Religion news 11 May 2021

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Image: St. Maternus Breberen

Fighting at Temple Mount in Jerusalem leads to rocket attacks and air strikes

Fighting that began at Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the holy site of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Jewish Temple, has escalated to rocket attacks and airstrikes. Hundreds of Palestinians and several police were injured after Friday prayers on one of the holiest nights in Ramadan, when tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets were used against crowds throwing stones. Trouble continued yesterday and Jews were prevented from entering the holy site on Jerusalem Day. Hamas launched a rocket strike on Jerusalem, and Israel responded with airstrikes across the Gaza Strip. World leaders are repeating their appeals for calm. The World Council of Churches is linking the violence to the threatened eviction of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem. It has been assisting residents in a court battle to keep their homes.

German Catholics bless same-sex unions in defiance of the Vatican

German Roman Catholic priests have defied the Vatican and blessed same-sex partners in services throughout Germany. The organisation Love Wins chose to take action yesterday as 10 May is often observed as a day to remember the story of Noah, when a rainbow, the LGBTQ+ symbol, was a sign of God’s covenant with mankind. The organisers say all people in love should receive the blessing that God wants to give them — without any secrecy. Love Wins was formed after the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the church had no power to bless same-sex unions because they were illicit and were not “remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”. Love Wins describes the church’s position as “a slap in the face for people around the world” who find themselves in relationships that are not approved by the church.

Catholic social justice campaign behind White House decision on vaccine patents

The Religion News Service reports that President Joe Biden’s decision to back efforts to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, resulted from the campaign of the Catholic group Network, a social justice lobby in the United States. It says the worldwide patent campaign began in October, and the Vatican was among the first to back the proposal. Pharmaceutical companies lobbied against it, saying it could result in shortages of raw materials required to make the vaccines. Campaigners say a “people’s vaccine” is needed that is accessible to all.

Marathon prayer to end the pandemic crosses the world’s shrines

Shrines around the world are taking part in a marathon of prayer during the month of May, invoking an end to the coronavirus pandemic and the restoration of social and work related activities. Yesterday the rosary was recited at Knock, in Ireland, for people with disabilities and today the ceremony, always at 6pm online, will be in Belgium for the poor, homeless and economically distressed. The marathon ends at the Vatican.

Board of Deputies backs action on climate change

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has overwhelmingly backed action on climate change, the Jewish Chronicle reports. A resolution calling for the board to take “appropriate actions alongside eco-synagogues and other partners” to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 was passed by 85 per cent to 15 per cent. Brian Humphreys, who chairs the board’s social justice committee, said the resolution was “groundbreaking in that I believe it is the first time a UK Jewish communal organisation will have publicly stated that we are now facing a climate crisis”.

Humanists launch project to understand the prospect of death

Humanists UK have launched a project, My Mortality, to assemble a collection of reflections on death. They say humanists do not believe in an afterlife but the reflections show that some express worries about not having lived enough, hold regrets about missing out on the future, or share concerns for those who survive them. Many feel that “recognising this is the one life we have is a motivation to live this life well, and they find solace and joy in the impact, memories, and contributions that will survive them when they are gone”.

New rural officer for the Methodist church

The Methodist church has appointed Sarah Hulme as its rural mission and ministry officer, a new full-time position aimed at expanding its presence in rural communities and advocating for their complex social issues. She has worked for the past 10 years on the diocesan staff team for the mainly rural and ecumenical diocese of Cumbria and her new role will involve working with all churches in the area

July synod moves from York to London

The July session of the General Synod of the Church of England, the church’s parliament, will be held in London instead of York. Usually, it is held on the York university campus, but the university has cancelled all events on its campus this summer because of the coronavirus.

313km charity run from Oldham to London during Ramadan fast

Afruz Miah, a charity worker from Oldham has run 313km to London while fasting during Ramadan, to raise £100,000 for international relief. The Great 313 Run Race Against Poverty encouraged people to give as their zakat contribution during Ramadan. Afruz works for the Global Relief Trust, which operates in mainly Muslim countries, providing essential supplies, medical and educational help.

Ole Anthony, scourge of American televangelists, dies aged 82

Ole Anthony, an American pastor and investigator of superrich televangelists, has died aged 82. He set up the Trinity Foundation to campaign against the “prosperity gospel”, where American evangelical preachers link faith and financial donations to material success, with empty promises that God will repay donations a hundredfold. His investigations brought down hundreds of preachers, including curtailing the fortunes of Robert Tilton, a Texan megachurch pastor who encouraged thousand-dollar donations and reaped $80m annually. Pastors who owned private jets were exposed, including Kenneth Copeland, once a religious adviser to Donald Trump and owner of five planes and a runway.

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