By Shahira Amin, Special to CNN
(CNN)– It's Orthodox Christmas, but the mood in Cairo's working-class Shobra district this year is somber. There aren't many colorful festivities and decorations that traditionally mark Eastern Christmas celebrations in this predominantly Christian neighborhood, and Shobra's Coptic Christian residents say they are in no mood to celebrate.
Growing concerns about the rights of Egypt's Copts, who make up an estimated 12% of the population, have dampened the mood of Christians, overshadowing this year's celebrations.
"Many of my friends and relatives have left the country," said 27-year-old Beshoy Ragheb. "I would leave, too, if I had a place to go."
Threats by Muslim extremists against Coptic Christians in the past year have forced scores of Christian families to flee their homes in Dahshur and the Egyptian border town of Rafah. Meanwhile, extremist attacks on Christian churches and brutal attacks by security and military forces on Christian protesters demanding the protection of their churches in October 2011 remain vivid in the memories of many of Egypt's Christians.
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN)– If you set your DVR to record the Smithsonian Channel's documentary on the "Jesus Wife" papyrus fragment two weeks ago and it didn't, it wasn't your fault.
Despite the massive publicity the documentary received after the discovery was announced, the Smithsonian Channel has delayed the release of the film about the Coptic fragment with the phrase, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife..." to wait for further testing on the fragment.
"We have been allowed exclusive access to this discovery for months. Our program will take into account the upcoming tests as well as the academic response to the initial announcement," Tom Hayden, general manager of the Smithsonian Channel, said in a statement sent to CNN on Tuesday.
Academics have expressed skepticism about the fragment's authenticity following an announcement about it last month from Harvard professor Karen King.
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
A few years ago I wrote a book about Jesus in the American imagination. What I learned along the way is that the American Jesus is a Gumby-like figure who can twist and turn in almost any direction.
Our Jesus has been black and white, gay and straight, a socialist and a capitalist, a pacifist and a warrior, a civil rights activist and a Ku Klux Klansman. Over the American centuries, he has stood not on some unchanging rock of ages but on the shifting sands of economic circumstances, political calculations and cultural trends.
By Dan Merica, CNN
(CNN)– For Christians in countries thrown into tumult by the Arab Spring revolutions, Easter celebrations may prove dangerous.
According to experts and academics in the United States, the changing balances of power in each country, along with a history of anti-Christian sentiment, have made overt celebrations like Easter a cause for concern among Christians. This atmosphere, according to the same scholars, will likely alter the way the religious holiday is celebrated.
"In the past, they [Syrian Christians] have had great outpouring of piety in the public squares on Easter," said Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute. "This time, I suspect it is going to be vastly different. They are fearful."
By Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, CNN
Coptic Pope Shenouda III, the spiritual leader of Egypt's Coptic Christian community, is in deteriorating health, the head of the Egyptian General Coptic Association said Tuesday.
Shenouda, 88, "suffers from kidney disease and diabetes," said Sherif Doss, but said he was still "functional."
Bishop Basanti of Helwan governorate denied rumors that the pope is in a coma.
"He is well and under good medical care," the bishop insisted, saying that he would give his regular weekly address Wednesday evening.
By Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, For CNN
(CNN) - Hundreds of Coptics marching in Cairo Thursday were attacked by unknown assailants.
Thirty-two people were injured including two police officers, according to Dr. Adel Al Dawi, a ministry of health spokesman. Except for one badly injured girl who remained hospitalized late Thursday, those injured were treated for minor bruises and cuts.
By Dave Gilbert, CNN
London (CNN) - Violence has returned to the streets of Cairo - this time in fresh confrontations between army forces and pro-Coptic Christian protesters.
Accounts of the casualties vary but an Egyptian health ministry spokesman told CNN that 25 people had been killed and more than 272 injured during the weekend protests that were sparked by the burning of a Coptic Christian church in southern Egypt.
There has been long-standing tension between Egypt's Coptic Christians and Muslims but CNN's Ben Wedeman says that since this year's revolution that removed the former President Hosni Mubarak there have been more of these clashes.
Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has tried to deal with the tension by organizing a committee made up of representatives from Coptic Christians, Muslims, the military and government but Wedeman reports that some members have now suspended cooperation or quit over the government's handling of the situation.
State TV reported that Ahmed al-Tayyeb, a prominent Egyptian Muslim leader and grand imam of Al-Azhar, has also been reaching out to Coptic church leaders in hopes of containing the crisis.
CNN examines the background to the renewed violence.
From Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, For CNN
Cairo (CNN) - The number of dead in clashes between the army and pro-Coptic Christian protesters in Egypt over the weekend rose to at least 25, with at least 272 wounded, a Healthy Ministry official told CNN Monday.
But conflicting reports from the two sides indicated the death toll could be as high as 29 in violence that an army spokesman speculated may have been guided by a "hidden hand" associated with neither side.
Many of the dead and injured were crushed by speeding military vehicles, said Dr. Adel al-Dawi of the ministry.
The violence - the deadliest in Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak was toppled by a popular revolution in February - has brought the country back to the tense, violent period before the uprising, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said Monday.
"Instead of going forward, we found ourselves scrambling for security," Sharaf said on state television in an early morning speech, noting that the incident had produced "martyrs, both civilian and from the military."
Hundreds of Coptic Christians rallied outside a hospital Monday, chanting "The army has its tanks but we have our prayers," CNN saw.
Cairo, Egypt (CNN) - Violence erupted in the Cairo neighborhood of Maspero when pro-Coptic protesters clashed with unidentified men, leaving at least two people dead and 60 injured, state TV reported early Sunday.
The demonstrators initially staged a sit-in in front of the state TV building to demand greater rights for the religious minority.
Problems between Egypt's Muslim majority and its Coptic Christian minority have been on the rise in recent months, with a number of violent clashes reported between the two groups.
Dozens of unidentified men, dressed in plain clothes, began firing live ammunition into the air and attacking the demonstrators around the entrance of the sit-in enclosure with sticks and stones. They also threw Molotov cocktails. It was not immediately clear who the attackers were or what their motive was.
"They did not have beards. It was just a bunch of bad guys carrying guns and clubs," said Maged Girguis, a pro-Coptic protester.
Read the full story here.
From Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Ian Lee, For CNN
Cairo (CNN) – Muslim-Christian sectarian violence intensified in Egypt this weekend, spurring an emergency meeting of the Cabinet and public exhortations from Coptic Christians for international protection.
At least 12 people were killed and 232 others were wounded in sectarian clashes outside a Cairo church, according to state TV. Officials said violence began over rumors that a Christian woman who converted to Islam was being held at the church against her will.
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf postponed a trip to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to discuss the church attack and hold the emergency meeting, according to EgyNews, Egypt's official news agency.
A small group of Coptic Christians gathering near the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Sunday called for international protection of Egypt's Christian community and condemned the government for not doing more to protect them.
Read the full story of the clash here.
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.