Religion news 10 April 2024

Crescent moon seen from west London. Image credit: @asabbas98

Sighting of crescent moon means Ramadan ends today

The crescent moon has been sighted and today marks Eid al-Fitr, the festival ending the holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims around the world fasted from sunrise to sunset, prayed and gave to charitable causes. Today is a day of celebration with special meals and giving of presents. The Islam Channel provides background on customs around the world including communal prayers in Indonesia where everyone wears white, sweet delicacies of honey and syrup pastries in Turkey or a rainbow cake in Indonesia or pineapple biscuits in Malaysia, and family meals featuring lamb. During Ramadan, people offer money to causes, known as zakat, and on Eid al-Fitr, there are sometimes open table buffets so all can share the festivities. In the UK, prayers are led in mosques and in open public spaces such as parks.

Vatican human dignity document “fails terribly” on transgender issue

The campaign group New Ways Ministry says the Vatican document on human dignity, published on Monday, “fails terribly by offering transgender and nonbinary people not infinite, but limited human dignity”.  The document “Dignitas Infinita: on Human Dignity,” says sex change operations are a grave threat to human dignity. It lists violations of human dignity beyond sexual issues, saying gender theory, sex changes, surrogacy and abortion, in addition to poverty, human trafficking and war, are all grave threats to human dignity. Gay people should be respected, it says, and denounces places where people “are imprisoned, tortured, and even deprived of the good of life solely because of their sexual orientation”.  New Ways Ministry says “The Vatican’s arguments and conclusions on gender identity and gender transitions indicate that the authors failed to consult developments about gender in the biological, psychological, and social sciences”.  Today, Dr Hilary Cass, chair of an NHS review, reports that there is no good evidence to support the global clinical practice of prescribing hormones to under-18s to halt puberty or transition to the opposite sex.

Our briefing this week is on the Vatican’s human dignity report – today Weds 10 April 1200. Host is Leo Devine. Guests include Christopher White, Vatican correspondent of the National Catholic Reporter, and Robert Shine from New Ways Ministry. Zoom details from [email protected]

Soul Survivor worship leader Matt Redman describes abuse by Mike Pilavachi

Matt Redman, Church songwriter and worship leader, has published a documentary on his YouTube channel outlining his experience of abuse when he was a leader in Soul Survivor, a Church of England movement which has attracted tens of thousands at worship services and festivals. In the interview, Matt Redman, who has since gone on to global fame as a Christian musician, told how he was wrestled by Soul Survivor’s founder Mike Pilavachi, adding his story to those of 150 people who have come forward with similar experiences. Their claims were substantiated by a Church of England investigation last year. In the documentary Matt Redman and his wife Beth describe psychological abuse against them and others when they were given the silent treatment, frozen out by Pilavachi for no apparent reason. After the documentary was published, two Church of England vicars who are brothers, Pete and Tim Hughes, issued a statement on Instagram, revealing they too had been wrestled and massaged by Pilavachi. They raised their concerns within the organisation, but were not taken seriously, so they left. Telegraph story here

Pax Christi urges UK to end supply of arms to Israel

Pax Christi is urging its members to write to MPs calling for the end of the supply of arms to Israel, an immediate and permanent ceasefire, the refunding of UNWRA, free and full access of aid into Gaza and the release of all hostages. It says that many consider Israel’s conduct of the war to be a potential breach of international law and the UK government’s continued support for Israel “makes us complicit in those crimes”. It says it is disappointing that the issue has been raised only after the tragic death of seven aid workers when there are estimates that 33,000 Palestinians have been killed: “In continuing to supply arms to Israel, we are also complicit as a nation in these killings of innocent Palestinian people”.

Archbishop appeals for release of 23 year old Palestinian Christian

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said he is shocked and deeply concerned at the arrest of a 23-year-old Palestinian Christian woman Layan Nasir, in the West Bank. Writing on Twitter / X, Justin Welby appealed for her safety and swift release: “Together with our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters, I pray for Layan and her family – and for the congregation of St Peter’s Anglican Church in the Occupied West Bank”. Canon Richard Sewell, Dean of St George’s College, gave details of her arrest by Israeli forces. On Twitter / X he said “Layan was detained for six months in 2021 and released. Now three years later, detained again. Armed soldiers cuffed and blindfolded her. Whereabouts still unknown.”

National Secular Society campaign against repeal of faith schools intake cap

The National Secular Society is calling on its supporters to campaign against a proposal to lift the “50 per cent cap” on faith schools. The cap means that new academies and free schools with a religious character in England may only select up to 50 per cent of pupils based on religion when they are oversubscribed. The measure was introduced by the coalition government in 2010 and has been consistently opposed by the Catholic church, which says it would force schools to turn away pupils because they were Catholic, while admitting others because they were not, and this would be against Canon Law. The NSS says “Abolishing the cap would result in a new wave of religiously exclusive, segregated schools that disadvantage children most in need… Religious segregation inevitably leads to ethnic segregation too”. It is urging supporters to write to their MP.

Spanish priest dies after robes caught fire at Easter vigil

A Spanish priest has died after his robes caught fire from embers in a bowl surrounded by candles in an Easter Saturday vigil. Fr Javier Sánchez was officiating at the service in Zaragoza, in the north east of Spain, when the embers ignited and he suffered severe burns over half of his body. He was taken to hospital but died five days later from multiple organ failure. Aged 60, Fr Sánchez was known as “the rock priest”, having released three albums.


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