October 28th, 2013
03:56 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog co-editorFollow @BurkeCNN
Washington (CNN) – As terrorism increasingly becomes a tactic of warfare, the number of attacks and fatalities soared to a record high in 2012, according to a new report obtained exclusively by CNN.
More than 8,500 terrorist attacks killed nearly 15,500 people last year as violence tore through Africa, Asia and the Middle East, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.
That’s a 69% rise in attacks and an 89% jump in fatalities from 2011, said START, one of the world’s leading terrorism-trackers.
Six of the seven most deadly groups are affiliated with al Qaeda, according to START, and most of the violence was committed in Muslim-majority countries.
The previous record for attacks was set in 2011 with more than 5,000 incidents; for fatalities the previous high was 2007 with more than 12,800 deaths.
October 3rd, 2013
04:06 PM ET
Rome (CNN)–A boat carrying as many as 500 people capsized and caught fire off the Italian island of Lampedusa, the nation's coast guard told CNN on Thursday.
The official death toll stands at 93 but that did not include an estimated 20 newly discovered bodies that remain in the water, the coast guard said.
At least 151 people had been rescued in the ongoing operation, the coast guard said.
Lampedusa, not far from Sicily and the closest Italian island to Africa, has become a destination for tens of thousands of refugees seeking to enter European Union countries. Deadly shipwrecks en route are common.
The latest boat to sink is thought to have been carrying up to 500 people. Those aboard include Eritreans, Somalis and Ghanaians, the coast guard said, and the boat is believed to have launched from Libya's coast.
Editor's Note: CNN Belief Blog Co-editor Eric Marrapodi was in Lampedusa last week, reporting on Muslim migration into the European Union.
August 15th, 2013
03:48 PM ET
By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
(CNN) - As violence again scars Egypt, Christians in the country believe they're being targeted amidst the chaos following a government crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in Cairo.
There have been dozens of attacks on Christian churches, homes and businesses in the past 24 hours. Full details of the attacks are still emerging, as the country reels from its bloodiest day in recent history.
Bishop Angaelos, the Cairo-born head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said he was told by colleagues in Egypt that 52 churches had been attacked in the space of 24 hours beginning Wednesday, as well as numerous Christian homes and businesses across the country.
Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told CNN he had confirmed attacks on at least 30 churches so far, in addition to the targeting of church-related facilities, including schools and cultural centers.FULL STORY
July 1st, 2013
12:26 PM ET
By Jeffrey Weiss, special to CNN
(CNN) – Nelson Mandela belongs to the ages whether he lives another hour, day or decade.
But in what may well be his final days, he’s focusing attention on a modern and yet very old question: When medical treatment can extend life interminably, what's the right thing to ask of doctors – or of the Almighty?
Few outside Mandela’s inner circle know the South African icon’s exact condition and treatment. Family members said last week that he had stopped speaking but was responding to voices. Officials have said he’s battling a lung infection, but they haven’t released much information beyond that.
What we do know is how Mandela’s countrymen have responded to what could be his last illness. More often than not, that response has included public prayer, vigils and hymns.
April 28th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – An angry outburst at a mosque. The posting of a suspicious YouTube video. A friendship with a shadowy imam.
Those were just some of the signs that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, accused of masterminding the Boston Marathon bombings, had adopted a virulent strain of Islam that led to the deaths of four people and injury of more than 260.
But how else can you tell that someone’s religious beliefs have crossed the line? The answer may not be as simple you think, according to scholars who study all brands of religious extremism. The line between good and evil religion is thin, they say, and it’s easy to make self-righteous assumptions.
“When it’s something we like, we say it’s commitment to an idea; when it’s something we don’t like, we say it’s blind obedience,” said Douglas Jacobsen, a theology professor at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.
April 4th, 2013
12:51 AM ET
By the CNN Wire Staff
The Templeton Prize "honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works," the John Templeton Foundation says on its website.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the son of a schoolteacher and a domestic servant, was ordained a priest in 1961.
March 12th, 2013
04:32 PM ET
(CNN) - Unity. Faith. Peace. Support.
These words were common among the 20,000 messages received when CNN and mobile technology company Jana.com carried out a mobile phone survey in 11 countries asking Africans: What would be the impact of an African pope on the continent, or you?
The results provide a fascinating insight into faith on the continent, where Christianity is growing.
February 19th, 2013
01:06 PM ET
(CNN) – Despite calls for a new pope from Latin America or Africa, the areas of the Catholic Church experiencing the most rapid growth, the power in the College of Cardinals is decidedly European.
The rapid growth of the Catholic population in Latin America and Africa has not yet led to a proportional balancing of the College of Cardinals. The makeup of the college skews overwhelmingly European, while the majority of the congregants are increasingly not European.
“It (the College of Cardinals) doesn't reflect the population, it reflects the power structure,” said William D’Antonio, a professor at The Catholic University of America. “It is like a corporation. The corporation picks its own board of directors. You might own some stock in it, but you are really fighting a battle against a corporation here.”
Dubbed the “princes of the church,” the cardinals’ main role is to select the next pope, which is done in a secret conclave in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. Cardinals are handpicked by the pope both to choose his successor and to assist in the daily needs of the church. When they are elevated to the role they take on a red hat, symbolic of their willingness to shed their own blood for their faith.
February 14th, 2013
04:58 AM ET
Editor's note: Stan Chu Ilo is professor of religion and education, director of field education, at St Michael's College, University of Toronto, Canada. He is also author of: "The Face of Africa: Looking Beyond the Shadows" and "The Church and Development in Africa: Aid and Development from the Perspective of Catholic Social Ethics."
By Stan Chu Ilo, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, was asked last week at the celebration of Black History Month in Toronto if he thought that the time was ripe for an African pope. His answer attracted much cheering from the crowd of over 500 Catholics of African descent.
He said: "The time for an African pope was ripe even in the time of the Apostolic Fathers in the first century of the church."
"I am not saying that I wish to be considered for the papacy, but the fact that the Gospel is to be preached to all peoples, languages, and races means that the highest leadership of the church should be open to anyone from any race, language and nation. I will not be surprised to see an African pope in my lifetime."FULL STORY
February 12th, 2013
11:33 AM ET
Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
The United States just finished a diversity election that saw a president elected not by old, white men but by Latinos, African-Americans and Asian-Americans.
Now that Pope Benedict XVI has announced his retirement, the Roman Catholic Church is preparing for an election of its own. Though in this case, the election will be decided not by rank-and-file Catholics but by the College of Cardinals.
It is well known that the demographics of the Catholic Church are changing quickly. Membership is hemorrhaging in Europe and barely stable in the United States, but it is booming in Asia and Africa and Latin America, which together account for two-thirds of the world’s Catholics.
In recent years, the papacy has seen some demographic milestones, as the College of Cardinals moved beyond Italy to tap popes from Poland (John Paul II) and Germany (Benedict XVI). There is now some speculation that an American might be considered, namely Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York.
But the church could take a much bolder step, tapping a pontiff that represents its future in the "Global South" rather than its past in the "Global North."
About this blog
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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.