Amid Orthodox Christmas, Egypt's Christians fear for their rights under Islamist government
Newly elected leader of Egypt's Coptic Christian, Pope Tawadros II, (C) Head of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, leads the Coptic Christmas midnight mass at the al-Abasseya Cathedral in Cairo late on January 6, 2013.
January 7th, 2013
04:00 PM ET

Amid Orthodox Christmas, Egypt's Christians fear for their rights under Islamist government

By Shahira Amin, Special to 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.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Coptic • Coptic Church • Egypt

Documentary about 'Jesus' wife' papyrus delayed
The fragment is written in Coptic, a language used by some early Christians.
October 16th, 2012
12:55 PM ET

Documentary about 'Jesus' wife' papyrus delayed

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='EricCNNBelief']

(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.


- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Coptic • TV

My Take: I don't know if Jesus was married (and I don't care)
September 21st, 2012
09:28 AM ET

My Take: I don't know if Jesus was married (and I don't care)

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.


- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Coptic • Jesus • Sexuality • United States

After Arab Spring, experts fearful of Christian targeting at Easter celebrations
April 7th, 2012
10:18 AM ET

After Arab Spring, experts fearful of Christian targeting at Easter celebrations

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."


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Coptic • Easter • Holidays

January 31st, 2012
09:36 AM ET

Egypt's Coptic Pope in poor health, official says

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.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Coptic • Egypt

Egyptian Coptics attacked, dozens slightly injured
Egyptian riot policemen take position in the area where Coptic Christians came under attack on November 17.
November 18th, 2011
05:00 AM ET

Egyptian Coptics attacked, dozens slightly injured

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.


- Dan Merica

Filed under: Coptic • Egypt

October 11th, 2011
08:47 AM ET

Q and A: Coptic Christians

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.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Coptic • Egypt

Death toll rises in Egypt Christian clashes as tension continues
Egyptian Coptic Christians clash with soldiers and anti-riot police during a protest in Cairo on 9 October.
October 10th, 2011
10:01 AM ET

Death toll rises in Egypt Christian clashes as tension continues

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.

Read the full story here.
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Belief • Christianity • Coptic • Egypt • Religious violence

State TV: 2 dead and 60 injured in clashes involving Coptics in Cairo
Egyptian riot police were deployed and created a human barrier between the men and the demonstrators.
May 15th, 2011
07:30 AM ET

State TV: 2 dead and 60 injured in clashes involving Coptics in Cairo

From Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, For CNN

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.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Christianity • Coptic • Egypt • Violence

Egyptian Copts, reeling from violence, want protection
Firefighters extinguish a blaze at a church following clashes between Muslims and Christians in Cairo, Egypt on May 8, 2011.
May 8th, 2011
01:18 PM ET

Egyptian Copts, reeling from violence, want protection

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.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Christianity • Coptic • Egypt • Islam • Violence

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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.