Religion news 9 August 2023

Image credit: @DrUmarAlQadri

The “otherworldly resonance” of Sinead O’Connor

Sinead O’Connor, the Irish singer who rose to fame with the ballad “Nothing Compares To You”, has been buried in a Muslim ceremony in Bray, Co Wicklow, where she had lived for fifteen years. Thousands lined the seafront as the cortege passed on its way to the private burial. Notable musicians and politicians paid tribute to her at the funeral service. The eulogy was given by Imam Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri,  Chief Imam at the Islamic Centre of Ireland, who said her voice had moved a generation of young people and “could reduce listeners to tears by her otherworldly resonance”. He said that the more she sang and spoke about her own pain, the more her voice and her words resonated with listeners and touched their hearts. Her life was marked “with a deep communion with God”. Sinead grew up a Catholic and converted to Islam five years ago. She died in her London flat at the age of 56, but the cause of death has not been revealed.

Jesuit Refugee Service director speaks of appalling level of need in Syria

Father Tony O’Riordan SJ, has given an interview to Premier Christian Radio, outlining the terrible circumstances of families he is trying to help in Aleppo, six months after the earthquake killed 60,000 people and injured 12,000 more. Fr Tony, the director or the Jesuit Refugee Service, said the World Food programme cut its payments by 40 per cent in July due to underfunding – this was appalling news he said. To add to the disaster, temperatures are soaring, hitting 42 degrees regularly, yet there is no stable supply of electricity for air conditioning. And the resulting low fresh water levels threaten an outbreak of cholera. The Jesuit Refugee Service has been offering aid, including health services, education and emergency help, in Syria since 2008, supporting Iraqi refugees and people displaced in the civil war.

Pope warns of dangers of Artificial Intelligence

Pope Francis has called for ethical reflection and the responsible use of AI, artificial intelligence.  In an address marking the next World Day of Peace, he warned of potential dangers and the “ambivalent effect” of AI. He said there was a need to be vigilant so that violence and discrimination did not take root in AI, at the expense of the fragile and excluded.

Islamic Relief project for farms in climate stricken Somalia

Islamic Relief has launched a Strengthening Agricultural Resilience (SARIA) project, to increase resilience among livestock farmers in Somalia. It says recent failed rainy seasons have decimated the sole source of income for many farmers. The project will equip farmers with techniques to protect them against the impacts of climate change, including solar-powered tractors, particular types of crop and productive livestock (9 healthy goats and 1 healthy Billy goat) to 150 households. Half of households are headed by women and the scheme has supported over 5,500 of the most vulnerable women in the region.

Methodist charity helping survivors of modern slavery wants to expand

Adavu, a charity with Methodist roots which helps survivors of modern slavery, is seeking to expand its services outside the West Midlands to increase the number of people it can support. It also wants to develop its well-being work and engage with survivors on new initiatives. Adavu was founded in 2011 by Deacon Kerry Scarlett, now vice president of the Methodist conference, and the Rev Stephen Willey,  as a project of Birmingham Methodist District to help people trafficked into the UK. So far it has helped more than 230 men and women, including child brides and women escaping sexual abuse. The Methodist Church quotes research suggesting there are around 122,000 people living as modern slaves across the United Kingdom.  

Castle key to Kindertransport children awarded essential repair grant

The National Heritage Fund has awarded a £2.2 million grant to the grade I listed Gwrych Castle, near Abergele, in Conwy, North Wales, which was used to house 200 Jewish refugee children brought to Britain by Kindertransport in World War II.  It was used by “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” during the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, but is now in a critical state of repair and requires essential work delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.  The Jewish Chronicle tells the story of its history and descent into disrepair.

Exorcist director has died aged 87

William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, has died aged 87. His film was based on a story by William Peter Blatty, of a 12-year-old girl’s possession by a demon and her exorcism by a Jesuit priest. For the author, the story was an argument for God and the fictional priest was the focus for an intellectual battle to find God. Friedkin turned it into a film which grossed  $7.4 million (equivalent to $32.1 million today) within one month. In a TV interview he described his Jewish upbringing but said he did not then “buy into organised religion”.


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