Religion news 27 June 2023

Image by konevi. Pixabay

Saudi ministry predicts record numbers at the Hajj in Mecca

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has predicted that more pilgrims than ever will visit Mecca for the annual Hajj this week, with more than 2.5 million pilgrims expected from all corners of the world. The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, an obligatory pilgrimage once in a lifetime. People wear white robes to circle the Kaaba, a cube structure at the centre of Islam’s holiest site. Yesterday they began a pilgrimage to Mount Arafat, 15 miles east of Mecca, the site of the Prophet Mohammad’s last sermon, for ritual prayers and ceremonies. Hajj 2023 is the subject of our weekly briefing today at 1200, with panellists discussing the climate implications of a growing number of pilgrims to Mecca,  frustration at the new Hajj booking system and the lower number  of tickets allocated to Britain this year. Details from [email protected]

Catholic charity inspired Prince William’s homelessness initiative

The Passage, a charity set up in 1981 by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul and Cardinal Basil Hume, to serve the homeless near Westminster Cathedral, is one of the senior partners in Prince William’s new “Homewards” initiative to ensure everyone has a safe and secure home. The Prince was taken to The Passage by his mother Diana, in 1993 when he was 11 years old and the experience left a lasting impact. He is now Patron of The Passage and yesterday launched a five year campaign to end homelessness, which he said should not exist in a “modern and progressive society”. Commentators say the initiative is likely to be his defining project.  

 “China may be overtaking the US as the largest Christian country in the world”

The Rev Nicky Gumbel, formerly vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton has given an interview to the Church of England newspaper on his vision to make the gospel available for everyone in the world by Easter Day (17 April) 2033 – the 2000th anniversary of the resurrection. He is now taking the Alpha course, where churches encourage people to meet for a meal followed by Bible teaching and prayer, across the world with a film series created in “the main languages” and the New Testament being translated into 99.9 per cent of the world’s languages.  He told the reporter that Alpha courses had taken off in the States – there are more Alpha courses in the US than anywhere else in the world. But “China may be overtaking the US as the largest Christian country in the world”.  He explained that a Chinese version of the Alpha course has been prepared. “There’s a Chinese version out, which is totally Chinese, filmed in mainland China, produced by the Chinese with Chinese presenters, Chinese testimonies, Chinese experts. There are 200 million people outside of China, let alone quite a few in China”.  Full interview is here

Parliamentarians frustrated with CofE as same sex blessing debate delayed til November

Evangelical LGBT campaigner, Jayne Ozanne, and Labour MP Sir Ben Bradshaw, organised a symposium in the House of Commons yesterday to discuss ‘carrot & stick’ approaches which parliament could take to make equal marriage a reality in the Church of England. It involved senior parliamentarians from across both houses. legal experts, academics and senior Anglican clergy and lay members. Keynote speeches were made by Prof Iain McLean, Canon Dr Judith Maltby & Bishop Alan Wilson. Jayne Ozanne tweeted that “parliamentarians are now utterly frustrated with @churchofengland  having just learnt of the ongoing delay to Living in Love and Faith”, with final versions of prayers of blessing now not to be voted upon until November.

Change to church process of removing memorials to slave traders

The Church Times reports rule changes are proposed when churches or cathedrals want to remove memorials of “contested heritage”. It says the General Synod, meeting in York in ten days time, will vote on proposals that churches should give a clear account of how they have reached a conclusion that memorials be removed and permission will be given according to whether this is an adequate explanation. Discussions to remove memorials, statues, plaques and windows which have an association with slavery and racism, have become common since the killing of George Floyd in the United States on 25 May 2020, and the toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston, dragged into Bristol harbour.

Indian minister rejects Obama’s comment on protecting Muslims

Reuters reports that India’s finance minister has derided comments by former US President Barack Obama on India’s treatment of its Muslim population. It reports that during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the United States last week, Obama told CNN that the issue of the “protection of the Muslim minority in a majority-Hindu India” would be worth raising in Modi’s meeting with President Biden.  India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told a press conference that she was shocked at the remarks: “He was commenting on Indian Muslims … having bombed Muslim-majority countries from Syria to Yemen … during his presidency. Why would anyone listen to any allegations from such people?”

St Paul’s Cathedral changes description of “white supremacist” Churchill

St Paul’s Cathedral has removed a line on an online post which described Winston Churchill as “an unashamed imperialist and white supremacist”. It was in an article about three state funerals held at the cathedral for Nelson in 1805, the Duke of Wellington in 1852 and Churchill in 1965. Following a complaint, the article was edited to say Churchill was “a figure of controversy, especially when viewed from a modern perspective”.  The Times reports a quote from a Cathedral spokesperson: “It was brought to our attention that part of the text within the description was not consistent with the tone of the rest of the page. We have therefore reworded the paragraph with the aim of making the description more balanced and appropriate in its context.”

Socks depicting Lord Ganesha removed from online site based in Haverfordwest

“Wisdom Wares” an online gift shop based in Haverfordwest, has removed socks with images of the Hindu deity Lord Ganesha after a complaint. It came from self styled Hindu statesman, Rajan Zed, from Nevada, who has led many similar protests over recent years. The Western Telegraph reports that “Hop Hare Bamboo Socks – Ganesha”, were on sale for  £7.95 but the shop has removed them saying “We respect all valid objections to our products on sale and apologise to the Hindu community if the listing of this item caused any offence”.

For the Methodists, it’s never too soon to prepare for Christmas

It’s still June, but the Methodist Church has just launched its Advent and Christmas campaign Out of the Ordinary”,  saying details are being released as early as possible, so that churches can make a decision about getting involved. Weekly themes follow the central idea that Jesus’ ordinary birth became God’s out of the ordinary world-saving event; and ordinary acts of kindness can breakthrough to the extraordinary. The resources contain Bible readings, worship ideas, discussion notes and prayers through Advent . It will be accompanied by a social media campaign pointing people to local churches.


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