This week, more than a million Muslims took part in the annual hajj pilgrimage, which is among one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The core practice is required of all Muslims at least once in their lifetime unless they are physically or financially unable to do so.
According to the Pew Research Center, the hajj coincides with Eid al-Adha, a major holiday for Muslims that begins on the 10th day of Dhul Hijjah. Muslims around the world traditionally slaughter a large animal on the holiday and distribute portions of the meat to the poor, while American Muslims donate to organizations that participate in the practice overseas.
The ritual sacrifice evokes the Quranic story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God.
The Muslims converged on the Mina valley outside the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for a symbolic stoning of the devil, the final stage of the pilgrimage. Pilgrims dress in white garments and repeat "Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest)" while throwing pebbles at concrete pillars that represent the devil.
The ritual continues until Friday. In the past, it's been a dangerous part of the pilgrimage, with deadly stampedes and fires in tents. Overcrowding and fire-proofing measures were put in place in recent years to prevent further scares.
Numbers are expected to be down for this year's pilgrimage, according to the Pew Research Center, as the Saudi government issued fewer visas due to concerns about a deadly respiratory virus. More than 3 million people performed the hajj in 2012.
A 2011 Pew Research Center survey found that most U.S. Mormons oppose the idea of female membership in the priesthood. Asked whether women who are dedicated members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should be ordained to the priesthood, 87 percent of U.S. Mormons said "no," while 11 percent said "yes."
- Pew Research Center
"Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live." by David Platt.
Scores of men, women, and children have been told that becoming a follower of Jesus simply involves believing certain truths or saying certain words. As a result, churches today are filled with people who believe they are Christians ... but aren't. We want to be disciples as long as doing so does not intrude on our lifestyles, our preferences, our comforts, and even our religion. Revealing a biblical picture of what it means to truly be a Christian, "Follow Me" explores the gravity of what we must forsake in this world, as well as the indescribable joy and deep satisfaction to be found when we live for Christ.
Ganesh: The beloved elephant-faced representation of God honored by Hindus and followers of other Indian religions, Ganesh is the remover of obstacles. He is revered for his great wisdom and is invoked before any undertaking. He is the son of Lord Shiva and the goddess Parvati. Also spelled Ganesha.
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Religion Around the World
According to the CIA World Factbook, the religious makeup of Fiji is:
- 55.4 percent Protestant
- 27.9 percent Hindu
- 9.1 percent Roman Catholic
- 6.3 percent Muslim
- 0.7 percent none
- 0.3 person Sikh
- 0.3 percent other or unspecified