Image via RNS/Vatican Elemosineria Apostolica

First came the showers and the haircuts. Now the washing machines.

In his latest bid to help the poor with practical actions, Pope Francis has opened a free laundromat for the homeless in the heart of Rome.

Since he became pope four years ago, Francis has made it a personal priority to provide them with showers, housing, medical care, and other services to help restore their dignity.

Anna Lekas Miller 4-10-2017

Ashty Camp, Iraq— Priests begin the Palm Sunday march. Image via Anna Lekas Miller/Sojourners.

To mark this particularly special Palm Sunday — the first since ISIS was defeated in the area — many assembled today will march 80 miles, from the camp to the village of Qarqosh, one of the largest traditionally Christian villages in Iraq. Some are originally from there, while others are marching in solidarity.

The march will stretch from the city of Erbil, to the Nineveh plain — across part of Iraqi-Kurdistan, and into Iraq, taking a total of at least five days.

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter conducts strike operations against Syria in the Mediterranean Sea. Ford Williams/Courtesy U.S. Navy

"Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack," President Donald Trump said of Tuesday's chemical weapons strike, which Western countries blame on Assad's forces. "No child of God should ever suffer such horror."

Image via RNS/Anti-Defamation League

For the first time, a majority of Americans has voiced concern about violence against Jews, polling by the Anti-Defamation League shows.

While 52 percent of Americans surveyed said they are disturbed about such violence, an even higher percentage — 76 percent — said they are concerned about violence against Muslims.

In this April 1, 2017, photo, a man in Nogales, Ariz., talks to his daughter and her mother who are standing on the other side of the border fence in Nogales, Mexico. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Some think the real "Trump effect" was pushing fearful people to move up their journeys and get to the U.S. before he took office. Border arrests in October, November, and December increased by about a third compared to the same period in 2015, before falling this year.

Inmates Bruce Ward(top row L to R), Don Davis, Ledell Lee, Stacy Johnson, Jack Jones (bottom row L to R), Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams, and Jason Mcgehee. Scheduled to be executed in Arkansas, beginning April 17. Courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS

The last time a U.S. state tried to execute two inmates on the same day, a poorly secured intravenous tube popped out, lethal injection chemicals sprayed in the death chamber, and staff said the pressure of dual executions exposed flaws in the protocol. That scenario in 2014 in Oklahoma, where executions are now on hold, has not stopped Arkansas from pursuing an unprecedented plan to put eight inmates to death in back-to-back lethal injections on four days this month.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Ammar Abdullah

Pope Francis condemned the suspected chemical weapons attack that killed over 100 people in Syria and renewed his call for an urgent political solution to end the war. Speaking at his weekly audience at the Vatican on April 5, the pope said he was horrified by the “unacceptable” massacre of civilians, including at least 20 children, on April 4.

Kenji Kuramitsu 4-05-2017

Can Christians observe Lent in a way that ties social justice consciousness to spiritual Lenten practices of repentance, resistance, and solidarity? The curators of four social media campaigns — #LentenLament, #LentLite, #EmbodiedSolidarity, and #DetoxifyChristianity — are exploring what this looks like in public. “What does it mean to come together, to lock arms together, to really just stand in the gap for people?” Alicia Crosby, executive director of the Center for Inclusivity and co-curator of last year’s #EmbodiedSolidarity campaign, asked.

the Web Editors 4-05-2017

Screenshot via Tampa Bay Times

Black motorists in Florida are twice more likely to be shot by police after being pulled over for a traffic violation than white motorists in Florida, reports the Tampa Bay Times in an online interactive, “If You’re Black.”

This statistic is part of a new investigative study by the paper of every police shooting that occurred in Florida from 2009-2014. The newspaper gathered data from autopsies, news articles, police reports, and subsequent lawsuits.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Fayaz Aziz

Within 20 years, the number of Muslim babies being born is expected to surpass Christian births — though there will still be more Christians in the world. Muslims currently account for about 24 percent of the world population, compared to 31 percent for Christians, according to the Pew Research Center.

Image via REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan/File Photo.

On April 19, the court will hear a religious rights case in which a church contends Missouri violated the Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom by denying it funds for a playground project due to a state ban on aid to religious organizations.

Gorsuch has ruled several times in favor of expansive religious rights during his decade as a judge.

"Given Gorsuch's solicitude for religious liberty, his joining the court can only help the church," said Ilya Shapiro, a lawyer with the libertarian Cato Institute think tank.

A man breathes through an oxygen mask as another one receives treatments, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

A suspected Syrian government chemical attack killed scores of people, including children, in the northwestern province of Idlib on Tuesday, a monitoring group, medics, and rescue workers in the rebel-held area said. The U.S. government believes the chemical agent sarin was used in the attack, a U.S. government source said, adding it was "almost certainly" carried out by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

the Web Editors 4-04-2017

Image via Jessica Cobian/Sojourners

 The vigil, organized by the DMV Sanctuary Congregation Network, was served to publicly accompany Veronica to her hearing — one key tenet of providing sanctuary, immigration activists say. Advocates pledged to stay at the ICE offices until her appointment was complete.

Image via RNS/Tom Gallagher

With the blessing of Pope Francis, Cardinal Blase Cupich on April 4 unveiled an anti-violence initiative for this beleaguered city that will be underscored by a Good Friday procession, using the traditional stations of Jesus’ way to the cross to commemorate those who have lost their lives in street violence.

Cupich said he was inviting civic, education, and religious leaders, and “all people of good will,” to take part in the April 14 “Peace Walk” through the heart of the violence-scarred Englewood neighborhood.

Image via The Associated Press  

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, a Chattanooga Republican and the bill's sponsor in the Senate, notes that the state has already invested in the students by paying for their K-12 education, and that some have lived in Tennessee as long as their counterparts who are U.S. citizens. Yet they are required to pay three times what other in-state students pay to attend college, he said.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Jim Bourg

A New Jersey teen pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to terrorists, in what media called an ISIS-inspired effort to kill Pope Francis in 2015 during a public Mass in Philadelphia, according to a statement by federal prosecutors.

Image via RNS/UUA/Nancy Pierce

The Rev. Peter Morales, the first Latino president of the liberal and theologically diverse association, resigned effective on April 1, as criticism mounted over hiring practices.

“It is clear to me that I am not the right person to lead our Association as we work together to create the processes and structures that will address our shortcomings and build the diverse staff we all want,” he wrote in his March 30 resignation letter to the UUA’s trustee board.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican committee member, expressed regret that his party would be forced to change the Senate rules and said the "damage done to the Senate's going to be real."

"If we have to, we will change the rules, and it looks like we're going to have to. I hate that. I really, really do," Graham said.

Image via stockfotoart/Shutterstock.com

Germany has no plans to introduce an "Islam law'"codifying the rights and obligations of Muslims, a government spokesman said on April 3, dismissing an idea floated by allies of Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of federal elections in September.

Merkel, who will seek a fourth term in what is expected to be a close-fought ballot, has come under fire for opening Germany's doors to refugees, more than one million of whom — mostly Muslims — have entered the country over the past two years.

the Web Editors 4-03-2017

Wilson and Jones’ data reflects that, in 2015 — just as in 1975 — poor black Americans worked more hours than poor white Americans. It also reflects that the labor of black women who work low-wage jobs has increased larger than the labor of any other demographic studied by Wilson and Jones, even demographics that are combinations of racial, gender, and income. Black woman with low-wage jobs have increased their hours of labor since 1979 by 30 percent.

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