Tom Gjelten

The global refugee crisis, political strife and economic dislocation all contributed to a worldwide deterioration of religious freedom in 2015 and an increase in "societal intolerance," according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

"At best, in most of the countries we cover, religious freedom conditions have failed to improve," says Princeton professor Robert George, the USCIRF chairman. "At worst, they've spiraled downward."

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We're going to hear more now about the reaction among Catholics in the U.S. to the pope's pronouncement. NPR's Tom Gjelten has been talking with them.

Editor's note: Radovan Karadzic was one of the dominant figures of the Bosnian war, serving as president of the "Serb Republic" in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995. The International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague on Thursday found him guilty of multiple crimes, including the slaughter of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica. NPR's Tom Gjelten covered the war in Bosnia, and Karadzic, for years.

Given all that has happened in the last 20 years, many people will not recall the war in Bosnia. Remind us what happened.

President Obama's speech to the Cuban people, delivered live from the Gran Teatro in Havana, presented both a risk and an opportunity.

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The religion of Islam was founded by Muhammad, the 7th century prophet whom Muslims call "the messenger of God."

They don't consider him divine, but they follow his teachings closely. Good Muslims are taught to emulate the prophet in all matters, personal, spiritual and worldly.

Perhaps no time in recent history has it been more important to do as the Prophet Muhammad did — and not as someone says he did.

With terror groups like ISIS now invoking his name, many Muslim leaders say radicals who cite the prophet to justify violence misrepresent his teachings.

For Muslim-Americans, there was a world before Sept. 11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and one after. Now, their community faces the dual threats of extremism and growing atheism.

Young Muslim-Americans are angry and frustrated, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think. While bound by their religion and their community, they have opinions as diverse as their backgrounds.

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A long-standing principle of U.S. politics, that voters prefer candidates with strong faith beliefs, has been called into question in the 2016 presidential campaign. Recent opinion surveys suggest that voters don't see either Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders as very religious, but that perception does not seem to be damaging their political prospects.

Two trends are evident from new surveys by the Pew Research Center and the Public Religion Research Institute:

  • Voters are themselves generally less religious than they used to be.

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Christian conservatives who are battling for the right to promote their faith in public or official settings see themselves locked in an epic contest with a rival religion. But that rival isn't Islam. It's secularism.

Terrorism and economic woes may be big concerns, but Republican candidate Ted Cruz sees another issue dominating the presidential race.

"I'm convinced 2016 will be a religious liberty election," he said in a recent interview.

Cruz says religious people, devout Christians in particular, are routinely marginalized and harassed for their beliefs, and that such treatment has gotten worse under the Obama administration.

Religion is apparently weakening in America. A new report from the Pew Research Center shows that the percentage of Americans who say they believe in God, pray daily and attend church regularly is declining.

Among the findings:

  • The share of Americans who say they are "absolutely certain" that God exists has dropped 8 percentage points, from 71 percent to 63 percent, since 2007, when the last comparable study was made.

During the past half-century, 59 million immigrants have moved to the United States, making it the No. 1 immigrant destination on the planet.

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Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a new immigration law that would change the face of the nation. But that dramatic impact, ironically, was in good part the result of a major miscalculation by those who actually wanted to limit the bill's effect.

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Latino Catholics now have a saint of their own thanks to Pope Francis. Junipero Serra was a missionary who brought Christianity to the native populations in what is now California.

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Pope Francis arrives in Washington, D.C., this afternoon for his first trip to the U.S. Here's a look at some of the key moments to watch during the leader of the Roman Catholic Church's six-day visit.

Tuesday: The President Greets The Pope

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Nearly a century ago, immigrants from Germany and Ireland founded St. Helena Church in a working-class neighborhood in north Philadelphia.

Immigrants, and their children, still fill the pews at St. Helena's — but the vast majority of them are now from Vietnam, Latin America, the Philippines and Africa. Weekly masses are conducted in Spanish and Vietnamese as well as English. The senior priest, the Rev. Joseph Trinh, is himself a Vietnamese refugee. One of his associate priests is from Haiti, and another is from Ecuador.

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Many ministers do their best to stay away from politics when they preach, but hundreds of conservative pastors around the country are so upset about what they see as a moral crisis in government that they are preparing to run for public office themselves, with the goal of bringing "biblical values" to the political arena.

The initiative is led by David Lane, a born-again Christian and self-described "political operative" who has organized four large-scale training sessions in which evangelical pastors are tutored in the practical aspects of running a political campaign.

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If a Muslim woman may wear a headscarf at work, as the U.S. Supreme Court has now affirmed, perhaps a Sikh man should be able to wear a turban while serving in the U.S. military.

As a 12-year-old Catholic boy growing up in England, Michael Fitzgerald decided he wanted to be a missionary in Africa. Eight years later, he was studying theology and learning Arabic in Tunisia.

He went on to devote his priestly ministry to the promotion of interfaith understanding between Muslims and Christians, and became one of the top Roman Catholic experts on Islam. He has served as the archbishop of Tunisia, the papal nuncio — effectively a Vatican ambassador — in Cairo, and the Vatican's delegate to the Arab League.

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