About 3 million Muslims from more than 100 countries will pack the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, next month for Hajj, the biggest pilgrimage on the planet.
What's it all about? We turned to Brown University Muslim chaplain and CNN iReporter Robert David Coolidge and Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, for a primer:
1. Why do Hajj?
According to Islam, every Muslim is expected to make the pilgrimage at least once if they are healthy and can afford to. Some people spend their whole lives saving for the trip, while others return many times for spiritual enlightenment and forgiveness, says Coolidge, who will make his second pilgrimage this year with his wife.
“There’s the belief that one’s prayers in the mosque in Mecca are multiplied many, many times,” Coolidge said.
Only Muslims are allowed in Mecca, and the Saudi government sets quotas for each country to control the crowds. Because Coolidge’s name isn’t "recognizably Muslim,” he had to get written proof of his faith from a local imam.
Editor's Note: Scott C. Todd, Ph.D. is the senior ministry advisor in the President’s Office of Compassion International. Previously, he served as director of Compassion’s AIDS Initiative, Child Survival Program and strategic interventions. He is the author of Fast Living: How the Church Will End Extreme Poverty.
By Dr. Scott Todd, Special to CNN
(CNN)–Here’s a headline I haven’t read or heard yet: We’re winning the battle against extreme poverty.
I know that sounds unbelievable, but it’s not. It’s just that we’re conditioned to believe the opposite is true.
Every “breaking news” item that hits my inbox or travels across the bottom of the TV screen carries the potential to be another gut punch to the world’s poor. A hurricane in the Caribbean. An earthquake in Asia. A famine in Africa. Or a disease outbreak anywhere.
When we hear enough bad news, “crisis fatigue” kicks in. Often we go into protection mode to deaden the impact or filter the news out altogether. We turn the channel. Read something else. Or simply focus on our own lives. They’re topical anesthetics to deaden the ache of chronically bad news.
But I believe there is a better story when it comes to extreme poverty and long-term solutions. People are often surprised to hear this, but I am rationally optimistic about the destruction of extreme poverty. There’s no anesthetic needed because we’re winning.
By Peter Taggart, for CNN
The Catholic Church in Ireland is going high-tech in a bid to reverse a dramatic decline in the number of priests.
An establishment viewed as a bastion of tradition is turning to a new app to encourage more "applications." The app, says the church, is "designed to promote vocations to the priesthood."
It is being hailed as a "world first" by the church in Ireland.
"The app is an original approach to assist current and future generations seeking to investigate and find information on vocations to the diocesan priesthood in Ireland," a statement issued ahead of the launch said.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.