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Divine dispatches: a religion roundup | Riazat Butt

Bringing Mecca to the Venice Biennale; the Qur'an on trial; Holi festival casualties; Roland Joffé on Nelson Mandela

✤ Guess what this is about: "A meeting point of the two artists; of two visions of the world; from darkness to light. The work is a stage, set to project the artists' collective memory of Black – the monumental absence of colour. The first part of the installation relates to the physical representation of Black, referring to their past. The narrative is fuelled by the inspirational tales told by their aunts and grandmothers. As a counter point, the second part of the installation is a mirror image, an illumination, reflecting the present. These are the aesthetic parameters of the work." Any ideas? Anyone? Why, it's the Black Arch – the inaugural pavilion from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the Venice Biennale. The artists, Shadia and Raja Alem, hail from Mecca and say their intention is to bring their hometown to Venice through objects brought from there: "A Black Arch; a cubic city, and a handful of Muzdalifah pebbles." I claim my sum from Pseuds Corner.

✤ The Rev Steve Lawler didn't give up chocolate or telly for Lent. He gave up Christianity. He decided to pray, abstain from pork and alcohol and was planning to fast during holy week but his Muslim Lent didn't amuse his superiors. "He can't be both a Christian and a Muslim," said Bishop George Wayne Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. "If he chooses to practise as Muslim, then he would, by default, give up his Christian identity and priesthood in the church."

✤ Remember Terry Jones – the Florida pastor who wanted to burn the Qur'an? Well, he finally got round to it during a "trial" at the weekend, when he and a chum found the book guilty of crimes against humanity. There is now a price on his head of 10 crore (that's about £1.4m) and the inevitable, depressing slew of protests and threats.

✤ Hundreds of millions of people celebrated the Hindu spring festival of Holi at the weekend – and the festivities threw up a dizzying number of stories about "Bollywood Badshah" Shah Rukh Khan alone – but amid the parties and high jinks there were more corporeal matters to deal with. The Times of India reports that five were blinded by flying colours and there were five fatalities while the Indian Express says 7,956 people were pulled aside for traffic offences. The Times also ran an article criticising wastefulness, saying Mumbai-dwellers threw "conservation to the wind" by working their way through millions of litres of water during Holi 2011.

✤ Who does Nelson Mandela remind you of? Morgan Freeman? OK, who else? Well, according to film director Roland Joffé, the revered nonagenarian statesman is like Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei. In "an era of ideological conformity [he] had the courage to tell people to think for themselves, and like Nelson Mandela in South Africa brought healing to Spain". Er, quite. During a special screening of There Be Dragons – a film set during the Spanish civil war that features Escrivá as a central character – Joffe said '"it would be wonderful" if the film helped the 21st century to be seen as "the century of reconciliation", in which "we began once again to discover our innate humanity that exists in all of us" and to heal the wounds of the 20th century wars. Sorry – but only pandas can bring healing and reconciliation. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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