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September 16th, 2014
09:10 AM ET

Chinese Christians scramble to save cross

Wenzhou, China (CNN) - At a gray church on the outskirts of Wenzhou in eastern China, Christians from across the county keep a nervous watch.

Some stand behind the iron gate; others sit just inside the church door. For more than two months they've waited, preparing themselves to protect the cross on top of their church.

"If I have to, I am going to hold it in my arms and protect it," one elderly man says. "They have no right to tear it down, that is why we have to defend our church."

Wenzhou is known as the "Jerusalem of China" and throughout this year the local Communist Party authorities have demolished scores of churches and forcibly removed more than 300 church crosses.

Chinese church leaders say it's the worst anti-Christian crackdown in decades.

"What the government here is doing is so barbaric, they're like bandits and we are furious with them," says Chen Zhi'ai, a respected church leader in the Wenzhou area. "Today we've seen the fundamental symbol of our faith violated and it hurts us deep inside our hearts."

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Asia • China • Christianity • Church and state • Persecution • Religious liberty

In Venezuela, a 'sacrilegious' Lord's Prayer
The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is the subject of a "sacrilegious" new prayer.
September 3rd, 2014
11:43 AM ET

In Venezuela, a 'sacrilegious' Lord's Prayer

By Rafael Romo, CNN

(CNN) – A member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela and follower of Hugo Chavez is raising eyebrows for changing the words of the Lord's Prayer to honor the late president.

Speaking during an event at the Third Congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela in Caracas on Monday, María Estrella Uribe read the changed prayer in front of hundreds of delegates and current President Nicolás Maduro.

"Our Chávez who art in heaven, on Earth, in the sea and in us delegates," she read, "hallowed be thy name. Thy legacy come so that we can take it to people here and elsewhere."

The delegate from the border state of Táchira kept on reading. "Give us today your light to guide us every day. Lead us not into the temptation of capitalism, but deliver us from oligarchy."

Delegates cheered Uribe loudly, especially when she shouted "Viva Chávez!" at the end of her speech. Maduro raised no objections.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Americas • Christianity • Church and state • Venezuela

World Cup final: It's Pope versus Pope
Pope Francis looks pretty confident, don't ya think?
July 9th, 2014
12:51 PM ET

World Cup final: It's Pope versus Pope

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

(CNN)– Will the World Cup final become a "Holy War"?

At the very least, Sunday's match could put millions of Catholics - not to mention Vatican employees - in a bit of a bind.

Will they root for Argentina, the homeland of Pope Francis, who is known to be an ardent soccer aficionado? Or will they back Germany, the native country of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, also a football fan?

And what about the Big Referee Upstairs? Whose prayers will he heed when the game is on the line?

Germany reached the final match on Tuesday by blowing out Brazil, the host country. Argentina beat the Netherlands on Wednesday afternoon.

Of course, both Popes (not to mention God) have more important things on their minds. But the pontiffs have also said that sports can be more than fun and games.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Argentina • Brazil • Catholic Church • Church and state • Pope Benedict XVI • Pope Francis • Social media • Sports • Vatican

Hobby Lobby: the Bible verses behind the battle
June 29th, 2014
08:19 PM ET

Hobby Lobby: the Bible verses behind the battle

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

Washington (CNN) - For the Greens, the Christian family behind the Hobby Lobby chain of stores, their battle with the Obama administration was never really about contraception. It was about abortion.

After all, the evangelical Greens don't object to 16 of the 20 contraceptive measures mandated for employer coverage by the Affordable Care Act. That puts the family squarely in line with other evangelicals, who largely support the use of birth control by married couples.

Like other evangelicals, however, the Greens believe that four forms of contraception mandated under the ACA - Plan B, Ella and two intrauterine devices - in fact cause abortions by preventing a fertilized embryo from implanting in the womb. (The Obama administration and several major medical groups disagree that such treatments are abortions .)

“We won’t pay for any abortive products," Steve Green, Hobby Lobby's president, told Religion News Service. "We believe life begins at conception.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Abortion • Belief • Bible • Bioethics • Christianity • Church and state • Culture wars • evangelicals • Health care • Obama • Politics

How Scalia's prophecy became a moral crisis
Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia predicted that anti-gay marriage laws would fall.
June 27th, 2014
08:20 AM ET

How Scalia's prophecy became a moral crisis

By R. Albert Mohler Jr.special to CNN

(CNN) – One year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, this much is clear: Justice Antonin Scalia is a prophet.

Back in 2003, when the court handed down the decision in Lawrence v. Texas, striking down all criminal statutes against homosexual acts, Scalia declared that the stage was set for the legalization of same-sex unions. That was 2003.

“Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as a formal recognition in marriage is concerned,” wrote Scalia.

He was proved to be absolutely prophetic when, just ten years later, the court ruled in United States v. Windsor that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional — thus striking down the federal statute defining marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman.

Once again, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, while Scalia handed down a fiery dissent. As before, Scalia was prophetic.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church and state • Culture wars • evangelicals • Gay marriage • Gay rights • Opinion • Religious liberty • Same-sex marriage

June 23rd, 2014
02:03 PM ET

Christian woman freed from death sentence

(CNN) - A Sudanese woman has been freed from prison a month after being sentenced to die by hanging for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.

"I am a Christian," Meriam Yehya Ibrahim told the judge at her sentencing hearing in May, "and I will remain a Christian."

An appeals court in Sudan ruled that a lower court's judgment against the 27-year-old was faulty, her lawyer, Mohaned Mustafa El-Nour, said Monday. He declined to elaborate.

An international controversy erupted over Ibraham's conviction in May by a Sudanese court on charges of apostasy, or the renunciation of faith, and adultery. Ibrahim was eight months pregnant when was sentenced to suffer 100 lashes and then be hanged.

"I'm so frustrated. I don't know what to do," her husband, Daniel Wani told CNN in May. "I'm just praying." Wani, uses a wheelchair and "totally depends on her for all details of his life," Ibrahim's lawyer said.

Ibrahim was reunited with her husband after getting out of custody, her lawyer said Monday.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Discrimination • Foreign policy • Islam • Islamic law • Persecution • Prejudice • Religious liberty • Sharia

June 2nd, 2014
11:25 AM ET

China's latest crackdown target: religion

Opinion by William McKenzie, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Early on the morning of November 28, 2007, Jia Weihan was forced to think the unthinkable: Was her father really a bad man?

At the time, she was an 11-year-old attending a school in Beijing that taught her to respect the communist authorities. When 30 or so police officers arrived to arrest her father, she did not know what to think.

As it turned out, her father, Shi Weihan, the pastor of a house church, was simply trying to live out his religious beliefs. That should be a fundamental right, but in China - even the more economically liberalized China – it’s not.

Twenty-five years after Tiananmen Square - where on June 4, 1989, Chinese soldiers turned their guns on protesting students and activists - freedom remains elusive.

In China, Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims face worse conditions than at any time over the past decade, according to a report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The report warns that independent Protestants and Catholics face arrests, fines and the closing of their churches. The government recently bulldozed one large church in the city of Wenzhou.

The report also highlights other restrictions, including these problems:

"Practitioners of Falun Gong, as well as other Buddhist, folk religionist, and Protestant groups deemed 'superstitious' or 'evil cults' face long jail terms, forced denunciations of faith and torture in detention, and the government has not sufficiently answered accusations of psychiatric experimentation and organ harvesting."

In Shi's case, he had decided not to tell Jia and her 7-year-old sister, Enmei, that he was printing Bibles and Christian literature. That was against Chinese law, so he did not want to put his children in jeopardy by letting them in on the secret.

Their children soon came to understand the secret, in a life-altering way.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Asia • Belief • China • Christianity • Church and state • Discrimination • Foreign policy • Opinion • Persecution

May 27th, 2014
01:48 PM ET

Sudanese woman sentenced to death for her Christianity gives birth in prison

By Faith Karimi and Mohammed Osman, CNN

(CNN) - A Sudanese woman sentenced to die for refusing to renounce her Christianity has given birth to a girl in prison, her lawyers said Tuesday.

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, delivered her baby Monday at a women's prison in Khartoum, but her husband was not allowed to be present for the birth, sources told CNN. They asked not to be named for safety reasons.

Ibrahim was convicted of apostasy, or the renunciation of faith, about two weeks ago while she was eight months pregnant.

A Sudanese lawyer filed an appeal last week to reverse the verdict by the lower court.

She is in prison with her 20-month-old son, but Sudanese officials have said the toddler is free to leave any time, according to her lawyer, Mohamed Jar Elnabi.

Her husband, Daniel Wani, is a U.S. citizen who uses a wheelchair and "totally depends on her for all details of his life," her lawyer said.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Christianity • Church and state • Courts • Islam • Islamic law • Sharia

May 26th, 2014
08:27 AM ET

Pope: Come to the Vatican for peace talks

By Laura Smith-Spark, Ivan Watson and Delia Gallagher, CNN

Bethlehem, West Bank (CNN) - Pope Francis extended an invitation Sunday to the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to travel to the Vatican for a "peace initiative," after earlier calling for a two-state solution to the intractable conflict.

The pontiff's remarks came at the end of an outdoor Mass in Bethlehem's Manger Square on the second day of his three-day trip to the Middle East.

"In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with Israeli President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace," Francis said.

"I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer."

He added, "Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment. The men and women of these lands, and of the entire world, all of them, ask us to bring before God their fervent hopes for peace."

The Palestinian side has accepted the invitation and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will go to the Vatican, a Palestinian Legislative Council member, Hanan Ashrawi, told CNN.

The Israeli President's office said that he welcomed the invitation. "President Peres has always supported, and will continue to support, any attempts to progress the cause of peace," his office said.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Interfaith issues • Israel • Mass • Middle East • Palestinians • Pope Francis

May 24th, 2014
06:00 PM ET

Atheists in the Bible Belt: A survival guide

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

Raleigh, North Carolina (CNN) – Back home, they erase their Internet histories, look over their shoulders before cracking jokes and nod politely when co-workers talk about church.

But in a hotel ballroom here on a recent weekend, more than 220 atheists, agnostics, skeptics and freethinkers let it all hang out.

The convention was called “Freedom From Religion in the Bible Belt,” and it was part celebration of skepticism and part strategy session about surviving in the country’s most religious region.

They sang songs about the futility of faith, shared stories about “coming out” as nonbelievers and bought books about the Bible – critical ones, of course.

“Isn’t it great to be in a room where you can say whatever you want to whomever you want without fear of anyone criticizing you for being unorthodox?” asked Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, as he opened the two-day convention.

The Wisconsin-based foundation co-sponsored the event with the Triangle Freethought Society, which draws its members from this state’s tech-heavy Research Triangle.

The nonbelievers came from as far afield as Ireland and France, but most described themselves as refugees from the heart of the South - atheist anomalies amid fiercely devout friends, family and neighbors.

We wanted to know what it’s like to be a nonbeliever in the Bible Belt, so over the course of the weekend we asked some of the folks here to share their secrets.

They had a lot to say, and some of their advice overlapped, but we came away with eight top tips. Some said they wished they’d had something like this list when they began their foray into religious infidelity.

So, without further ado, here’s a “survival guide” to being an atheist in the Bible Belt:

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Black issues • Church and state • Culture wars • Discrimination • Internet • Lost faith • Nones • North Carolina • Prejudice • Religious liberty

   older posts »
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.

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