Paul Vallely

Paul Vallely is visiting professor in Public Ethics at the University of Chester and a senior research fellow at the Brooks World Poverty Institute at the University of Manchester. He writes on ethical, political and cultural issues. He has a fortnightly column in the Independent on Sunday and also writes for the New York Times and the Church Times. His latest book is Pope Francis – Untying the Knots. He was co-author of the report of the Commission for Africa and has chaired several development charities.

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Scientology: If religions don’t need a God, what do they need?

We have got to the point where individuals can pretty much define it as they want

Nelson Mandela obituary: Madiba - the father of South African democracy

"Rwanda is our nightmare, South Africa is our dream." So wrote the Nobel Prize-winning African novelist Wole Soyinka in 1994. It was just a month after two events which seemed to span the polarities of despair and hope so many saw in the continent of Africa in the post-independence era. In Rwanda a million people had died in a ghastly genocide. But South Africa had made an astonishingly peaceful transition from oppressive white rule to a black-majority government elected in the country's first free elections ever - and it had done so under the guidance of one extraordinary man.

Nelson Mandela death: A man of his time, and above his time

Nelson Mandela was a man, always, of his time. Yet he was, paradoxically, one who in some ways stood apart from – and even above – that time. It was in this that his greatness lay.

Footage shown to the court from a helmet camera of a Marine during a patrol in Afghanistan in which an insurgent was killed

Brutalised men do brutal things

It is understandable, if inexcusable, that men such as Marine 'A', who will be sentenced this week for murdering an Afghan, overstep the mark

JB Shorts 10, Joshua Brooks, Manchester: Theatre review

This twice-yearly festival of short plays for the theatre – by writers who make their living from television soaps and dramas – is now in its tenth incarnation and gets better and better. JB Shorts is named after the Joshua Brooks pub across the road from the old BBC headquarters in Manchester which produced much of seminal radio drama of the last century. There must be something in the air there.

Yellow Rattle and mixed wildflowers, flowering in meadow

Wanted: A vision for two-thirds of the UK and the chance for David Cameron to polish his tarnished green credentials

The PM has a chance to revitalise the countryside - but his recent record suggests he has other priorities

Fighter: Ex-social services head Sharon Shoesmith, who contested her dismissal

Our love of soap opera is a real killer

The collective urge to simplify events such as the Baby P case means these grim tragedies will continue to happen – and make headlines

Family first: According to the Health Secretary, care homes are ‘a last resort’ in Asian cultures

Politicians must share our shame over neglect of Britain's elderly

Jeremy Hunt is right. We need to tackle the neglect and loneliness of old people, but he is looking at the issue through rose-tinted glasses

Pope Francis is launching a Vatican spring-clean

This week his committee of eight cardinals began work on a radical reform of the scandal-hit Vatican

Pope Francis arrives for his general audience at St Peter's square

Pope Francis: Not so much a reformer as a revolutionary

The Vatican has been turned upside down, but can he ensure that his radical changes to the Church will last?

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Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there