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.
September 4th, 2013
04:47 PM ET
By Daniel Burke and Mitra Mobasherat, CNN
(CNN) - Marking a sharp shift from his Holocaust-denying predecessor, new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday appeared to wish "all Jews" a "blessed Rosh Hashanah" on his English-language Twitter account.
Rosh Hashanah, of course, is the Jewish celebration of the new year. As Rouhani mentions, it began Wednesday at sundown. The image in the tweet is reportedly taken from a synagogue in Tehran.
September 4th, 2013
01:10 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - How did Syria go from an internal uprising to a wider clash drawing funding and fighters from across the region?
In a word, Middle East experts say, religion.
Shiite Muslims from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran have flooded into Syria to defend sacred sites and President Bashar al-Assad's embattled regime. Sunni Muslims, some affiliated with al Qaeda, have rushed in to join rebels, most of whom are Sunni.
Both sides use religious rhetoric as a rallying cry, calling each other "infidels" and "Satan's army."
"That is why it has become so muddy," said professor Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. "The theological question has returned to the center."
May 9th, 2013
03:20 PM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor
(CNN) - Dwight K. Schrute was many things: paper salesman, beet farmer, lovable dork. Though he came from Amish stock, Schrute showed more interest in martial arts than Bibles and buggies.
But the man who played Schrute for nine years calls religion central to his life, and as Rainn Wilson transitions to life after “The Office,” his Baha’i faith is taking center stage.
Wilson is on the forefront of a campaign called “Five Years Too Many” that calls for the release of seven Baha’i volunteer leaders who have been imprisoned in Iran for the past five years.
“People need to know that this has happened and that this is happening and they don't,” Wilson said. “There are Baha'is rotting in jail on a 20-year sentence on trumped up charges simply because they have a certain set of faith beliefs that run against the theocracy in Iran."
The move from actor to advocate for a world religion is a big shift for Wilson. After a failed movie career and a lot of soul searching he is at peace with his television success and knows that his career might have peaked with “The Office,” which ends next Thursday after nine years on the air. FULL POST
March 28th, 2013
05:26 PM ET
By Sherisse Pham, CNN
(CNN)–His children cry out for him. His wife wonders about his “survival battle.”
Such is the struggle of the family of an American pastor recently sentenced in Iran to eight years in prison for his Christian beliefs.
The couple's two children "miss him terribly. They cry, they ask for him," wife Naghmeh Abedini says. "They're struggling every day."
Her husband Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen of Iranian birth, was arrested and charged in Iran last June during a visit. Abedini, 32, converted to Christianity from Islam and then became a pastor, living in Boise, Idaho. He has reportedly been detained in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison since late September. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, a Muslim who converts to another faith can face the death penalty.
"They've charged him with Christian gatherings, and they're saying it is a threat to the national security," Naghmeh Abedini said.FULL STORY
February 9th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
Editor’s Note: Qasim Rashid is a national spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. Follow him on Twitter @MuslimIQ.
By Qasim Rashid, Special to CNN
When will Iran's government and clerics stop running from the truth that their religion - which they call Islam - would be unrecognizable to the Prophet Mohammed?
On the mere allegation that American pastor Saeed Abedini evangelized Christianity, Iran threw him in front of a member of its Revolutionary Court, whom many have called a “hanging judge.” Abedini now faces eight years in prison, which is nothing short of reprehensible, immoral and cowardly.
If Iran’s purpose was to protect what it thinks is Islam, it has failed.
January 27th, 2013
12:02 PM ET
By the CNN staff
(CNN) - An Iranian judge has sentenced an American Christian pastor to eight years in prison after he was tried for his religious beliefs, a U.S.-based religious group said Sunday.
Saeed Abedini was swiftly sentenced by a member of the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Court, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, an organization founded by television evangelist Pat Robertson.
CNN was not immediately able to confirm what went on in the court proceedings.
Abedini, who was born in Iran and now lives in Idaho, has been jailed in Iran since September, the group said.
"This is a real travesty - a mockery of justice," said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, in a statement. "From the very beginning, Iranian authorities have lied about all aspects of this case, even releasing rumors of his expected release."
"Iran has not only abused its own laws, it has trampled on the fundamentals of human rights," added Sekulow, who represents Abedini's wife and children, who are in the U.S. "We call on the citizens of the world to rise up in protest. We call on governments around the world to stand and defend Pastor Saeed."
January 21st, 2013
11:00 PM ET
On Monday, American Saeed Abedini appeared in an Iranian court. The Christian pastor gave the judge a written statement and was questioned by prosecutors and his defense lawyer, whom he only met Monday.
But apparently that is not the end of the legal proceedings, according to his wife and lawyers who are assisting her with the situation.
Naghmeh Abedini said "a few" laymen with the Christian church in Iran told her husband's attorney that they have been called to testify in the case, in which the pastor is being tried for his religious beliefs. The lawyer indicated that neither he nor the pastor were expecting to be allowed to attend Tuesday's hearing.
January 1st, 2013
12:38 PM ET
By Tara Kangarlou, CNN
(CNN)–Gold, red and green gift boxes decorated a large Christmas tree in a popular food court in the Islamic Republic’s bustling capital of Tehran. Nativity scenes of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus added color to the windows of shops across this lively city, a small symbol of the growing number of Iranians embracing the Christian holiday.
Iran has a population that is 98% Muslim, and the government is widely recognized for its repressive rulings, censorship and efforts to cut ties with the United States and the West, but more Iranians are openly celebrating Christmas and expressing their desires to be part of the global celebration.
On Christmas, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad released a statement praising Jesus as "the messenger of humanism and grace" and noted, "I believe that the sole way to save the man from severe moral, social and cultural crises is returning to the exalted teachings of the great messengers of God."
September 25th, 2012
04:35 AM ET
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talks to CNN's Piers Morgan about people of different ethnic backgrounds and religion.
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 and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.