Religion news 11 October 2023

Labour Friends of Israel vigil, Liverpool. Image credit: CCLicense2.0

Day 5: war in the middle east:

Reports have emerged of the slaughter of men, women and children in a kibbutz near the Gaza border. The attacks have been described as the worst atrocity since the Holocaust and Israel has responded with strikes on Gaza, a build-up of troops on the border, the callup of hundreds of thousands of reservists and a pledge to destroy Hamas. The death toll in Israel has reached 1200 and in Gaza it is put at 900.

Heartache in London school for family and friends in Israel

The headteacher of the Jewish Free School JFS, in north London, has told  Jewish News that the impact of the Hamas attack on Israel has permeated the school. Dr David Moody said there were “too many stories of heartache across the school and to everyone affected, we embrace them with nothing but love.” Prayers were said for Nathanel Young, aged 20, who was a former pupil and among the dead in Saturday’s attacks. Assemblies have been arranged for all pupils on personal safety, detention has been abandoned so that pupils can go home safely together and counselling is available to deal with fear and anxiety.

Reports of antisemitism in the UK triple since Saturday

CST, the Community Security Trust that protects Jews from antisemitism in the UK, says the number of reports of antisemitic incidents has tripled since Saturday.  Its director of policy, Dave Rich, told Jewish News that the rise was troubling but not unexpected.

Pope Francis has phoned the local parish priest in Gaza

Pope Francis has telephoned the parish priest in Gaza, Father Gabriel Romanelli, twice since the start of the war, to express his closeness and to pray for peace. Fr Romanelli is currently in Bethlehem, so the Pope has also contacted the vicar still working in the Gaza parish, which is home to around 150 refugees who have lost their homes or are seeking a safe place from the bombardments. There are no reported deaths in the parish church community, nor damage to church buildings.

Aid agencies prepare for humanitarian crisis in Gaza

Islamic Relief has launched an appeal for Palestinians living in Gaza who have come under attack since Hamas launched its assault on Israel at the weekend. 20,000 people have been made homeless in the escalating hostilities. Islamic Relief says its humanitarian response is likely to focus on distributing medical supplies, food and items to help people survive.

Alistair Dutton, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis, posted on Twitter / X that Caritas was “deeply concerned” with the situation in Gaza and Israel. It is based in Jerusalem and works in the West Bank and Gaza. It has suspended operations while the hostilities continue and has set up a support system for staff in Gaza.

Vigils for Israel and Gaza in British cities

An interfaith  vigil for peace in Israel and Gaza was  held in Liverpool last night.  Representatives of Catholic and Anglican Churches, joined others from Jewish, Muslim and Hindu faiths. A vigil for Israel was held in Glasgow, and another was organised by Labour Friends of Israel  at the Labour party conference in Liverpool.

Board of Deputies challenges BBC over use of the word “terrorist”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has written to the Culture Secretary, Lucy Frazer, criticising the fact that some news organisations, including the BBC, have not called Hamas a terrorist organisation. The letter says this is “little short of obscene”. Ms Frazer said she believes Hamas is a terrorist organisation and she took up the complaint with the BBC director general, Tim Davie, suggesting editorial guidelines on the use of the word “terror” should be re-written. Times story here

“Israel must be defended… where else are we to go?”

In a comment piece in The Times, journalist and commentator Daniel Finklestein wrestles with the ramifications of the Hamas attack on the future of Israel. Charting the reasons the state of Israel came into being, he says he cannot see any other solution now than the Israelis and Palestinians sharing the land. If that is rejected, he said Israel must resist, where necessary with force: “Israel must be defended… where else are we to go?”

Other news

Global poll suggests link between spirituality and well being

A global poll testing the link between faith and wellbeing suggests that spiritual people demonstrate better wellbeing in many respects. The poll, conducted by Gallup with The Radiant Foundation which is affiliated to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has been published in “Faith and Wellness: The Worldwide Connection Between Spirituality & Wellbeing”. A Gallup blog says the data has been collected over 10 years in 152 countries involving 1.5 million people. It measures wellbeing demonstrated in positive emotions, social life, optimism and community life and finds very little difference between religious and non-religious people, but it explains a small percentage difference represents millions of people. It concludes that spiritual practice bolsters wellbeing and there is a link between greater spirituality and lower rates of depression, suicide, addiction and isolation.

Church merger and acquisition links Newcastle with Bermuda

The Rev Cindy Campbell was only ordained on 8 October but has stepped into an international ecumenical role combining being the minister of St Andrews URC Church in Newcastle with another job as minister of Christ Church, Warwick, a Church of Scotland church in Bermuda. Aged 63, she completed ordination training whilst also working a 70-hour-a-week job in mergers and acquisitions for an insurance company, skills which it turns out are relevant in the ministry. “The Church is now looking at how to become a Church for the 21st century. The 1950s model of Church doesn’t work anymore. We’re going through a lot of mergers and acquisitions. Presbyteries are combining. That’s something I did all the time”.


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