Bhutan bans religious activities ahead of elections

NEW DELHI (RNS) Leaders in Bhutan have announced a nearly six-month ban on all public religious activities ahead of the upcoming election, citing the Buddhist nation's constitution, which says “religion shall remain above politics.'' By Vishal Arora.

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Tunisians worry about loss of freedoms gained under the Arab Spring

TUNIS, TUNISIA (RNS) Increasingly, critics say, free expression — a cornerstone of Tunisia's 2011 revolution — is under attack. A string of incidents has fueled an intense debate about the role of religion, artistic expression and women's rights in this once staunchly secular North African country. By Elizabeth Bryant.

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Spirit of St. Francis lives strong in Assisi

ASSISI, Italy (RNS) Some 6 million visitors come to this hillside town every year — and the biggest draw is the legacy of its most famous native son, St. Francis, who remains a figure of unmistakable relevance to many of today's most pressing social concerns. By Francis X. Rocca.

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Survey: Syrian rebels seek Islamic democracy

(RNS) Members of the Syrian opposition generally want a democratic government that protects the rights of minorities, though many also want a constitution based on Islam, according to a recent survey. By Oren Dorell.

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U.S. Muslims, Copts appeal to rioters to drop violence

(RNS) Muslim and Coptic Christian leaders in the U.S. are pledging not to let a spate of violent protests in some 20 Islamic countries derail recent efforts to improve the sometimes troubled relations between the two communities. By Omar Sacirbey.

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Report says religion at heart of illegal ivory trade

WASHINGTON (RNS) A National Geographic investigation shows how the demand for religious articles such as carvings, beads and amulets in the Philippines, Thailand and China fuels illegal ivory trade. By Jeanie Groh.

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Pope urges peace in 3-day trip to Lebanon

BEIRUT (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday (Sept. 16) took the unusual step of directly appealing to Arab countries to find “workable solutions” to the conflict in Syria and tensions throughout the Middle East. By Alessandro Speciale.

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