have long complained of discrimination in the country, have also been deeply unsettled by the development.

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Wife of American jailed in Cuba has special Passover prayer

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The wife of an American Jew who Cuban authorities have sentenced to 15 months in prison is praying for his release this Passover.

Washington resident Judy Gross planned to celebrate the first night of Passover on Monday with her family and by praying for the return of her husband.

Alan Gross, a U.S. contractor, was arrested in Cuba in December 2009. He was found guilty last month in a Cuban court of crimes against the state.

The U.S. government and his family have said Gross was working to improve Internet access for the island's Jewish community and did nothing wrong.

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Greek arsonists attack synagogue on the island of Corfu at the start of Passover

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Arsonists on Tuesday attacked a synagogue on the island of Corfu at the start of the Jewish Passover holiday, police said, prompting condemnation from the government and Jewish groups.

The attackers broke into the synagogue through a side entrance and set fire to prayer books, police said. Firefighters put out the flames before they spread.

The weeklong Jewish holiday began Monday night with a traditional seder meal and marks the biblical story of the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt.

An association of Greek Jewish groups called the incident a "shameful attack" and urged the authorities to increase protection at the site.

Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis called the action "immoral and abhorrent," and said police had been instructed to find those responsible for the break-in.

"The Greek government condemns this (attack) in the strongest possible manner ... Bigotry and anti-Semitism are alien to Greek values," he said.

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Vandal damages art photo of crucifix in urine

PARIS (AP) _ French police are questioning witnesses in their search for a man who took a hammer to a controversial photograph of a crucifix bathed in urine at an art museum in Avignon.

Museum officials say an assailant destroyed the photograph by American artist Andres Serrano on Sunday and apparently accidentally damaged another of the artist's works while struggling with a guard.

It was not immediately clear whether the assailant was part of a demonstration Saturday by a group denouncing the 1987 photograph as blasphemous and demanding its removal from the exhibition.

Serrano made the controversial work by placing a crucifix in urine and blood.

Christian activists are taking the museum to court to try to have the photograph removed from the exhibit, saying it "insults and injures Christians at the heart of their faith."