Religion news 14 September 2023

Storm Daniel over Libya. Image credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory

UK Muslim charities’ emergency support for Libya and Morocco

Muslim charities based in the UK have launched emergency appeals for the people of Libya and Morrocco after floods and an earthquake  killed tens of thousands of people. In Libya, Storm Daniel led to massive rainfall which in turn burst two dams and flooded the coastal area. 20,000 are said to be missing with entire neighbourhoods washed away. The Penny Appeal, Muslim Hands and Islamic Relief are among the aid agencies appealing for money and sending supplies, with one aid worker saying locals are referring to the devastation as doomsday.  In Morocco, aid efforts have been  hampered by the destruction of transport links which disappeared along with thousands of homes in the earthquake. Hyphen Online said aid has been accepted from Spain, Qatar, Britain, and the UAE and it lists five more  Muslim aid agencies appealing for funds. It tells the extraordinary story of an employee of the British Moroccan Society who travelled back to the UK on the morning of the tragedy, escaping it by hours. Now she is helping to coordinate doctors  medial supplies, humanitarian relief and essential supplies to the region.

Ronaldo is baptised, confirmed and given communion in Brazil

The International football star Ronaldo Nazário has been baptised, confirmed and given first communion in a Catholic church in San Jose, Brazil. He announced it on Instagram to his 30 million followers with a picture showing his head bowed, being baptised over the font and afterwards smiling with loved ones and his priest. “Today is a very special day. I was baptised!” he said. “The Christian faith has always been a fundamental part of my life since childhood, although I had not yet been baptized. With the sacrament, I feel truly regenerated as a child of God – in a new, more aware, deeper way. I renew my commitment to follow the way of good, free and spontaneous will, believing in the love of Jesus, in charity love”. He has played for Brazil, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, and Inter Milan and retired in 2011. A signed football which he gave to the Pope, now lies in the Vatican museum. 

MPs call for release of Sikh blogger Jagtar Singh Johal

MPs have called on the government to do more in order to release Jagtar Singh Johal from custody in India. Johal, aged 36, from West Dunbartonshire, was a blogger and campaigner for Sikh human rights, who travelled to India in October 2017 to get married. While out shopping with his wife, he was bundled into a car and detained. Speaking during the Prime Minister’s statement on his return from the G20,  Alice Kearns, Conservative chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, asked whether the government would call for Johal to be released now, because the UN had accepted that he is arbitrarily detained. She also asked the Prime Minister if he believed that Johal had been unfairly treated or tortured.  Rishi Sunak said the government was committed to see the case resolved and consular access was being provided to him and his family. He had raised the case with Narendra Modi while in India for the G20.  Martin Docherty Hughes, the SNP MP for Johal’s home constituency West Dunbartonshire said the rights of his constituent were being compromised to get a trade deal with India over the line. Labour MP Sir Chris Bryant said many MPs were depressed at the Prime Minister’s response when it was clear that Johal had been arbitrarily detained for six years.

New Wine distances itself from Mike Pilavachi safeguarding story

New Wine, an evangelical Christian movement founded by a Church of England vicar at St Andrew’s Chorleywood, has issued a statement about the safeguarding investigation into Mike Pilavachi. He was the youth worker at New Wine when he founded Soul Survivor in 1993. The statement says New Wine is “deeply troubled and disheartened” by the developments which have been “shocking and deeply disappointing”. It says although Pilavachi was a leader at New Wine, it remained a separate organisation to Soul Survivor. It is tightening safeguarding procedures and says “any type of mistreatment, manipulation, or inappropriate conduct will not be accepted or tolerated within the context of New Wine”. The statement has been criticised on social media.

Woman bishop shares leadership of the global Anglican Communion

Bishop Jo Bailey Wells is to become Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, overseeing an estimated 85 million church members in 165 countries and developing “connections between bishops around the world”. The communion has deep divisions over same sex relationships and there is still opposition among conservatives towards women as priests or bishops. During her career, she has been Dean of Clare College, Cambridge and was the Bishop of Dorking for seven years. She is married to the Rev Dr Sam Wells, vicar of St Martin the Fields.

Salisbury Cathedral’s 37 year renovation project draws to an end

Scaffolding is coming down around Salisbury Cathedral, after a renovation project which has lasted 37 years. The BBC lists the work: 1,100 stones have been replaced, windows have been cleaned, wooden frames restored, lead water goods repaired, and other remedial work undertaken. Restoration work is continuing in the North Cloisters, where masons are working on Purbeck columns, bases and carvings. They have left their own signature with six stone carvings among the parapets, including one which represents a female mason, Carol Pike.

Jerusalem traffic halted over Ultra Orthodox protest at military draft

 Traffic was blocked in Jerusalem yesterday as ultra-Orthodox men formed a protective circle around an Orthodox man who refused to comply with the military draft and then resisted arrest. AP reports that military service is compulsory for Jewish men, but the ultra-Orthodox parties have won exemptions to allow men to study full-time in religious seminaries, a move which has proved unpopular with the rest of society.  The police used water canon and tried to drag the protesters away in a disturbance which lasted several hours.

Sunak and Starmer wish Jews a happy new year

The Jewish Chronicle reports that Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer have wished British Jews a happy new year, as preparations are underway for Rosh Hashanah, celebrated from Friday. The Prime Minister promised to keep the Jewish community safe, champion the ban on boycotts, divestments and sanctions, and fight antisemitism in any form. Sir Keir, whose wife Victoria is Jewish, also offered the community his good wishes, and said his family would celebrate with a festive meal and reflect on the past and future, adding the wish “may you all be inscribed in the Book of Life.” Rosh Hashanah factsheet here


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