Religion news 23 October 2023

Image credit: The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem

Day 17: War in the Middle East

A second convoy of aid has gone into Gaza with essential supplies of water, fuel and food. Israel has carried out air strikes on Gaza and the West Bank.  Noiya Sharabi, a 16-year-old British girl missing since the Hamas attack on an Israeli kibbutz, is confirmed to have died, alongside her sister and mother.

Pope calls Biden to discuss war and peace in the Middle East

The Pope has called President Biden to speak about war and the prospect of peace in the Middle East. In his address on Sunday, he lamented the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza and action which has killed hundreds of people sheltering at the Episcopalian hospital and Greek Orthodox parish church. He renewed his appeal for humanitarian aid to continue to arrive and for hostages to be freed.

Archbishop joins church leaders in Jerusalem calling for protection and peace

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Patriarchs and church leaders in Jerusalem, have issued a statement condemning the bombing of the Orthodox church in Gaza which has killed at least 18 people who were sheltering there. The Archbishop visited the leaders in Jerusalem at the weekend and gave an interview to the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme, saying it was important to show the church in the Middle East that it was not forgotten. Archbishop Hosam Naoum, primate of the Episcopalian diocese of Jerusalem, told the programme that there were three centres for Christians in Gaza, a Catholic church, an Orthodox church and the Episcopalian hospital – two of the three have been targeted. “Hospitals cannot be the theatre for such a massacre”, he said. The joint statement calls for greater security for hospitals and places of worship and for a ceasefire allowing space for humanitarian aid and the prospect of peace and reconciliation.

Zara Mohammed says hatred must not impact communities here

The Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Zara Mohammed, has released a video address regarding the Middle East crisis. She said the hatred in the Middle East must not be allowed to impact communities here and that it was very important for communities to come together in a diverse multi-cultural, multi-faith Britain.

Thousands take to the streets in support of Israel and Palestine

Am estimated 15,000 people attended a rally and vigil in London on Sunday, in a show of solidary with Israel, a demonstration organised by Jewish groups including the Board of Deputies of British Jews. They called for the hostages taken by Hamas, to be returned safely, waving posters showing pictures of  all those taken, while Israeli flags were flown in a show of support. On Saturday an estimated 100,000 people marched through London in support of Palestine, demanding that Israel stop its bombardment of Gaza. Similar demonstrations were held in other capital cities, with calls for an end to Israel’s airstrikes and humanitarian aid to be delivered to Gaza.

Other news

Call for civil rights movement for British Muslims

Baroness Warsi has called for the creation of a new civil rights movement to press the case for British Muslims, who have a sense of fear and despondency because they are treated as second class citizens. She told the Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4 that communities must not be “othered”. There should be equal civil and political rights for all communities in society. She said Muslims feel frustrated and angry that they are in this position. The issue is beyond party politics, she says, charting the government policy of disengaging with Muslim communities and the way governments have not dealt with Islamophobia, as issues going beyond the last Tory years in power. Multiculturalism has worked, she said, and it is wrong to suggest otherwise, but there are elements in society who don’t want it succeed.

Synagogue leader in Detroit stabbed to death

The 40-year-old leader of a synagogue in Detroit was stabbed to death at her home in an attack whose motive is unclear. The body of Samantha Woll was found at her home on Saturday morning after police followed a trail of blood. She was on the campaign staff for Attorney General Dana Nessel and was a former aide to Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin. The police say there are many unanswered questions which are being investigated in a wide-ranging inquiry.

Number of Chinese Christians in Britain rises by 29 per cent in two years

A report from the Bible Society says the fastest-growing churches in Britain are Chinese, filled with thousands of people who have settled here from Hong Kong. The Bible Society estimates that in 2021 there were 89,475 ethnic Chinese Christians, but now that number is 115,290 — a 29 per cent rise. The Times reports that a congregation in Manchester has grown ten fold from 200 to 2000 people and three new buildings have been opened to accommodate the members.

CofE proposals on same sex blessings “a sum total of nothing”

The Church of England has published details of its next General Synod from 13 – 15 November, when suggested prayers for same sex blessings will be put to the vote. But accompanying proposals on pastoral care for clergy who disagree has been postponed to a later unspecified date. It also means there is no decision in November for same sex clergy who want to marry. Synod member Rev Dr Charlie Bell said the proposals were a sum total of nothing.

Bishop’s house floods after record rainfall

The Bishop of Dunwich Mike Harrison posted a picture of his living room under water after the floods from record rainfalls in Ipswich this weekend. “Oh dear – home deluged with 8 inches of rain on ground floor + oak tree at front down taking power line with it. Humans fine, chickens lost, bees ok, neighbours great, hospitality in near future unlikely”.


Sign up for our news bulletin