Top news stories you need to know

Women pray at a mosque in Lahore, Pakistan in celebration of Eid al-Fitr.

Women pray at a mosque in Lahore, Pakistan in celebration of Eid al-Fitr.


A collection of top news stories from June 27 – July 3, 2014:

Hobby Lobby: A Myriad of ConsequencesSaudi Monarch Slams Religious Extremists in Ramadan Speech • The Belief Blog Guide to Ramadan • The Story Of Colombian Women Coming Together To End The Civil War • Central African Republic: A Muslim Enclave Gripped by Fear

Hobby Lobby: A Myriad of Consequences
“Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

The decision effectively permits the deeply held religious beliefs of Hobby Lobby CEO and founder David Green and his wife to be institutionalized as corporate policy. As such, this decision supports their personal beliefs but will also impinge on the beliefs and practices of some of the corporation’s employees.

This case presented hard questions on how to ensure religious freedom for both employers and employees and, ultimately, how to balance the Greens’ freedom of religion with the right of employees to believe differently. In prioritizing the beliefs of the Greens, the Supreme Court rendered a decision that is likely to have a myriad of consequences, some unintended…” – Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO, Tanenbaum

Read more on the Huffington Post from Tanenbaum’s CEO Joyce Dubensky.

Saudi Monarch Slams Religious Extremists in Ramadan Speechs
In a speech that marked the beginning of Ramadan, Saudi King Abdullah criticized extremists and vowed not to allow “a handful of terrorists… terrify Muslims”. He stated that Islam is a “religion of unity, fraternity and mutual support” but that some are “lured in by false calls…” and “are confusing reform with terrorism.”

The Belief Blog Guide to Ramadan
A colorful portfolio of photographs and answers to questions about Ramadan.

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, it is the holiest month of the year for over 1.6 billion people. Interestingly, the name Ramadan is derived from the words ar-ramad or the Arabic ramida– which translates to a “fierce, burning heat.” The practice of fasting from dawn to dusk has great significance as it allows celebrants to burn away their sins. Many celebrants describe the month of Ramadan as a time for spiritual purity and an opportunity to rededicate oneself through prayer, abstinence, and fasting.

Candles spell out the Spanish word for peace during a vigil in Colombia. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JAVIER GALEANO

Candles spell out the Spanish word for peace during a vigil in Colombia. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JAVIER GALEANO



The Story of Colombian Women Coming Together to End the Civil War
Juan Manuel Santos recent presidential victory in Colombia will ensure that negotiations will continue with rebel groups. Colombia has endured the “world’s longest civil war” which officially began in 1964. James Patton, Executive Vice President of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD) expressed how peace requires more than disarmament. Patton believes that at the family and community level, Colombians divided by conflict will need to find their own peace and healing.

“Right now, there is a deep sense of division and suspicion in Colombian society,” Patton explained. “Who is removed enough from political and conflict identities and can access a broad range of society? Who can reach outside identities based on politics to work as an effective third party with all sides?”

To address these hard questions, ICRD has implemented a program focused on religious communities and specifically women who have been directly impacted by conflict.

Central African Republic: A Muslim Enclave Gripped by Fear
In the western region of the Central African Republic (CAR), nearly one thousand Muslims have taken shelter at the Catholic Church in Carnot.

African Union forces are guarding the Church; the rest of Carnot is under the control of self-defense militias, the anti-balakas, who are predominantly Christian and took control of the city after President Michel Djotodia resigned. (Djotodia gained power last March through a Seleka led coup- the Seleka are an alliance of predominately Muslim rebel groups.)

Two stepsisters (S and Z) recall the attack on their village:

Z described how “On February 5, the anti-balakas attacked Guen, our village. There were a hundred of us grouped in a big house. They separated the men and boys, 45 people in total including our husbands, and executed them in front of us. Then they mutilated the corpses.”

S. continued, “The Cameroonian soldiers brought us to Carnot Church. It’s been really harsh here. My baby died from an infection. He was one month old.”