Often accused of ignoring religion as they craft foreign policy, the White House and State Department are trying to show that religion is a rising priority for U.S. diplomacy. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Istanbul last week promoted a new U.S.-backed international agreement to protect freedom of speech and religion, an accord described by her department as a "landmark" change.

While religion can be a cause of conflict, it carries political leverage that many say makes it a source for solutions and a tool for peace building. "We are giving a whole government effort to put religion on the table," said the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook...

Hu Yuandong of UNIDO...says the focus of the project is job creation, poverty alleviation and environmental protection. Xiao has made clear that the $3bn investment is not coming from the Chinese government, but rather from various funds "around the world" - even from the Middle East. But it would be difficult not to see this as a smart move by China and an extension of its soft power.

Israel opened the traditional baptism site of Jesus to daily visits Tuesday, a move that required the cooperation of Israel’s military and the removal of nearby mines in the West Bank along the border with Jordan. Israel hopes the opening of the site will help draw Christian tourists, who have been coming to Israel in growing numbers in recent years.

...[There] are a few faces looking less than confident about what comes next. Barbra Taylor, from Hawaii, and Terry Goldsmith, from Bury, Greater Manchester, are two of them. They're not Muslim, but guests for nine days. This is part of "Muslim for a Month" - a programme from social enterprise group The Blood Foundation where participants get to "test-drive" a religion.

As part of an ongoing foray into digital media, the Vatican will unveil an online portal for papal news and information. The portal, which will aggregate information from the Vatican's various print, online, radio and television media into a single, centralized destination for all things papal, will be the most extensive online venture that the Vatican has undertaken yet.

For the third time, Indonesian and Austrian civil society met in an interfaith dialogue. This year, dialogue took on a theme of “Religious Pluralism, Freedom of Religion – Responsibilities of the State, Society and Religious Communities”. The interfaith dialogue between Indonesia and Austria has become the model for many nations in establishing similar dialogue with Indonesia.

America’s war on terrorism created a tougher atmosphere for China’s 10 million Muslim Uighurs, most of whom live in western Xinjiang province. The burden of proof is on the Chinese government to convince the international community that it faces the threat of extremism.