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Lampedusa: A beautiful, perilous stepping-stone
March 1st, 2014
06:00 AM ET

Stepping-stones to safety: A family flees Syria's war - and finds refuge in Italy's islands

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Lampedusa, Italy (CNN) – Abdel clung to his pregnant wife, 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter as they sailed across an open stretch of the Mediterranean Sea.

They were in a dilapidated fishing boat with limited provisions and almost no sanitation, sharing a cramped space with some 400 other Syrians.

Abdel prayed quietly and recited verses from the Quran for two days and two nights as the boat swayed and motored precariously along the 180-mile route from Libya to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa.

If they could make it, his young family would be one step closer to freedom.

He knew thousands had died making the same voyage.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Europe • Islam • Italy • Libya • Mosque • Muslim • Persecution • Pope Francis • Poverty • Religious violence • Syria

October 16th, 2013
11:38 AM ET

In Syria, Muslims struggle to celebrate holy day

By Saad Abedine. Hala Gorani and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

(CNN) – Muslims throughout the world have been marking Eid al-Adha, but in war-torn Syria there is nothing to celebrate. Most people are struggling to meet the most basic of needs: food, water, and shelter.

Their plight has been highlighted by Arabic media reports which cite a fatwa, or religious ruling, by a local imam which allowed people who are desperately hungry to eat dogs and cats.

Eating dog, cat or donkey is forbidden under Islamic dietary laws.

The imam in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the capital, Damascus, reportedly said at a mosque Friday that dog, cat and donkey meat could be eaten "after reaching a desperate need and the stores of food were inadequate to feed the population under the siege."

Yarmouk has been besieged for months by Syrian government forces seeking to flush out rebel fighters.

During the Eid al-Adha holiday, considered one of Islam's most revered observances, many Muslims around the world sacrifice a sheep and share the meat with the poor. It corresponds with the height of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia that annually draws 2 million Muslims.

Outside Syrian, Muslims held more plentiful Eid al-Adha celebrations.

MORE ON CNN: Photos: Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Belief • Eid al-Adha • Faith • Food • Holidays • Islam • Islamic law • Islamic law • Middle East • Muslim • Syria • Traditions

Thousands fasting and praying for peace in Syria
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops tweeted this image on September 6.
September 7th, 2013
08:33 AM ET

Thousands fasting and praying for peace in Syria

By Daniel BurkeCNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) – After morning Mass on most Saturdays, you’d find the Rev. Dan Atkins cutting into a thick stack of pancakes or digging into a plate of eggs. But this Saturday’s menu is a bit spartan.

“I’ll probably just have coffee and a piece of toast,” said Atkins, the pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in New Albany, Indiana.

The Catholic priest isn’t on a diet. Rather, he’s one of many believers across the country - and throughout the world - heeding the call of Pope Francis to fast and pray for peace in Syria on Saturday.

“It’s a way to be in solidarity with people who are suffering terribly from war,” said Atkins, a native of southern Indiana. “I’m going to be thinking about the children, the kids, affected by this terrible conflict.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Mass • Politics • Pope Francis • Prayer • Syria

Pope to G-20: Keep your armies out of Syria
Pope Francis devoted much of his weekly speech on September 4 in Rome to the Syrian conflict.
September 5th, 2013
12:04 PM ET

Pope to G-20: Keep your armies out of Syria

By Daniel BurkeCNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - Pope Francis on Thursday wrote to the G-20 leaders, saying that military intervention in Syria would be "futile" and urging them to seek a diplomatic solution instead.

"To the leaders present, to each and every one," Francis wrote in a public letter, "I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution."

The pope's letter was addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is hosting the G-20 meeting, where the Syrian conflict is expected to take center stage.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Foreign policy • Pope Francis • Syria

Syrian civil war in photos
September 4th, 2013
01:10 PM ET

Syria explained: How it became a religious war

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."

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Foreign policy • Iran • Iran • Iraq • Iraq • Islam • Lebanon • Middle East • Muslim • Saudi Arabia • Syria

Pope condemns use of chemical weapons in Syria
Pope Francis has called for peaceful resolution to Syria's escalating civil war.
September 2nd, 2013
11:39 AM ET

Pope condemns use of chemical weapons in Syria

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - As President Obama rallies support for a military strike on Syria, Pope Francis condemned chemical weapons and called for an international day of fasting and prayer to press for a peaceful resolution to Syria's escalating civil war.

The pope tweeted an anti-war message to his nearly 3 million Twitter followers on Monday, repeating a theme he has sounded with increasing urgency in recent days.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Foreign policy • Pope Francis • Syria

July 2nd, 2013
11:58 AM ET

CNN exclusive: Catholic monk not beheaded by Syrian rebels, friar says

By Mohammed Jamjoom and Daniel Burke, CNN

Jerusalem (CNN) – A Catholic monk was not among the men beheaded in a gruesome video circulating online, a friar who oversees Franciscans in the Middle East told CNN in an exclusive interview.

Father Franҫois Mourad, a Syrian, was shot eight times and killed June 23 at a Catholic monastery in Gassanieh, said Friar Pierbattista Pizzaballa, head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.

Mourad was buried the same day in a nearby village, the friar said.

A nine-minute video, which appears to have been shot with a handheld device, shows three men being beheaded on a grassy hill while a crowd shouts, “Allahu Akbar!” Arabic for God is great. It is not clear where or when the video was shot.

A number of Catholic websites in the United States have posted the video online, saying that Mourad was among the three beheaded men.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Foreign policy • Jerusalem • Middle East • Religious violence • Syria • Vatican

April 25th, 2013
05:26 PM ET

Minaret destroyed at 12th-century Syrian mosque on World Heritage list

By Michael Martinez and Hamdi Alkhshali , CNN

(CNN) – Both sides in Syria's civil war were in rare agreement Wednesday: The minaret at a 12th-century mosque in Aleppo has been obliterated.

Unclear, however, was who destroyed the tower at the Great Umayyad Mosque, which has witnessed the march of nine centuries. It was just last month that a United Nations official expressed concern about the two-year war possibly damaging the mosque, a World Heritage site.

An opposition group blamed the government.

"Regime forces have committed today a new crime against human and cultural heritage by targeting the minaret of the mosque and completely destroying it," the Local Coordination Committees said. The group released a photograph of the mosque without its signature minaret, apparently reduced to rubble.

The Syrian Coalition also blamed President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Houses of worship • Islam • Mosque • Syria

December 26th, 2012
01:17 AM ET

A Christian prayer for peace in Syria

By Joe Sterling, Salma Abdelaziz and Holly Yan, CNN

(CNN) - Pope Benedict XVI urged warring parties in Syria on Tuesday to end the 21-month-old civil war.

"May peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenseless and reaps innocent victims," the pope said in his traditional Christmas message, delivered from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.

"Once again, I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced, and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict."

FULL STORY
- A. Hawkins

Filed under: Christianity • Islam • Pope Benedict XVI • Syria

On holiday of sacrifice, many Syrians cannot celebrate
For Syrians mired in civil war, now is not a time for celebration.
October 26th, 2012
10:02 AM ET

On holiday of sacrifice, many Syrians cannot celebrate

By Salma Abdelaziz, CNN

(CNN) –
Artillery shelling, water outages and food shortages, rather than presents and sweets, greeted many Syrians on the most important Muslim holiday of the year.

"There is no Eid here. What are you even talking about? How can you have Eid amid shelling? May God watch over us. We have rockets falling over us. The situation is horrific. Eid has no meaning for us," Abu Fouz, a 48-year-old resident of Aleppo, told CNN.

Eid al-Adha, literally meaning The Feast of Sacrifice, is one of two major holidays in Islam. It commemorates millions completing the holy pilgrimage called the Hajj to Saudi Arabia. It marks the Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Islam • Syria

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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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