‘I was a drunk for 20 years’: The unlikely US priest revered in the slums of Bangkok

Father Joe arrived in Bangkok in the 1970’s. Fifty years, 15 schools and 30,000 students later, he credits the community with saving him

“This other priest is always drunk, so you go take his place.”

With that simple instruction, Joseph H Maeir, a Catholic priest from the United States, found himself in Thailand, ending up in the slums of Bangkok in the 1970s.

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Indian diamond heiress gives up fortune to become child nun

Eight-year-old daughter of wealthy gem dealer follows family’s Jain faith to enter strict religious order

An eight-year-old girl in India who was due to inherit a multimillion-dollar diamond fortune has instead been admitted as a nun to a strict religious order after renouncing worldly pleasures.

Devanshi Sanghvi was, until this week, an heiress to the Sanghvi and Sons jewellery business in the western city of Surat, known locally as Diamond City for its prominence in the global gem trade.

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How Shinzo Abe’s murder and his ties to Moonies blindsided Japanese politics

Unification church’s links to ruling Liberal Democrat politicians have led to controversy over donations and mistrust of party

In the days after Shinzo Abe was shot dead last summer while making an election campaign speech, commentators struggled to articulate a motive for a seemingly senseless attack on Japan’s former and longest-serving prime minister in a country admired for its near-absence of gun crime.

Abe’s violent death was an affront to democracy, said the prime minister, Fumio Kishida, adding that his mentor would be honoured with a state funeral.

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From six-year-old Tibetan monk to teenage Ibiza raver: a Spanish boy’s incredible journey

Osel Hita Torres joined a monastery after the Dalai Lama declared him a reincarnated spiritual leader, but at 18 he broke free and moved to Ibiza. A new TV series tells his story

At the age of 14 months, Osel Hita Torres was recognised by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of a revered Tibetan lama. But by the age of 18, he had turned his back on monastic life, leaving in his wake a string of headlines as he partied in Ibiza and bemoaned a childhood bereft of television, football and girls.

Nearly two decades later, the Spaniard has opened up about his experience, in a recent four-part series on HBO Max in Spain that has cast a spotlight once again on his singular story.

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Fourth member of scandal-hit Japanese cabinet resigns

Reconstruction minister quits amid accusations of election law violations and ties to Unification church

Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, has ended the year facing fierce political headwinds after his reconstruction minister became the fourth member of his scandal-hit cabinet to resign in two months.

Kenya Akiba announced his resignation on Tuesday after opposition MPs accused him of election law violations and of having ties to the Unification church, a controversial religious group whose connections to the ruling party have sent Kishida’s approval ratings to record lows.

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Major funds exposed to companies allegedly engaged in Uyghur repression in China

Report finds stock indexes provided by MSCI include companies using forced labour or constructing surveillance state in Xinjiang

Many of the world’s largest asset managers and state pension funds are passively investing in companies that have allegedly engaged in the repression of Uyghur Muslims in China, according to a new report.

The report, by UK-based group Hong Kong Watch and the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University, found that three major stock indexes provided by MSCI include at least 13 companies that have allegedly used forced labour or been involved in the construction of the surveillance state in China’s Xinjiang region.

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Indian police investigating film that portrays Kerala as Islamic terrorism hub

Makers of Bollywood film say it is based on real information and events but have not provided any evidence

Police in Kerala are investigating a controversial Bollywood film that portrays the southern Indian state as a hub of Islamic terrorism and forced conversion.

The Kerala Story, directed by Sudipto Sen, has come under criticism for its fictional depiction of tens of thousands of women from Kerala who it claims were converted to Islam and became terrorists for Islamic State in Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria.

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Thousands of mosques targeted as Hindu nationalists try to rewrite India’s history

Shamsi Jama Masjid, an 800-year-old mosque in Uttar Pradesh, is the latest flashpoint in a dispute that could eventually turn violent

In a small, darkened office in Budaun, where dusty legal books line the walls, two lawyers have fallen into a squabble. VP Singh and his taller associate BP Singh – no relation – are discussing Shamsi Jama Masjid, the mosque that has stood in this small town in Uttar Pradesh for 800 years.

According to the lawyers, this grand white-domed mosque, one of the largest and oldest in India, is not a mosque at all. “No no, this is a Hindu temple,” asserted BP Singh. “It’s a very holy place for Hindus.”

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Britain’s first Hindu prime minister is destroying Tories’ pitiful vision of diversity | Pankaj Mishra

We should quickly abandon wishful thinking in order to be truly ready for Rishi Sunak

The world has watched in appalled fascination as the UK’s ruling party scrapes the bottom of its human resources barrel: it found there its first Black chancellor of the exchequer and then, to clear up his mess, its first Hindu prime minister. Yet exultant noises from India as well as Britain would make us believe that some historic milestone has been reached.

Hindu supremacists have pounced on the possibility that Rishi Sunak, a self-proclaimed devout Hindu, is a desi bro, even an undercover agent of the “Global Indian Takeover” – the title of a once regular feature in the Times of India. Evidently, he observes upper-caste taboos against beef and alcohol and always keeps his statuette of Ganesha, the guarantor of worldly success, close to him. “Indian son rises over the empire” was one typical headline in India this week.

Pankaj Mishra’s most recent book is Run and Hide: A Novel.

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‘A moment of pride’: Hindus in India hail Rishi Sunak’s victory

Indians react to news UK will have its first Hindu PM and consider how it will affect bilateral ties

As Rishi Sunak prepares to become the UK’s next prime minister at the start of the festival of Diwali – when Hindus pray to the goddess Lakshmi for prosperity and success – in India some Hindus celebrated the fact that someone sharing their religion had reached such high office in the UK.

“To have a Hindu inside 10 Downing Street is something astonishing and of great joy, and that too on Diwali,” said Satish Verma, a supermarket owner in Delhi. “Although he is British, it will make us Hindus proud that one of us made it so big.”

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Diwali: Hindu festival of lights celebrations around the world – in pictures

Diwali, one of the most popular Hindu festivals, is celebrated by devotees all over the world. Also known as the festival of lights, it symbolises the victory of good over evil and commemorates Lord Ram’s return to the Ayodhya kingdom after a 14-year exile

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In Britain and India, we must resist the tragic thinking that pits Hindus against Muslims | Chetan Bhatt

The recent disorder in Leicester echoes the ‘communalist’ politics that now dominates India thanks to the ruling BJP

  • Chetan Bhatt is professor of sociology at the London School of Economics

The terrible events in Leicester last month saw several hundred young people marching to Green Lane Road on 17 September chanting, “Jai Shri Ram” (“Glory to Lord Rama”). Other youths, in response, gathered to chant “Allahu Akbar”. Both expressed heady allegiance to their god – not as a simple demonstration of faith, but as a combative slogan against others. Several British politicians have intervened, as have the governments of India and Pakistan. Social media “influencers” descended on Leicester to video themselves and their “patrols” and further provoke young people. With a few important exceptions, most of those intervening chose to enlarge, rather than contest, a dangerous logic of communalism. It is in their political interests to keep communities pitted against each other.

“Communalism” is a term that will be familiar to those who follow the politics of south Asia. Perhaps less so to others: it refers to a negative, discriminatory, or hate-driven orientation to people of other faiths, and a superiority regarding one’s faith. Once upon a time, in post-independence India, it was a filthy word. To be accused of communalism was to be considered to be something like a racist or fascist, someone who harboured hatred and wanted to generate antagonism towards other religious or caste groups.

Chetan Bhatt is professor of sociology at the London School of Economics

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Narendra Modi’s BJP bans Indian Islamic group for ‘terrorist’ links

Popular Front of India, which says it fights for rights of minorities, victim of ‘political vendetta’ by Hindu nationalist government

An Islamic organisation that says it fights discrimination against minorities in India has disbanded after the government declared it and its affiliates unlawful, accusing them of involvement in terrorism.

The government of Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) accused the Popular Front of India (PFI) group of having been involved in “terrorism” and “anti-national activities”.

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Midwives review – a Muslim and a Buddhist grapple with childbirth in strife-torn Myanmar

Sombre documentary shot over five years follows two healthcare workers as they deliver babies in a brutally divided society

Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing’s documentary is about two midwives – one Buddhist, one Muslim – in Rakhine state in western Myanmar, on the border with Bangladesh; it is home to thousands of Rohingya Muslims who for decades have suffered paranoid bigotry from the country’s Buddhist theocracy. And like Barbet Schroeder’s film The Venerable W, this film is a reminder that, in this part of the world, being of the Buddhist persuasion doesn’t necessarily make you a kind and gentle saint.

Hla is the Buddhist midwife, notably imperious and sharp-tongued, who at one stage tries getting some medicine into a baby girl and hilariously snaps: “Take it, you little bitch!” Nyo Nyo is the Muslim who is intensely aware of the prejudice all around her and uneasily watches news reports of demonstrations against Muslims and “Muslim supporters”, which means her employers. She finally attempts to set up her own clinic, with the help of a savings-and-loan collective of Muslim women; this is all to the distinct scepticism of her Buddhist colleague, although their essential friendship asserts itself.

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Unification Church says it accepted ‘excessive’ donations from mother of suspect in Abe killing

Church official says he was upset to hear suspect told police his anger towards church led to attack on former Japanese PM

The Unification Church, whose close ties with Japan’s governing party have emerged after the assassination of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, has acknowledged it accepted “excessive” donations from the suspect’s mother, and that it would need to seriously consider if that led to the killing.

Abe died after a shooting during an outdoor campaign speech in July. The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, said he shot Abe because of the former prime minister’s links to the Unification Church, also known as the Moonies, which he blamed for bankrupting his family. Yamagami’s mother, a longtime member of the church, reportedly gave it ¥100m (£618,000) in donations two decades ago, plunging their family into poverty.

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