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Wife of ISIS Leader Charged in Death of American Aid Worker

ISIS flag hangs in Palestinian refugee camp. Image via REUTERS/Ali Hashisho/RNS

The wife of a now-deceased Islamic State leader has been charged for her alleged role in last year’s death of American aid worker Kayla Jean Mueller. Nisreen Assad Ibrahim Bahar, 25, the widow of former ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf, allegedly conspired to provide support to the terrorist group, often forcibly holding Mueller in the couple’s homes where she was subjected to repeated sexual abuse by ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Mueller died in February 2015.

To Fight ISIS, West Point Cadets Secretly Built a Facebook Page

Cadets who presented West Point's project. Image via Lauren Markoe/RNS

Last fall, 16 West Point cadets — none of them Muslim — signed up for an elective on counter-terrorism and created a Facebook page to appeal to young Muslims thinking about joining the so-called Islamic State group. The cadets aimed to convince those tempted by the terrorist cause to see jihad in Islam as a peaceful endeavor. For their project to succeed, the cadets knew, they would have to learn more about the faith, and build a social media platform that reserved judgment even on those who expressed admiration for committed terrorists.

On Religious Freedom Day, Stand for the Persecuted Abroad

Image via thierry ehrmann/flickr.com

On Jan. 16, our nation will observe National Religious Freedom Day. This day commemorates the Virginia General Assembly’s adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom back in 1786. As Jefferson’s statute proclaimed, religious freedom is among the “natural rights of mankind.” Yet to this day, billions of people abroad routinely are denied this liberty.

Weekly Wrap 1.15.16: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. What Americans Believe About Sex
A new Barna study shows the generational disparities in people's attitides about sex. “The big story here is how little everyone agrees on when it comes to the purpose of sex,” said editor-in-chief Roxanne Stone …“It’s important for Christian leaders to notice this shift in the framing of sex and to adjust their own conversations accordingly.”

2. White Christians Need to Act More Christian Than White
Jim Wallis writes in Washington Post on the need for white evangelicals to repent for how they’ve enabled racism.

Why Is Our Christian President So Willing to Use Violence?

For his final State of the Union address, President Obama delivered a characteristically eloquent and passionate speech. He issued a heartfelt call for unity and cooperation in a country whose political climate is just a few notches short of civil war. He asked us to consider how we might move forward as one nation, affirming our highest ideals rather than the hateful rhetoric of would-be despots.

Obama’s final State of the Union was in many ways a masterpiece of American political theater. He reminded us of the best of our tradition, calling us to live up to our history of welcoming the outsider and being a land of opportunity for all people. Despite the fact that this canonical history is to a great degree aspirational rather than actual, I was at many points uplifted to hear the president invite us to live into the more beautiful aspects of the American Dream.

Weekly Wrap 1.8.16: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. WATCH: Gun Owner (and Vice President) Joe Biden Clears Up Apparent Confusion on Obama’s Executive Orders

No … Obama’s not taking your guns.

2. Sandra Bland’s Family: Trooper Perjury Charge a ‘Slap on the Wrist’

"Where is the indictment for the assault, the battery, the false arrest?"

3. Open Letter to the Leadership of #Urbana15 and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Add your voice to the growing list of people of faith saying “thank you!” to InterVarsity for supporting Black Lives Matter.

White House to Talk Terrorism With Apple, Facebook

Image via /Shutterstock.com

The meeting comes as nations around the world fight a sometimes losing battle against the highly-skilled online outreach of the Islamic State, which has done a remarkable job of using social media to create recruitment and public relations materials to promote its efforts. Apple, Facebook, and Twitter said Thursday they will have representatives at the meeting.

Muslims in the U.S. Face Enemies on All Sides

Recently some American politicians have made shocking comments regarding Muslims — shocking because they have been cheered on and gained political mileage; shocking because the politicians pretend they are honoring the U.S. Constitution; and shocking because the politicians are willing to overlook the Constitution’s guarantee of equal rights for all in order to dehumanize Muslims.

American Muslims feel sad, depressed, and frightened about this trend. Fascism takes a long path, but it starts this way. At the same time, we are optimistic that these days that are upon us will pass and that Islamophobic politicians and their backers will fade in due course.

The Most Important Religion Stories of 2015

Religion inspired countless other acts of forgiveness, mercy, and hope this year. But religion — or perversions of it, some would say — also inspired horrific violence: the “faith-based” cleansing of ancient lands, and bombings and shootings motivated by scriptural justifications. It was a year also of religious-inspired activism, seen perhaps most prominently in a pope who advocated for the poor and for a solution to climate change. Here is an overview of some of the most consequential religion stories of the past year, with thoughts on what to look forward to 2016.

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