- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2014

There’s always someone with a chip on their shoulder, even during a worldwide party. An Egyptian cleric has labeled the World Cup a destroyer of nations, The Associated Press reported.

Yasser Borhami, a founding member of the Salafist Call movement in Egypt, shared his condemnation via online video this week.

Calling the games a distraction, Mr. Borhami said the monthlong soccer tournament could lead to “the destruction of nations and peoples” if fans got too wrapped up in the matches, AP reported.

Mr. Borhami said the games could be seen as “haram,” or against Islam, if soccer fans neglect their religious duties in favor of watching the games.

But Mr. Borhami apparently realized his words would go only so far. After Mr. Borhami was asked to clarify his statement, he said, “I just said ‘Don’t waste your time.’”

DONATION DIP

Americans are opening their wallets for charitable donations at a rate not seen since the Great Recession — except for religious causes.

A study from Giving USA and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University found that individuals, companies, foundations and estates donated nearly $336 billion last year to charities, an increase of 3.0 percent compared with donations in 2012.

Giving to religious charities, however, dropped 1.6 percent to $106 billion. Education charities reported a 7.4 percent boost, collecting $52 billion, while giving to foundations dropped by 16.7 percent from 2012, to $36 billion.

David H. King, chairman of the Giving Institute, which created Giving USA, said donations to arts, health, education and environmental causes have been increasing for the past three years.

“These types of organizations, perhaps with a slight exception for health, are those for which donors reduced their support during the recession when they tended to give to organizations serving what they may have perceived as more urgent needs, such as food pantries, homeless shelters and even international relief,” he said. “But as the economy recovers, donors are restoring funding to those sectors in a strong way.”

‘JUST ME AND ALLAH’

A photo exhibit profiling gay Muslims opened in Toronto this week.

The project, titled “Just Me and Allah: Photographs of Queer Muslims,” was created by Toronto resident Samra Habib, the Religion News Service reported.

“Muslims around the world are saying, ‘You know what? My relationship with Islam doesn’t have to be guilt-ridden,’” Ms. Habib told the news service. “I found comfort in learning that it’s a conversation that many queer Muslims around the world were having and thought this project might help mobilize the queer Muslim community.”

Homosexuality is denounced as sinful in traditional Muslim teaching and is a capital offense in many Muslim countries. However, Muslim scholars in the U.S. have argued that the Koran does not offer clear direction to punish or condemn homosexual behavior.

The exhibit’s Facebook page describes the images as “celebrating Muslim traditions in queer spaces or incorporating aesthetic elements and symbolism in their everyday lives. The work explores the ideas of community and personal expression that are inspired by Islam but are the individuals’ personal re-interpretations.”

One of the sample pictures shows a young man with a thin beard and wearing a hoodie staring into the camera, and another shows a young woman with slicked-back hair and a sharp business suit sitting casually at a table.

HOLY TOUR

A vial of blood from St. John Paul II is touring the East Coast.

The St. John Paul II National Shrine announced that the relic would be stopping in Boston, New York and Philadelphia this summer. The relic tour, the shrine stated, “allows the faithful to continue to walk with the pope who traveled extensively to be with them.”

The late pontiff was declared a saint in April along with Pope John XXIII.

The vial of blood is considered a first-class relic, specifically the bodily remains of a saint, and is held in a halolike stand “decorated with 12 red stones representing the Twelve Apostles and with rays projecting downward.”

The relic is scheduled to be at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston on Saturday and will be available for viewing and veneration. It then will be transported to New York and Philadelphia.

Another relic, a piece of bloody cloth taken from the clothes John Paul was wearing during an assassination attempt in 1981, will be on display in Baltimore.

For more information on the relic and its tour schedule, visit jp2shrine.org.

Meredith Somers covers issues of faith and religion. She can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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