White House, State Department condemn Iran on pastor's execution orders
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani shown in an Iranian prison.
February 23rd, 2012
07:59 PM ET

White House, State Department condemn Iran on pastor's execution orders

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Christian charged with leaving Islam, has received a local trial courts final verdict, according to sources close to his legal team, and may now be executed for leaving Islam.

Jodran Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, said he was informed on Monday by the pastor's legal team that the final execution order had been issued. At this point, said Sekulow, the pastor could be executed without the legal team's knowledge.

The White House issued a pointed statement on Thursday, strongly condemning the reports and renewed calls for Iranian authorities to release the pastor.


- Dan Merica

Filed under: Christianity • Iran

Religious delegation plays role in release of American hikers
American religious leaders with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, far left, on Saturday.
September 21st, 2011
04:50 PM ET

Religious delegation plays role in release of American hikers

From Stan Wilson, CNN

(CNN) - When a prominent group of American Muslim and Christian leaders returned to Washington Monday after meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and top clerical leaders during a six-day visit to Iran, they expressed optimism that two American hikers would be released within a few days.

On Wednesday, their hopes were realized when Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were escorted out of Evin prison in Tehran after more than two years behind bars.

"We were very happy to learn about their release today," said Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), who visited Tehran last week as part of a religious delegation.. "We are extremely happy for the hikers, their families and the country."


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Iran • Islam

World soccer officials defend hijab ban after Iranian team forfeits match
Iran's women national football team in 2009.
June 7th, 2011
01:43 PM ET

World soccer officials defend hijab ban after Iranian team forfeits match

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - The head of Iran's football federation has written a letter of protest to FIFA after the Iranian women's soccer team forfeited a match because of a head scarf rule, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported Tuesday.

World football officials have defended their refusal to allow the players to wear head scarves while playing in an Olympic qualifying round in Amman, Jordan, last week.

"Iran's women team took part in the Olympic qualifier according to FIFA rules. FIFA commissioner's decision to bar the Iranian team is not logical," Ali Kaffashian, head of the Iranian federation, wrote in a letter to FIFA President Sepp Blatter, Mehr reported.

FIFA safety rules enacted last year allow women to wear "a cap that covers their head to the hairline, but which does not extend below the ears to cover the neck," according to a statement released by FIFA Monday.

Iran's coach chose to forfeit last Friday's match with Jordan rather than dressing players in the smaller FIFA-approved head covering.

"Despite initial assurances that the Iranian delegation understood this, the players came out wearing the hijab, and the head and neck totally covered, which was an infringement of the laws of the game," FIFA said.

Three players on Jordan's team who wanted to wear hijab scarves for religious reason also sat out the match, FIFA said.

The FIFA statement concluded that match officials "decided to apply correctly the laws of the game, which ended in the match being abandoned."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Iran • Islam • Sports

For Baha'i educators, a lesson in power from Iran
Eleven of the educators detained for teaching members of Iran's Baha'i community.
May 31st, 2011
09:43 AM ET

For Baha'i educators, a lesson in power from Iran

By Mitra Mobasherat and Joe Sterling, CNN

(CNN) - The three Iranian security officers rang the doorbell, politely informed the man of his arrest, thoroughly searched the house, confiscated high-tech gear and books, and whisked him away to the nation's notorious Evin Prison.

The early Sunday morning raid took three hours. Now, every second seems like an eternity for the man's anguished family members, praying for his physical safety, hoping for his release, and getting their heads around the prospect of a long stint in prison, his relatives told CNN.

His family says the reason for his arrest is his religion.

Read the full story on the plight of Iran's Baha'i educators
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Baha'i • Iran • Persecution

Could fundamentalist Christians help Mideast politics?
Egyptian activists in Cairo on March 27.
April 16th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Could fundamentalist Christians help Mideast politics?

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - As protesters battle repressive regimes in the Middle East, some commentators fear that the collapse of these regimes could pave the way for radical Islamic groups to take power.

But anyone who believes that democracy and religious fundamentalism cannot co-exist has not been paying attention to how fundamentalist Christians have strengthened American democracy, Jonathan Zimmerman, a history professor at New York University says in a provocative recent  Christian Science Monitor article.


- CNN Writer

Filed under: Abortion • Christianity • Culture wars • Egypt • Fundamentalism • Iran • Islam • Middle East

March 25th, 2011
09:34 AM ET

Christian to Muslim: A change of faith

Editor’s Note: "Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door" features the Muslim community of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where Matthew Miller has lived since age 15. CNN’s Soledad O’Brien chronicles the dramatic fight over the construction of a mosque in the heart of the Bible belt. “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door” airing at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. E.T. April 2 on CNN.

By Elizabeth M. Nunez, CNN

The actual conversion was brief. It only involved one sentence: “I bear witness that there is no God worthy of worship but God, I bear witness that Mohammed is the messenger of God.”

For 30-year-old Mathew Miller, those words represented the culmination of a long religious transformation from Christianity to Islam.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Interfaith issues • Iran • Islam • Mosque • Muslim

December 23rd, 2010
02:10 PM ET

Christians face rising persecution, experts say

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

A pastor sits on death row in Iran. His crime? Renouncing Islam  for Christianity.

A Christian mother of two faces execution in Pakistan - and a preacher  has put a price on her head in case the president pardons her. Her crime?  Insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

In Iraq, dozens of Christians lie in fresh graves. Their fatal mistake?  Going to church.

And these are not simply isolated incidents, but part of a broader  pattern, experts say.

"There does appear to be an upsurge in violence directed against  Christians," said Leonard Leo, the chairman of the U.S. Commission on  International Religious Freedom.


- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Christianity • Coptic • Egypt • Iran • Iraq • Middle East • Persecution • Religious violence • Violence

September 5th, 2010
02:49 PM ET

Pope may intervene in 'brutal' stoning case in Iran

Pope Benedict XVI is monitoring the case of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning and has not ruled out getting involved through diplomatic channels, the Vatican said Sunday.

As he has in the past in humanitarian cases, the pope would intervene if asked by authorities in another country and would do so through proper diplomatic channels, not publicly, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

Read the full story

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Iran • Middle East • Pope Benedict XVI

August 13th, 2010
11:30 AM ET

U.S. 'deeply concerned' about religious persecution in Iran, Clinton says

Hillary Clinton at the State Department on Wednesday.

The U.S. is "deeply concerned," about religious persecution in Iran following reports that the country has sentenced seven Baha'i leaders to 20 years in prison, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday.

In a statement, Clinton criticized what she called "the Iranian government's continued persecution of Baha'is and other religious minority communities in Iran."

"The United States is committed to defending religious freedom around the world, and we have not forgotten the Baha'i community in Iran," Clinton said.


- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Iran • Middle East • Persecution • Politics • Religious liberty

August 8th, 2010
06:44 PM ET

7 Baha'is sentenced to 20 years in Iran, group says

Seven Baha'i leaders in Iran have each received 20-year prison sentences, according to reports received by the Baha'i International Community, the group said Sunday.

"If this news proves to be accurate, it represents a deeply shocking outcome to the case of these innocent and harmless people," said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.

Word of the sentences came from an Iranian-based group called the Committee of Human Rights Defenders, according to Diane Ala'i, another Baha'i U.N representative. The Baha'i International Community is working to confirm the reports, she said.


- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Baha'i • Iran • Middle East • Persecution • Politics • Religious liberty

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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.