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Somber, joyful, magical: Some of the most compelling AP religion photos of 2023 – Monomaxos

In the searing heat of Mecca, throngs of Muslims from around the world converged for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

In the round-the-clock darkness of the polar night, a Lutheran pastor in the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard persevered in her ministry to one of the world’s most remote towns.

Associated Press photographers were on the scene — there and in scores of other locales ranging from the flood-stricken mountains of northern India to the sacred volcano Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Their mission: Finding myriad ways to convey how faith and spiritualism, in their many forms, manifested themselves around the world in 2023.

They accompanied Pope Francis on his epic journeys to Africa and Mongolia. They chronicled a weekend retreat in Utah where followers of Hummingbird Church partook in the psychedelic brew known as ayahuasca. The photos’ subjects include weary, hopeful migrants worshipping in northern Mexico near the U.S. border, and a 103-year-old Catholic nun serving as chaplain for the men’s basketball team at Loyola University Chicago.

For the AP’s Religion Team, its flagship project of the year took a sweeping, in-depth look at a global phenomenon — the dramatic increase in the number of people who are nonbelievers or unaffiliated with any organized religion — the so-called “nones.” The powerfully illustrated package included reports from the U.S., Italy, South America, the Middle East, India, Japan and Nigeria.

The Religion Team also ran a year-long, intermittent series on sacred sites around the world facing threats related to climate change and human development. Among the featured sites — the famed Cedars of Lebanon and a forest in Benin deemed sacred by practitioners of Voodoo.

Many of the year’s most compelling photos were somber: A U.S. Navy chaplain providing suicide-prevention counseling aboard his ship; the Auschwitz museum working to conserve 8,000 shoes of children murdered during the Holocaust; Jews and Muslims gathering for worship and prayers as the Israel-Hamas war raged in Gaza; an African American man in Baltimore wiping away tears while recalling the childhood sex abuse he endured at the hands of a white Catholic priest.

One stunning photo showed police snipers silhouetted on a Miami Beach rooftop, providing security as members of the local Jewish community gathered for a commemoration of Kristallnacht.

There was lighter subject matter as well — young people rehearsing a sacred Cambodian dance at a Buddhist temple near Minneapolis; teenage Jews of color frolicking in the lake at their one-of-a-kind summer camp in California; the “FREE BIBLES” tent at the Minnesota State Fair.

And there were photos that seemed almost magical: firewalkers in a Greek village dancing on a spring evening across burning coals in a centuries-old ritual; the hauntingly beautiful isolation of a former colony for Hawaiian leprosy patients where a Catholic priest and nun started on the path to sainthood.

“It’s almost like a desecration to try to explain how beautiful it is,” said one of the handful of nuns still based there.


Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Ανακαλύψτε έναν κόσμο γνώσης και έμπνευσης στο Monomaxos, το ενημερωτικό μας ιστολόγιο. Εξερευνήστε συναρπαστικά άρθρα σε μια ποικιλία θεμάτων, από επιστήμη και τεχνολογία έως τρόπο ζωής και ταξίδια. Βυθιστείτε σε ενδιαφέρουσες πληροφορίες που θα σας φωτίσουν και θα σας διασκεδάσουν, με ένα μόνο κλικ.

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