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GlobalPlus: Religious healing and affordable health care

An increasing importance of faith, an openness to alternative medicine and a lack of access to quality care are contributing to a resurgence in religious healing among Arab Muslims. The tasks that lie ahead include creating stronger, cooperative relationships among the religious and medical communities, and building health-care systems enabling citizens to receive quality medical care at a price they can afford.

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GlobalPlus: Religious attire in the public square

Religious fashion matters. It matters to individuals who view wearing head scarves, kippas and turbans as a positive expression of faith, and it matters to societies increasingly setting restrictions on religious attire in response to concerns ranging from security to the belief that increasing diversity represents a threat to the essential character of their nations. So how, in the face of intense political and social pressures, can nations balance issues of religious freedom, tolerance and national identity? A developing body of research sheds some light on the debate.

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GlobalPlus: Religion and politics in Latin America

When it comes to religion and politics in Latin America, a land of increasing political and religious diversity, you can throw many of the Western scripts away. This is not the story of an inexorable march toward secularism, or a descent into holy wars. The paradigm of Latin American religious modernity is rather an evolving dance among political, social and religious forces in a region experiencing the longest democratic process in its history. Pope Francis, women presidents and the rise of Pentecostalism all play a role.

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GlobalPlus: Religion and violence: Pakistan’s story

How extremist organizations that preach violence have gained such a foothold in Pakistan is less a story of faith than a textbook example of the cycle of violence and conflict that erupts when governments and political interest groups use favoritism and coercion to manipulate religion to their own ends. The result is the world’s second-largest Muslim nation finds itself in its fourth decade of warfare, with a precarious democracy hanging in the balance.

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GlobalPlus: Promises and challenges of the interfaith movement

The quiet truth is that the world is in many ways in the midst of an historic period of progress in interfaith dialogue. Yet often what individuals hear about minority religions focuses on the sensational and negative actions of extremists. So what are some of the lessons learned from decades of experience in a movement seeking to promote civility and understanding? Interfaith leaders and scholars share some ways religious understanding and cooperation can be built up or broken down.

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GlobalPlus: Ebola, religion and health in Africa

At their best, faith-based organizations and religious communities have embraced Ebola victims with loving care, heedless of their own safety in treating the suffering and working with public health officials in education and prevention efforts. Still, amid the uncertainty that has gripped governments, world health officials and religious groups alike, responses have been varied over religious rituals such as Muslim and traditional African burial practices encouraging the washing of the dead, Christian practices such as exchanging hugs and handshakes and receiving communion orally and the reliance on traditional healers that provide sources of comfort and hope to believers but also pose public health risks.

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Global Plus: Religion and immigration in Europe

The transition to more religiously and ethnically diverse societies is rarely a smooth one. An economic downturn and heightened security fears have made it particularly challenging for countries throughout Europe. Amid the turmoil, many governments have forgone efforts at social integration in favor of legislation restricting religious freedom. But research indicates such efforts only increase conflict.[ READ FULL COLUMN ]

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GlobalPlus: Democracy & Islam

Our inaugural report focuses on the issue of Islam and democracy. A period of discouragement has followed the heady early days of the Arab Spring, when mass demonstrations eventually led to the election of the first democratically elected government in Egypt and popular movements seeking to bring reforms flourished throughout the Middle East. Today, after a military takeover in Egypt and with Syrians caught between Islamic State militants and the dictatorial government of Bashar al-Assad, some may wonder about the prospect for expanding political freedoms in the Middle East. But it would be unwise to make simplistic or stereotypical assertions about the compatibility of Islam and democracy in the midst of these unfolding events. As this month’s overview from the celebrated Indonesian journalist Endy Bayuni makes clear, two of the largest Muslim-majority nations in the world are prospering under democracy. “Democracy in both countries has strengthened in spite of, or because of, the rise of political Islam,” notes Mr. Bayuni.,

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