By Joel S. Baden, special to CNN
(CNN) - Moses: the main character of the Torah, the paradigmatic law-giver and the star of multiple motion pictures.
As Passover rolls around again and Jews the world over retell the story of Moses’s big moment, it’s worth remembering that there are aspects of Moses that haven’t made it to the big screen or into public consciousness.
For example, here are five things you probably didn’t know about the Hebrew prophet.
1. Moses was probably Egyptian.
The most important piece of evidence for this is his name.
In the Bible, it is explained that his name is derived from the Hebrew word mashah, “to draw,” as in “to draw him from the waters of the Nile,” where he had been hidden as an infant.
Unfortunately, it is awfully hard to get from that verb to the name Moses, which would probably mean something like “the one who draws," which isn’t how the story goes.
By Tim Townsend, special to CNN
(CNN) - When the killing began in earnest, Steven Gahigi fled his home in the Bugesera district of Rwanda to neighboring Burundi.
By the time he returned the next year, 52 members of his family were dead. Most of them, including his sister, were slaughtered in the first week of the 20th century’s final genocide.
This week, Rwanda began commemorating the 20 years that have passed since the mass murder of Tutsis and moderate Hutus, which continued for 100 days and left at least 800,000 dead.
Gathering in a packed soccer stadium in Kigali, Rwandans re-enacted the horrific events of 1994. President Paul Kagame said his country had “a reason to celebrate the normal moments of life, that are easy for others to take for granted."
When Gahigi returned to Rwanda after the genocide, he had nothing: no family, no home. Eventually, he moved past his anger and entered a Christian seminary.
In 1999, he began visiting Rilima Prison in Bugesera, the new home to thousands of the génocidaires, the men who wielded the machetes. In Rilima he met the band of 15 who killed his sister.
At first, the prisoners thought he had been sent by the government – a spy in a clerical collar – to investigate their crimes. Even when they were satisfied that Gahigi wasn’t a spy, they were skeptical of his motives. Why would this man come to their prison to preach when he knew what they had done?
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog co-editor
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN)–Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Anglican cleric who played a key role in ending apartheid in South Africa, is the winner of the 2013 Templeton Prize, the foundation that awards the prize announced Thursday.
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.
(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.
By Eric Marrapodi and Dan Merica, CNN
Follow @EricCNNBelief Follow @DanMericaCNN
(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.
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.