Worshipers pray during an Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, on March 6, 2019. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Why do Christians wear ashes on Ash Wednesday?

Churches started to use ashes early as the ninth century as a symbol of repentance. In 1091, Pope Urban II ritualized their use to mark the beginning of Lent. Today, churches provide 'ashes to go.'
Women in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh neighborhood are protesting a new Indian citizenship law that they say will discriminate against Muslims, women – and, particularly, Muslim women. Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Indian women protest new citizenship laws, joining a global ‘fourth wave’ feminist movement

A round-the-clock strike of Muslim women in a working-class neighborhood of Delhi is India's most enduring pocket of resistance to religious discrimination, inequality and gender violence.
Ash Wednesday ritual at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota on March 6, 2019. P Photo/Jim Mone)

4 things to know about Ash Wednesday

The day that begins the Lenten season is called Ash Wednesday. Here's why it holds deep religious significance for Christians.
Pakistani Islamists march to protest the Supreme Court lenient treatment of Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani woman accused of blasphemy, in Karachi, Feb. 1, 2019. ASIF HASSAN/AFP via Getty Images

Execution for a Facebook post? Why blasphemy is a capital offense in some Muslim countries

Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia all punish blasphemy harshly – even with death. Such laws have political as well as religious motives, says a scholar on Islamism: They're a tool for crushing dissent.
Ojibwe women conduct a year-long ritual for their girls when they start menstruation. Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

How a Native American coming-of-age ritual is making a comeback

Historically, indigenous people celebrated a girl's transition to womanhood with a year-long ritual. Many such ritual practices were made 'illegal' by the US and Canadian governments.
In this 2013 photo, Bangladeshi mourners carry the coffin containing the body of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider for funeral. AP Photo/Pavel Rahman, File

Conservative Islamic views are gaining ground in secular Bangladesh and curbing freedom of expression

In recent years Bangladesh has seen an increase in attacks on religious minorities. A scholar explains how certain extreme views on how Islam is to be followed are taking center stage in the country.
The ‘Christ of the Pacific’ statue in Lima has caused controversy in Peru because of its financing by a graft-tainted Brazilian construction company. Both religion and corruption loomed large in Peru’s 2020 legislative elections. CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP via Getty Images

Fringe religious party gains power in crisis-stricken Peru

After a bribery scandal that took down four presidents and led Congress to dissolve, some Peruvians are putting their faith in an austere religion called the Israelites of the New Universal Pact.
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar sign an agreement ending the US’s 18-year war in Afghanistan, Doha, Feb. 29, 2020. GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

After US and Taliban sign accord, Afghanistan must prepare for peace

A peace deal with the Taliban has been signed. But rebuilding Afghanistan after three decades of conflict will take much more than an accord, says a scholar of peacebuilding.
A studio group portrait of the Fisk University Jubilee singers. James Wallace Black/American Missionary Association

The power of a song in a strange land

Spirituals were created out of the experience of enslaved people in the US. They weren't songs of anger – but of an abiding belief in the victory of good over evil.
In an effort to increase tourism, Saudi Arabia recently eased its strict dress code for foreign women, allowing them to go without the body-shrouding abaya robe still mandatory for Saudi women. FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images

Women in Arab countries find themselves torn between opportunity and tradition

In countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, it's now official policy that women should go to college and work outside the home. But cultural pressure to marry and have kids remains strong.
The pope can order religious investigations that can allow the Vatican to swiftly take action. Giuseppe Lami/Pool Photo via AP

Catholic investigations are still shrouded in secrecy

Early Christians were urged to 'supervise' one another. In the present times, that theology is often used by the Vatican for a religious investigation a known as the apostolic visitation.
The Myanmar military’s years-long campaign against the Rohingya Muslims left hundreds of villages a smoldering pile of debris. Warpait village, Rakhine State, Oct.14, 2016. Ye Aung Thu/AFP via Getty Images

Preventing genocide in Myanmar: Court order tries to protect Rohingya Muslims where politics has failed

The International Court of Justice ordered Myanmar to protect its Rohingya minority and preserve any evidence relevant to the genocide charges against it. But compliance is not guaranteed.
Some researchers believe atheists are disliked because people link their lack of belief to an overall lack of values. Gary Stevens/Flickr

Why some people distrust atheists

Many Americans have a distrust of atheists. A group of researchers found that some of the distrust relates to beliefs about atheists' family values.
The Jewish ritual of bar mitzvah. which marks a 13-year-old young man’s assumption of religious and legal obligations under Jewish law. Israel_photo_gallery

What is a bar mitzvah?

The Jewish coming-of-age ritual of bar mitzvah evolved to its current form during the time of Enlightenment, when Jewish families feared losing their traditions.
A Bible class at a public high school in Georgia, AP Photo/David Goldman

An old debate over religion in school is opening up again

At least six states have permitted the study of the Bible in classrooms, which could reignite a 19th-century debate that split US Protestants into liberal and conservative camps.
A replica of Nubian Tribute Presented to the King, Tomb of Huy, showing Nubians with their children paying tribute to the Egyptian Pharaoh. Based on the original from circa 1353–1327 B.C. (Wikimedia)

Children in the ancient Middle East were valued and vulnerable — not unlike children today

Coming to a greater understanding of children in ancient history raises important questions for how societies respond — or not — to children's vulnerability.

More Analysis and Comment

Just a thought

You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens. Rumi

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