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Christmas News Roundup: Bombs in Baghdad, Somalia Bans Holiday, and Modern Virgin Births

Plus, Obama's church attendance and Bethlehem's biggest miracle.

If you took Christmas week off like Gleanings editors largely did, here's a quick worldwide roundup of religion news you might have missed:

Bombs in Baghdad: In Iraq, two attacks on presumed Christian targets in Baghdad killed more than 30 people on Christmas Day, reports The New York Times, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. However, Morning Star News notes how Iraqi officials dispute that Christians were targeted.

Still outside: In Indonesia, members of Yasmin Church in Bogor celebrated another Christmas elsewhere because local authorities continue to refuse to return their seized building, reports AsiaNews, despite two Supreme Court rulings in the church's favor.

National holidays: On Christmas Eve, Somalia banned Christmas for the first time since 1991, according to GhanaWeb. Meanwhile, in Nepal, which declared Christmas a national holiday in 2011, suspected Hindu extremists set fire to a church and the homes of four converts to Christianity, reports AsiaNews.

The latest Bethlehem miracle: In Israel, Religion News Service reports on "what some are calling the biggest miracle in Bethlehem since the birth of Jesus"—the three groups that run the famous Church of the Nativity have put aside longstanding differences in order to repair it.

Virgin births: The National Post reports on an unusual scientific study exploring why one in 200 American women report both being virgins and having had a pregnancy. Such respondents in the ongoing study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were "also 30.5% more likely to have taken chastity pledges than the non-virgins who had reported pregnancies," notes the Canadian newspaper, which offers an interesting chart comparing characteristics of virgin and non-virgin respondents.

Obama skips Christmas services: Given that the President didn't attend any church services this Christmas (as nearly half of Americans also planned to do), The New York Times analyzes Obama's church attendance. The estimate: 18 times during nearly five years in office. On Christmas Eve, Gallup announced that 4 in 10 Americans attend church weekly, a return to 1940s levels.

Christmas songs: Time magazine offers an interactive analysis of the most-popular Christmas songs of all time, based on U.S. copyright records. The winner: "Silent Night," recorded more than 700 times since 1978.

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Posted:December 30, 2013 at 6:58PM
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Christmas News Roundup: Bombs in Baghdad, Somalia Bans Holiday, and ...