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InterNations
RELIGION UNPLUGGED
Religion Unplugged is a nonprofit news organization, with a New York-based team welcoming stories about religion from around the world. Religion Unplugged is funded by TheMediaProject.org and has received awards from Editor & Publisher, Religion News Association and SABEW.
Photo of ​Berlin-born Buddhist monk ​Tenzin Peljor sitting near a fountain
Society
Tenzin Tsagong*

The German Monk Driving The #MeToo Reckoning In Buddhism

On his blog, Tenzin Peljor, a Berlin-born Buddhist monk investigates complex issues linked to his religion, including physical and sexual abuse in Buddhist communities.

FRANKFURT — When I first met Tenzin Peljor over Zoom in March of last year, the 54-year-old German-Buddhist monk had been living in a dorm-sized room at Frankfurt’s Tibet House for over a year. Speaking into a microphone screened by a filter, a bespectacled Peljor, dressed in his maroon robes, looked like a professional podcaster.

Behind him hung a Tibetan tapestry on a white wall, near his twin-sized bed blanketed in red and a white bookshelf lined with Buddhist texts. The place had become a refuge for Peljor since his exile from his former Buddhist institution, the Foundation of the Preservation of Mahayana Teachings in 2019.

Peljor runs a popular Buddhist blog, Difficult Issues — Controversies Within Tibetan Buddhism, to address complicated issues in the religion, especially regarding abusive spiritual teachers. In May 2019, Peljor published on his website a petition created by a group of senior nuns. The nuns demanded that FPMT investigate allegations of sexual assault against one of its senior teachers, Dagri Rinpoche.

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​Photo taken in front of the Muslim Community Primary School in Belize
RELIGION UNPLUGGED
Joseph Hammond*

How A Hardware Store Helped Build The Muslim Community Of Belize

In Belize, San Pedro's Muslim community revolves around the Harmouches, a Lebanese family who immigrated in the 1980s and whose hardware business is at the heart of the town.

SAN PEDRO, Belize — On tropical Ambergris Caye in Belize, Islam is a family affair. The island's largest town, San Pedro, has a population of just over 13,000, of whom some 200 are Muslims. This small yet vibrant Muslim community was launched by a single adventurous Lebanese family — the Harmouches.

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​Christmas lights in the northern district of Nazareth, Israel
food / travel
Gil Zohar*

Bethlehem To Nazareth To Jerusalem: A Christmas Tour Of COVID And Politics

On the same day that Bethlehem’s Mayor Anton Salman inaugurated the Christmas holiday season earlier this month with an impressive fireworks display and tree lighting in the town square, residents of the West Bank city’s three refugee camps — Aida, Dehaishe and Jibrin, also known as Azza Camp — continued their daily protesting against the Palestinian Authority.

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Photo of a Japanese "unwanted doll"
Society
Heather Greene

Do Dolls Have Souls? A Funeral Rite In Japan Is The Essence Of Animism

Buddhist and Shinto temples in Japan hold "ningyo kuyo" (人形供養) funeral rites for unwanted dolls, a spiritual send off to thank dolls for their service and properly put them to rest.

KYOTO — Toys don't last forever, and kids grow up. Interests come and go, and a once-beloved plaything winds up in storage, at a yard sale or in the trash. This is the fate of many toys in the U.S. — particularly after the winter holidays — but in Japan, that is not the necessarily the case, at least for dolls.

Throughout the year, temples across Japan hold a "ningyo kuyo" (人形供養), a funeral ritual for unwanted dolls — especially traditional dolls. Held in both Buddhist and Shinto temples alike, the ceremony is a spiritual send off to thank dolls for their service and properly put them to rest.

Shinto and Buddhism are the two dominant religious influences on Japanese culture. Even with a population that is largely religiously unaffiliated today according to the JGSS Research Center at Osaka University of Commerce, these two religions continue to have a powerful spiritual influence on secular culture.

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