Religion news 9 October 2023

Image credit:: Stuart Rankin CCLicense2.0

The war on Israel and reprisal

More than 1,000 people have been killed in the attacks on Israel and the reprisals which followed on the Gaza strip this weekend. The assault by Hamas inflicted losses not seen on this scale for 50 years. The Times reports that 700 Israeli civilians, military, firefighters and police were killed, as well as more than 200 young people shot dead while dancing at a desert rave. 100 civilians and soldiers were taken hostage. The subsequent Israeli attacks on Gaza killed at least 400 Palestinians, including 20 children, and wounded 2,000 more.

The Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has issued a statement saying he is shocked and devastated by the “unimaginable scale and unprecedented brutality of the terrorist attacks on innocent civilians across Israel”. He described the “inhumanity of the mass murder, kidnapping and purposeful desecration of Jewish life”.

Political support: Jewish News reports support for Israel from Downing Street , with the Prime Minister saying “We stand with Israel”. The Mayor Of London Sadiq Khan said he “condemns the terrorist acts of Hamas and stands in solidarity with London’s Jewish community”.

The Muslim Council of Britain has called for an end to the violence in and around Gaza and says it is crucial the tensions do not affect communities in the UK, or provoke a rise in Islamophobia and antisemitism. It says “The targeting of innocent civilians can never be excused or justified…For 75 years, Palestinians have endured decades of illegal Israeli occupation, oppression and apartheid. They have experienced attacks on their towns, cities, and refugee camps, not to mention the thousands who have been killed indiscriminately. It is imperative to safeguard the lives of all civilians and protect their homes, hospitals and places of worship”.

Pope Francis pleaded on Sunday: “Please stop the attacks and the weapons and understand that terrorism and war do not lead to any solution, but only to the death and suffering of so many innocent people. War is always a defeat! Every war is a defeat!”  He expressed his sympathy to the families of victims and invited prayers for peace.

The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, an ecumenical group of Christian leaders which includes the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, said: “Our faith, which is founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ, compels us to advocate for the cessation of all violent and military activities that bring harm to both Palestinian and Israeli civilians. We unequivocally condemn any acts that target civilians, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, or faith. Such actions go against the fundamental principles of humanity and the teachings of Christ”.

Meanwhile in other news

Faith Museum in Bishop Auckland opened this weekend

Catherine Pepinster’s report on the Faith Museum in Bishop Auckland, which opened this weekend, includes some wonderful lines from the founder Jonathan Ruffer, a millionaire philanthropist who made his fortune in the City and describes himself as “very goddy”. He says that the project came about because of an eight-day silent retreat, run by the Jesuit order. “It was simply supposed to be a wash-and-brush-up but when I was there, I was mugged [by God], challenged to turn my life into one that was working with the voiceless wherever I chose,” he recalls. Full story here

Angela Youngman reports on how the museum shows 6,000 years of faith through art, with contemporary artists who provoke, challenge and highlight the concept of faith. Their work highlights the central questions posed throughout the museum: Where do I belong? How do I live? Am I alone? The story is here

Justin Welby stands with Christian refugees in Armenia

The Archbishop of Canterbury has travelled to Armenia to meet Christian refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, who fled after Azerbaijan troops overtook the region three weeks ago. He told them they are remembered and their suffering is known, as the church is puts them up in a holiday camp in Armenia.

California governor blocks law outlawing caste discrimination

Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have made California the first US state to outlaw caste-based discrimination. He said it was unnecessary, explaining that California “already prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, colour, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other characteristics, and state law specifies that these civil rights protections shall be liberally construed.”

Tourism charges to see ancient spiritual site in Lewis

Historic Environment Scotland intends to charge an admission fee to the neolithic site of the standing stones at Calanais on Lewis, which has become the most visited attraction in the Outer Hebrides in cruise ship tours. A new deepwater port could further increase tourism and druids, pagan sand moon worshippers have been told to fight for it.


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