Religion news 14 March 2022

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Holy Dormition Sviatogirsk Lavrav. Image credit: Vizu at Russian Wikipedia CCLicense3.0

Ukraine headlines:

Russian attack on Ukraine military peacekeeping base near Polish border kills 35; Nine people dead in airstrike on Mykolaiv; 1,300 Ukraine soldiers have died; American journalist shot dead at Irpin checkpoint; thousands remain trapped in Mariupol with reports of mass graves; military column near Kyiv disperses to encircle the capital

Pope appeals for end to war: ‘In the name of God, stop this massacre’

At his Sunday blessing in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis made an impassioned plea for an end to the “unacceptable armed aggression” in Ukraine. “In the name of God I ask you: stop this massacre,” he said. Ukrainian cities risked being reduced to cemeteries and the bombing of hospitals and other civilian targets was barbaric with no valid strategic reason.

16th-century monastery bombed

An airstrike has damaged the 16th-century Holy Dormition Sviatogirsk Lavrav, an Orthodox monastery in the Donetsk Oblast region of eastern Ukraine. Windows were blown out in a loud explosion on Saturday night. 520 refugees were sheltering there, including 200 children. Several people were taken to hospital but no one was killed.

UK public encouraged to open their homes for refugees

The government is to launch the Homes for Ukraine programme today, encouraging civic society including faith groups, businesses and individuals to take in refugees, with the promise of hosts receiving £350 per month. The ”levelling up” secretary, Michael Gove, announced that the UK has issued 3,000 visas already and tens of thousands more may benefit from this scheme. 

Faith initiatives for Ukraine

The Global Sanctuary Foundation, set up by Dr Krish Kandiah to help refugees, now has a website and asked people to come forward to help. It has already collected 10,000 names of individuals, churches and other organisations offering help. It is working alongside Reset, a charity set up to help refugees.

Rabbi Jonathan Romain has set up the Ukrainetransport scheme, echoing the kindertransport that brought refugees to Britain in the Second World. More than 600 families have volunteered to host Ukrainian refugees already. He is working with Refugees At Home and has received offers from throughout the UK.

Jeremy Posen, a Jewish father of 10 from north London has heroically led a rescue operation from Odesa, moving 1,000 people including 270 orphans to safety in Romania. The two-week mission was organised by the Jewish charity Tikva. The Jewish Chronicle reports that the group faced airstrikes and shelling as they set off in 24 buses, accompanied by four food trucks.

A 90-year-old survivor of the Holocaust is among the Ukrainians who have already arrived in the UK. Jewish News reports that Kateryna Razumenko and her 62-year-old daughter Larysa, made the journey from Kharkiv and will live with relatives in Mill Hill.

The Sikh humanitarian agency based in Hayes, NishkamSWAT, is taking out a lorry-load of aid collected and donated by its supporters. And Khalsa Aid has mobilised to help refugees fleeing Ukraine at the borders, giving food at reception centres and on trains.

The Racial Justice Advocacy Forum, an ecumenical campaign group, is campaigning for justice for all people fleeing Ukraine, irrespective of race. It says: “Black and brown people, and people of Muslim faith affiliation, are facing racism and prejudice as they seek to escape the conflict in Ukraine.” It says there are unjustifiable acts of discrimination taking place with people being prevented from leaving and condemns racism as profoundly disturbing.

Other news

Reunion of first women ordained in the Church of England

Eleven women who were the first to be ordained by the Church of England, at Bristol Cathedral in 1994, returned there this weekend for an anniversary service and the unveiling of a new commemorative plaque. It was remade to include the names of all the women ordained, instead of just the men who performed the service.

Report into growing number of illegal weddings

A report is published this week into a growing number of wedding ceremonies that do not comply with legal requirements and therefore are not legally binding. The research by Rajnaara Akhtar, from Warwick University, and Rebecca Probert, from Exeter university, explored a wide range of ceremonies including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Pagan, interfaith and Humanist, as well as those led by independent celebrants. The findings are to be revealed in an online seminar on Wednesday.

Stonehenge a reliable calendar

New research on Stonehenge suggests it functioned as a reliable calendar, with stones and light creating numerical measurements based on a tropical solar year of 365.25 days. Professor Timothy Darvill, from Bournemouth University, suggests the adoption of a solar calendar was associated with the spread of solar cosmologies during the third millennium BC and was used to regularise festivals and ceremonies.

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