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September 14th, 2012
12:05 PM ET

Controversy over anti-Islamic film shines light on Coptic Christianity

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) -Violence in the Muslim world over an anti-Islamic film that appears to have been produced by a Coptic Christian is bringing uncomfortable focus on the religious tradition.

A staffer on the film, which has provoked anti-American protests and violence across the Muslim world, said he believed that the filmmaker is a Coptic Christian, information that has sent shock waves through the Coptic community.

The staffer said the filmmaker told him he'd been to Alexandria, Egypt, to raise money for the film, suggesting that Copts were helping finance it. Media in Egypt, where Copt-Muslim relations are tense, jumped on the news.

"Islamists' use of this idea that Copts were behind it was apparently effective in drumming up support for those attacks," said Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church released a statement Wednesday condemning the film, its funding and its production. The film's "release at this specific time is part of a malicious campaign targeting defamation of religions, aiming to divide the people, most notably the Egyptian people," the statement said.

"The defamation of religion, its symbols and teachings is incompatible with Christian values, the teaching of Jesus Christ and the apostles as is demonstrated in the Bible," the statement continued, "so those who participate in such a production, display or promotion of such a films should be held fully accountable for operating outside of Christian principles and church laws."

Coptic Christians are part of the Orthodox Christian tradition, one of three main traditions under the Christian umbrella, alongside Catholicism and Protestantism. Copts split from other Christians in the fifth century over the definition of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Copts trace their history to the Apostle Mark, the New Testament figure who they say introduced Christianity to Egypt in A.D. 43. Egypt holds a special place for Coptic Christians because, according to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus' family fled there shortly after his birth to escape King Herod, who was calling for the execution of all Jewish boys under the age of 2.

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The largest group of Copts in the world is still in Egypt, where they make up between 8% and 11% of the nation's 80 million citizens, most of whom are Sunni Muslims.

In the United States, there are approximately 90,000 Copts organized under 170 parishes, according to Alexei Krindatch, research coordinator for the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States. Many Copts came to the U.S. from Egypt, Kridatch said.

"Most of them came here as highly professional people, so you've got a lot of medical doctors and electrical engineers," he said. "So basically, the Coptic community in the United States is very well-educated and, you could also say, a very prosperous community."

Coptic churches tend to be ornately decorated, and members often stay at the church all day on Sunday for worship services and communal meals, Kridatch said.

The American Coptic community is close-knit: The tradition's churches tend to be social hubs as well as religious centers.

In Egypt, Coptic Christians have been target of recent violence.

A Coptic church was bombed in Alexandria in January, killing 21 people. Last fall, during clashes with Egyptian security forces, two dozen Coptic Christians and their supporters were killed.

Sectarian violence in Egypt is nothing new. Maha Azzam, associate fellow of the Middle East and North African Program at the Chatham House think tank in London, says the sources of tension have focused on religious conversions, attacks on places of worship and Coptic resentment that they are not being given licenses to build new churches.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent bipartisan federal agency, added Egypt this year to a list of the worst violators of religious freedom.

- CNN's Dave Gilbert and Brian Todd contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Coptic Church

soundoff (350 Responses)
  1. ACHMED THE DEAD TERRORIST

    SILENCE! I KILL YOU!

    September 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  2. Kuff

    What is so anti-Islamic about this film, anyway?

    September 14, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • OMG

      Few 100% true Reasons why Islam is a terrible and evil religion to stay far away from...

      1. "Prophet" Muhammed was an evil & disgusting pédophile who had several wives like a maniac!
      2. Islam = submission. Allah tell Muslims to submit to his will; otherwise he will torture and torment you in life for eternity.
      3. Islam treats non-adherents worse than animals. If they are people of the books (Christians or Jews), classify them as "dhimmis" and make them pay a special tax (Jizya) to the Islamic government, or they should be enslave, rob, rápe, and lynch them as you please unless they convert to Islam.
      4. Death Penalty for any Muslims leaving Islam, being gay, atheist or insulting Muhammed.
      5. Quran: "Men are better than women", "Men could have many wives", "Men could hit their wives" and other evil things.
      6. Unlike Christians – Muslims pray and serve Allah, rather than praying for themselves or someone else.
      7. Islam is the most violent Religion by far –>> http://www.thereligionofpeace.com <<–
      8. Muslims frequently persecute and kill Christians unless they convert to their cult. Churches have either been converting into Mosque. (Hagia Sophia an example) or being burned down in Islamic countries.
      9. Non-Muslims are forbidden visiting Mecca, and no freedom of/from religion in Saudi Arabia & many other Islamic nations.
      10. Islam is spreading like rats in western countries (Europe & North America), and seek to spread their "Sharia Laws", as well as trying to convert as many people to their "peaceful" religion and ev. taking over the nation.
      They start by opening mosques and marry Christian or Jewish women so they will convert to Islam and raise Muslim kids.
      11. It is the DUTY of every Muslim to expand Islam and strive for world domination.
      12. Quran is nothing but hate and violence. Muslim children are brainwashed and brought up with violence and hatred towards non-Muslims. God forbid you are Christian minority in any Muslim country!
      13. Islam says they believe in Jesus (Isa), yet they deny his words and the Bible.
      14. Muslims in western nations tries to act 'nice and tolerant' to make non-Muslims believe & think their evil religion is peaceful so people fall into their cult and convert! Blacks, prisoners, and poor women are main targeted!

      May our Lord save us from Islam and its violence & disgusting people!

      Muslims could openly practice their religion freely in western (Christian) nations, but Christians or Non-Muslims would risk getting their head cut of doing so in any Islamic nation, both secular and extremist.

      September 14, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  3. jackola

    The film producer, if indeed a member of the Coptic community, has done his people a great disservice. On the other hand, the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt could have taken a better position in condemning this act more strongly and wording their statement in a way that is more appealing to their fellow Muslim citizens. I would have said something like: "release at this specific time is part of a malicious campaign targeting defamation of religions, aiming to divide the Coptic Egyptian people from their Muslim brothers" (note the use of the word "brothers" which appeals to Arab minds. Unfortunately, the cycle of violence will continue in Egypt as neither side possesses the skills to deal with the other side.

    September 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • youstina27socar

      actually the holy synod couldn't have done any better. this movie thing was started on the internet and spread like wild fire. we didn't know what was going on, who, or how, or why. until finally now it is starting to become clearer. and about the movie i don't think it was made by a coptic christinan or even an Arab for that sense. if u watch the trailer and have talked to christians before anywhere in the arabic world u'll know for sure it is not arabs or copts. it doesn't make sense for them to produce a badly made movie in English. directly offending someone and displaying them as horrible and explicitly describe them as bad. this was produced probably by some israeili or jewish people. the resaon is to break down the unity of Egypt. Egyptians are very proud of their religions. it is built into our culture. sadly though the ignorance that has been increasing in the country is making it easy to fool those feelings that have been passed to us from father to son since the times of the pharaohs. the idea is... this is not a way of respecting religions. we were taught as kids to respect all religions no matter what they beilieve. u can criticize a person but disrespect and attack a religion is strictly inappropriate and is left in-tolerated . these things happen cuz they start from the poor areas of cairo by heating people with low education up and engaging the more educated one level at a time. if u put religion into the game, it takes a few hours to spread like wild fires and people go out on the streets.

      September 15, 2012 at 4:36 am |
  4. us_1776

    Who are these Coptic idiots and why did they make this film against Islam?

    .

    September 14, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • jackola

      They are the persecuted minority in Egypt that are used as "whipping boys" every time there is a clash between the West and the Islamic countries. But this time, they asked for it if indeed they made this movie. In this case, "idiots" is an understatement.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • youstina27socar

      We are the church of Egypt established by st. mark the Apostle around 60 AD and we are considered the oldest church in the whole world. we are also the minority in Egypt. we are direct descendants of the Egyptians living at the times of the pharaohs and the greeks that have come afterwards...we still use the ancient demotic language (spoken ancient Egyptian) in our liturgies and prayers. Demotics is written now in ancient greek letters that have developed when romans took over Egypt after Cleopatra's suicide. also some muslims can be considered copts since they are also direct descendants of the pharaohs who converted. the majority of muslims though come from the arab families and soldiers that have come in Egypt after they entered egypt. the christians populating the area, have either been killed or lived in secrecy or escaped to other countries or were forced to convert if they didn't wanna die- depending on the era and the rulers from century to century. that said over the years many copts have willingly left their homes taking their children with them to the rulers and announcing their christian faith and taking it to death for Christ's sake. public executions, persecutions, have took place all over Egypt. the blood of the martyrs fills the soil of our country from north to south and from east to west... many of the bodies are recovered and are broken between churches all over egypt and the rest of the world and by the way the movie was not made by Coptic Christians at least not orthodox anyway.

      September 15, 2012 at 5:28 am |
  5. Brandon

    Shines light on the Coptics?! Hell, I figured it just shined more light on the muslims.

    September 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  6. Zoby

    Hey you muslim pieces of trash here is the video translated for you!

    http://www.youtube . com/watch?v=wVpEseMTY7U

    Now you can see your prophet in all his glory!

    September 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  7. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    help help someone help my Muhammed, he is burning in Hell right now for murders in Benghazi.

    September 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  8. Sam

    The plight of Christians in majority Muslim countries is a very pressing issue. It was not addressed seriously in the video (nothing was addressed seriously in the video).

    The film shows a little bit of latter day violence against Copts, but spends most of its time attacking Muhammad. The filmmakers aren't serious about calling attention to persecution of Coptic Christians; if anything, they want to martyr as many Copts as they can, as well as the Jews, whom they have used as veritable human shields.

    September 14, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • youstina27socar

      i agree with you a lot this movie was not made by Christians for the purpose of spreading the word about the persecutions. it was made to burn the country and give the muslims a worse look giving countries who want to take over Egypt an execuse. the film makers do know though that religion is a top priority in EGypt above any other country in the world. and i it is a great redline. that everyone should respect. we were raised on respectinf each others religions at any cost.

      September 15, 2012 at 5:33 am |
  9. Sly

    Ain't no difference between a muslim religious nut who would kill over a movie or a Christian religious nut who murders abortion doctors.

    It's RELIGION folks, not the people of the world. People are all the same.

    September 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Brandon

      The only difference is current volume and imminent threat.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Jamie

      Except only 1-2 people were killed due to abortion issue versus thousands killed and tormanted everyday by the Muslims. Not the same at all my friend!

      September 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • SeiLnoigileR

      @jamie – murder is murder. Imaginary sky-daddies are all delusions. Just different flavors. This is what happens when faith overrides thought and reason.

      September 14, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      Prisons are full of criminals in every country. It's human nature.

      September 14, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  10. TMcGill

    I think the article has one detail confused: the Coptic Orthodox Church is not, in fact, part of what is typically referred to as the "Eastern Orthodox" tradition, but part of the "Oriental Orthodox" tradition, which split off several centuries before the Eastern Orthodox / Roman Catholic split, at the time of the Council of Chalcedon. So the Coptic Church is not really part of one of those "three main branches" as they are described in this story, although it does share the same history with them up until the 5th Century.

    September 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @TMcGill

      Indeed so. Poor reporting on the Belief Blog there. Mr. Marrapodi should have checked that better.

      September 14, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • youstina27socar

      also the debate in chalecedon was not about the divinity of christ, but it was about the nature of christ ... one person with two natures or one nature made up of two natures.

      September 15, 2012 at 5:35 am |
  11. John Hammer

    These attacks are the act of people following Satan not God and those claiming responsibility for the attacks need to be recognized as agents of Satan – God did not cause these attacks – he judges each according to his merits – anyone that ridicules God or his prophets will be dealt with by him not humans – these attacks are the works of the followers of Satan.

    September 14, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Damocles

      It's damn near impossible for me to see where your good deity ends and your evil deity begins.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      there is no God but Allah, filthy denier of truth absolute, Al, the La, limited, H, high Mohammad the Limited truth, for more visit me at http://www.give-me-a-virus.net for big bang, make sure to turn off virus protection and let Muhammed show his tricks.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Grand Ole Party of Christian Taliban

      John Hammer

      These attacks are the act of people following Satan not God and those claiming responsibility for the attacks need to be recognized as agents of Satan – God did not cause these attacks – he judges each according to his merits – anyone that ridicules God or his prophets will be dealt with by him not humans – these attacks are the works of the followers of Satan
      -–

      Our mental health care is really failing. If your God is real he/she/them were the first to lie, he is the true Satan. All thigns come from yoru God including sin.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • T-Max73

      Well, they say they are doing the work and the will of their deity of choice (Allah) and you say they are doing the work of Satan. Whom should we believe? Should we believe another religious nutjob who thinks myths and legends (Satan, Jesus, God, Moses, Virgin Mary) are real and can hear and help them, or should we listen to rational individuals who tell us that there is NO supernatural dimension and that ALL gods, Gods, Goddesses (Mary) are human inventions designed to enslave humanity in the supernatural? I'll believe the rational thinking person who uses his critical faculties to deduce that all religions are a scourge on humanity and that NOT ONE of them has any basis in fact or reality. Peace.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • SeiLnoigileR

      Oh please. That is the biggest lie ever. I love how you use 'satan' as a scapegoat for everything. All religions are simply a means of controlling people – nothing more, nothing less. Start thinking for yourself and question your self-induced brainwashing.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "– these attacks are the works of the followers of Satan." That's one of the silliest things I ever heard, even here. A big whack with the Clown Hammer© for John Hammer.

      September 14, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  12. RasPutin

    CNN and other media organizations are totally irresponsible in blaming Coptics based on a comment by ONE cast member about a person of whom nothing true is known.

    This sect is extremely vulnerable, totally surrounded by Muslims who have been looking for an excuse to annihilate them for centuries. Will CNN expend all needed funds and efforts to protect these people? Good luck with that!

    September 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Chat Pata

      Agreed. It is unfair to blame just the Coptics, or Muslims, or Jews. You have to blame the very concept of a religion. As long as religions exists, this divisiveness will also exist.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Jamie

      No, You cannot put all the religions into the same basket. Islam always promotes barbarism, ignorance, killings and violance. It's very different than a peaceful religion like Christianity.

      September 14, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      Yep, let's attack ALL Copts because one crazy one did something bad. Man, simple answers for simple minds is the theme of our show today.

      September 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  13. Christianity source of Christianfilthyracism.

    Only by Christianity absurdity of a Christian, Christian and pagan. Filthy Christian Captain Crunch dog. Filthy pagan hindu pig dog. Filthy Randy Jackson dog. Filthy hebrew national beef dog. Filthy mandingo foot long dog. No dogs! Who let them be out? Quran means nothing else but path of triple abdullah absolute quantified. please visit ahmadinebinpaid.com/blog.html and click on word Choice to open file. But turn virus protection off before.

    September 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Poundaround

      You forgot "fargin clock sourcer". Thanks for this, it made my day.

      September 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Manderson

      Hilarious troll is hilarious. Made my day.

      September 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  14. wkmeads

    The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that aside from the 14 minute clip shown on YouTube, this anti-Islam movie does not appear to actually exist. Someone took footage from a low budget movie called "Desert Warrior", did a fast overdub to add the offensive comments, and put it out on the net to obscure the fact that these people in the lands attacked by the US are actually angry over invasion, conquest, looting, drone strikes against civilians, torture, and being shot at by the United States on behalf of Israel.

    September 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • sam

      It would be a clever way for any grouchy malcontent to whip everyone into a frenzy. Why commit terrorism yourself when you can overdub some crap clip and make the middle east your unwitting army? Use the internet to do your work for you.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      And if you can't trust the disciples of Mary Baker Eddy, who can you trust?
      She taught us all that medicine isn't necessary if you just pray hard enough.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  15. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    Islam, self centered, Muslim's believe in fundamental clause of Sharia, Al, the La, limit H, most high or absolute 360* we trust, and every Muslim believe in polygamy, makes us fastes growing religion on Earth truth absolute, filty self centered kafeer, denier of truth absolute. for more for more visit limitedtruth.com/blog.html and click on word Pro-Choice to open file, turn off virus protection first.

    September 14, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  16. Sam Yaza

    man you christian in America should be happy you live in a secular nation like America, because you could live in a christian county like Uganda

    September 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Damocles

      Now is Uganda County in Wyoming or Texas? I can never remember.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      i think its Utah

      September 14, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  17. Atheism is a learning disability.

    But don't give up, help is on the way.

    September 14, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Religion is Great for Kids and Grown-Ups Too!

      Come on. That’s not nice or productive.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • hal 9000

      I'm sorry "Atheism is a learning disability", but you assertions regarding atheism are unfounded.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Muslims do not support atheism absurdity of evolution, but existence of truth absolute Muhammed, atheism absurdity of evolution is a fundamental of atheism, pagan ism, self center ism, product of observation of animals se x,having nothing to do with physical science, To learn causes of mayhem among atheists kafeers, Cristians, Jews, Hindus please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uwOL4rB-go and click on Like.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      I can feel God's love just coming out of you in huge stinking waves. What a good Christian you are! Now tell us about how you think every atheist is just like Joe Stalin, that's always hilarious. Call some more names so we can see how God's love has made you schizophrenic.

      September 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      hinduism,

      man you need a hug.

      September 14, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • MDAT

      Hindu you don't have anything against evolution.

      September 14, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    September 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • hal 9000

      I'm sorry "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but you assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
      by the Alzheimer's Disease Society

      September 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Go see your Hakeem filthy Christian swine or have your self chained to wall Pig, ID thief, denier of truth absolute 360*, your brain is cooking on your ignorance. for more for more for more for more visit limitthetruth.com/blog.html and click on word AllahMubarak to open file. Guaranteed virus free site.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Chat Pata

      Except there is nobody upstairs to answer your prayers, just an imaginary friend giving you hallucinations that you call "signs".

      September 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • SeiLnoigileR

      No, it doesn't, because if it did you'd not be posting this same drivel again and again.....

      September 14, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      Has it changed your diaper yet?

      September 14, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs! .

      September 14, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  19. religion = schizophrenia

    It is when you have mentally ill people thinking that there is some invisible supernatural terror-inducing monster watching your every move that you see these sorts of things happen.

    religion = schizophrenia

    September 14, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Religions are hinduism, corruption of truth absolute, by hindu Jew's, criminal self centered of Persia and Egypt, pretending to be Israelit to hind, fool humanity, so much so, word religion does not exist in divine language, but Theen Allah, consti tution of truth absolute, proven by Quantum physics. To know causes of mayhem among humanity, handy work of hindu Jew's, criminal self centered, denier of truth absolute and thir hinduism, fabrication, hindu Mithra ism pagan savior ism, labeled as Christianity, please visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/blog.html and click on word Choice to open file.

      September 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • hal 9000

      Your assertion, "religion = schizophrenia", is correct.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Jamie

      Your religion=schzophrenia is too presumptuous. With your limited mind you cannot assume to know everything. Peaceful religions did a lof of goods for the human kind, ofcourse I'm not referring to anything like Islam here.

      September 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  20. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    Ya, light of truth shines on hindu Mithra ism, pagan savior ism labeled as Christianity , to expose hinduism, racism foundation of hindu Mithra ism, pagan savior ism, with a now label, Christianity. Way of Magi hindu's, criminal crooks to make humanity their gentile. salves. To know causes of mayhem among humanity, handy work of hindu Jew's, criminal self centered, denier of truth absolute and thir hinduism, fabrication, hindu Mithra ism pagan savior ism, labeled as Christianity, please visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/blog.html and click on word Choice to open file.

    September 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Dr. Patel

      It seems that we haven't adjusted your meds properly. See me on Monday.

      September 14, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      I need med for 8==> (_!_)

      September 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      You are like an encyclopedia of obsessed foolishness.

      September 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Clint Eastwood

      Did a Hindu kick your dog or something? Get over it.

      September 14, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
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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.