Religion news 11 September 2023

Tin Mal Mosque now almost completely destroyed. Image credit: Jerzy Strzelecki. CCLicense3.0

Rich Islamic heritage of Marrakesh devastated by earthquake

The destruction of rich Islamic heritage in Marrakesh following Friday’s earthquake, has been outlined by Dr Corisande Fenwick, professor of Islamic archaeology at University College, London. A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck below a cluster of villages in the Atlas mountains south of Marrakesh, killing more than 2,000 people and injuring a further 2,400. Dr Fenwick told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme that Amazigh villages in the Atlas mountains had been flattened and the Tin Mal Mosque, built in earth and stone by a medieval dynasty in the 12th century,  had been almost completely destroyed with only a few walls standing. In Marrakesh, one of the most important cities in the Islamic world where the old city known as the Medina has become a UNESCO World Heritage site, the minaret of the iconic Koutoubia mosque cracked after dramatically swaying. In the Jemaa el-Fna square, many buildings toppled into the street and the minaret of a smaller mosque collapsed, with walls demolished. The Jewish quarter in the city, which traces its origin to the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, was also devastated. Islamic Relief and other aid agencies have launched appeals as efforts continue to find survivors and provide basic humanitarian help for the thousands of people whose homes have been destroyed and who are now living on the streets.

White supremacy’s roots traced back to a Pope in 1493

The continuing belief in white supremacy in Europe and the United States owes its origin not to the founding fathers, but to Pope Alexander VI, who in 1493 gave Christopher Columbus a religious justification to colonise the new lands. That’s the verdict of American author Dr Robert P Jones,  whose book “The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future”   was the subject of our latest Big Interview. He refers to the papal bull that gave Columbus divine authorisation to occupy lands that were not already held by Christians, to steal from and kill the people who already lived there and to reduce them to perpetual slavery.  Dr Jones concludes that this  “doctrine of discovery” sets the moral template for European engagement with indigenous peoples across the Americas, something that he says is still with us today and “is at the heart of some of our deepest political conflicts.”   View or listen again to The Big Interview, presented by Rosie Dawson – details here

Polish family of nine beatified by the Vatican

The Vatican has beatified a Polish family of nine — a farmer, his pregnant wife and their children aged between 18 months and seven — who were executed by the Nazis during World War II for sheltering Jews. The Associated Press says this was the first time an entire family has been beatified, the step before being declared a saint.  Jozef Ulma, aged 44, was a Catholic and amateur photographer who documented family and village life. He lived with his 31-year-old wife Wiktoria; their daughters Stanislawa, 7; Barbara, 6; Maria, 18 months; and sons Wladyslaw, 5; Franciszek, 3; and Antoni, 2. The child in Wiktoria’s womb was included in the citation as it was deemed to  have been born during the horror of the killings. The family hid eight Jews in their home but were betrayed. During a Mass in the village of Markowa, in southeastern Poland, the papal envoy Cardinal Marcello Semeraro described their fate as “the highest price of martyrdom.”  A miracle attributed to the family is required before they are declared saints.

The Times defends and explains its survey of CofE clergy

The Times has set out the full results of its recent survey of CofE clergy and has given a full explanation of its methodology, after coming under fire for drawing conclusions from an unrepresentative sample.  The survey results indicated that a majority wanted the church to significantly change its doctrine on sex both pre-marital and same-sex, three quarters said Britain could no longer be regarded as a Christian country, 68 per cent wanted a ban on conversion therapy, 32 per cent thought the church could become extinct if decline continued and 75 per cent backed Remain. The Rev Dr Ian Paul, a member of the Archbishops’ Council, took issue with the survey saying it was based on a con. He said it was unrepresentative, the methodology was questionable and some findings had been contradicted elsewhere. But now The Times has laid out in detail how it conducted the survey, the profiles of those who answered and the numbers who answered each question. This shows that the respondents’ profiles match the make-up of the clergy as a whole and their answers give evidence for the headlines.

Criticism that Mike Pilavachi abuse claims remain private

The Telegraph reports that abuse victims of Canon Mike Pilavachi, the founder of the Soul Survivor Christian network, have criticised the Church of England for refusing to make the findings public. An internal investigation reported last week that allegations of abuse were proved and that his controlling behaviour led to inappropriate relationships, the physical wrestling of youths and massaging of young male interns. The CofE explained that people who gave evidence to the inquiry were told that the final report would not be made public, but the evidence would be shared with Fiona Scolding KC, who is conducting an independent review. Richard Scorer, a solicitor who represents some of the complainants, told the Telegraph that he understood the reasons for confidentiality but the review must see the evidence and assurance was needed that “no stone is left unturned”.

Nineteen people meet to discuss same sex prayers of blessing

The Church of England has announced that a group of 19 people has been selected to meet three times to discuss the shape of prayers of blessings for same sex couples. The “Living With Difference” group represents factions within the deeply divided church and will take part in a series of three facilitated conversations around the Prayers of Love and Faith. Their first meeting was on 7 September, and the others are on 12 and 28 September, after which their views will be considered by the bishops in October.

“Adored” Bishop of Woolwich dies in hospital aged 65

The Bishop of Woolwich, Dr Karowei Dorgu, has died in hospital aged 65, after a long struggle with his health. He was born and brought up in Nigeria and was a medical doctor before studying theology at the London Bible College and then being ordained. In a tribute, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said Bishop Karowei radiated joy and was adored everywhere. “The Church will be much poorer for his loss”.

Christian Climate Action marches on hottest day of the year

After seven days of temperatures over 30C, 13 pilgrimages were organised by Christian Climate Action to draw attention to the climate crisis. As temperatures this weekend soared to 32C in some places, people assembled in Glasgow, Merseyside, London, Epsom, Bristol, Durham, York, Oxford, Newbury and Brighton to march from churches and landmarks such as the Cutty Sark. Carrying banners, they called on the government to end oil and gas expansion and protect the planet.


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