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Faith around the world: Religion news in brief

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Saudi Arabia announces annual hajj pilgrimage starts on Oct. 25

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia has announced that the Islamic hajj pilgrimage, which attracts around 3 million Muslims worldwide each year, will begin on Thursday, Oct. 25.

The kingdom's High Court, comprised of religious scholars who serve as judges, announced Tuesday that Eid al-Adha celebrations coinciding with the pilgrimage will start on Oct. 26.

Hajj is among the five pillars of Islam and is required of all able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime.

Already some 1.4 million people from 160 countries have arrived in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia for hajj, which according to Islam traces the steps of prophets such as Muhammad, Abraham and Ishmael.

Hajj is a spiritual experience aimed at fostering closeness to God, the cleansing of sins and a sense of unity and equality among Muslims.

Associated Press

N.Y. pastor and wife cannot take Lord's name in vain, judge rules

NEW YORK — A judge has told a Staten Island pastor and his wife that they cannot take the Lord's name in vain.

Civil Court Judge Philip Straniere has ruled that the couple could not change their last name to ChristIsKing.

Michael and Angela Nwadiuko expressed disappointment in the ruling.

The judge cited the separation of church and state in his ruling earlier this month.

The couple's request six years ago to change their son Jeremy's first name to JesusIsLord also was denied by the same judge.

Their daughter's name is Rejoice.

Nwadiuko is a pastor of Christ the Lord Evangelistic Association. He told the Daily News he holds no grudge against the judge despite the ruling. He said he prays "that God will bless his life."

Associated Press

Effort to restore church that was safe haven for slaves gets a boost

NEW ALBANY, Ind. — An ambitious effort to restore a southern Indiana church that was part of the Underground Railroad has received a boost from a foundation, but organizers say there's much work to do.

The News and Tribune reports the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County has agreed to provide $25,000 toward the estimated $400,000 cost of repairing the Town Clock Church in New Albany.

Foundation Executive Director Jerry Finn says project supporters have begun sending grant proposals to charitable organizations and plan to ask congregations to join the project.

He says the goal is to begin some of the work this year.

The church served as a safe haven for slaves who were trying to make their way north to freedom during the 1860s.

Associated Press

Vatican cardinal causes stir by showing alarmist Muslim video

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican cardinal has caused a stir at a meeting of the world's bishops by screening an alarmist video about the inroads that Islam is making in Europe and the world.

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, the Ghanaian head of the Vatican's office for justice and peace, aired the YouTube clip this weekend during the synod of bishops, a three-week gathering of top churchmen to map out strategies to halt the decline of Christianity.

A spokesman who briefed journalists on the closed-door session said some bishops questioned the statistics and appropriateness of it being aired. Vatican Radio called the clip a "4-year-old, fear-mongering presentation of statistics" that have been widely debunked.

News reports said Turkson subsequently apologized, saying he didn't mean to cause any harm.

Associated Press

Myanmar won't let Islamic group to open liaison office in Yangon

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar's government will not allow the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to open a liaison office after thousands of Buddhist monks and laypeople marched to protest the plan.

Sectarian tensions have been running high in Myanmar's western Rakhine state after clashes in June between Rakhine Buddhists and Bengali Rohingya Muslims that left nearly 90 people dead and displaced tens of thousands. Muslim mosques and Buddhist temples were burned down during the unrest.

Myanmar's state press had reported that the government and the OIC agreed last month to open an office in Yangon to provide aid for people displaced by the fighting, and the OIC sent a team to investigate the violence.

On Monday, the Information Ministry cited the President's Office as saying that "the opening of the OIC office will not be allowed as it is contradictory to the aspirations of the people."

The OIC has 57 member states and seeks to be the voice of the Islamic world.

—Associated Press

Archbishop allows group that wants gays to be chaste to open chapter

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A group that preaches chastity among gays and lesbians is starting a local chapter in Louisville with the permission of Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Kurtz.

Kurtz says the Connecticut-based group known as Courage has a goal to "promote chaste living" by abstaining from sex outside of a heterosexual marriage. The group was founded in 1980.

The chapter meetings operate under the Twelve Step concept used by Alcoholics Anonymous and similar groups. Steps include such things as admitting one's addiction or compulsion, striving for moral reform and seeking help from a higher power.

Angelo Sabella, an assistant to the national director of the group, said Courage does not conduct therapy that seeks to change a person's sexual orientation. But he said the group has invited advocates for change therapy to talk with Courage groups to let participants know about it.

The director of a gay rights group in Louisville says Courage is asking gays and lesbians to suppress part of their identity.

"It's repressive and really unhealthy for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, to suggest one can suppress an entire part of who they are," said Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman, who identifies himself as a Catholic.

Associated Press