Religion news 17 August 2021

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Faith leaders and organisations warn of impending catastrophe in Afghanistan

Faith leaders and aid agencies are warning of impending catastrophe in Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country on Sunday. The Church Times says many are particularly concerned for the fate of women,  girls and people from minority faiths under Taliban rule.  Emergency appeals for people who have left their homes and are now destitute have been launched by leading Christian, Muslim and international aid agencies.
Afghanistan is number two in the Open Doors World Watch List of worst places in the world to be a Christian. Its field director for Asia said the situation was heart-breaking and uncertain for all in Afghanistan, but he warned that Christians, who have to practice their faith in secret, are especially vulnerable.
Pope Francis is among thousands of faith leaders worldwide praying desperately for the people of Afghanistan as  flawed evacuation efforts descend into deadly chaos. He said:  “I join in the unanimous concern for the situation in Afghanistan. I ask you to pray with me to the God of peace so that the clamour of weapons ceases, and the solutions can be found at the dialogue table. Only in this way will the battered population of that country – men, women, elderly and children – be able to return to their homes, live in peace and safety in full mutual respect.”
The Jewish Chronicle reports that The Jewish Council for Racial Equality has called on the UK government to announce “a comprehensive” plan to help refugees who wish to escape Afghanistan. World Jewish Relief says that it was monitoring the situation and should displaced Afghans reach countries where they operate, they would try to support them.

Plymouth victims remembered in minute’s silence

A one-minute silence has been held to remember the five victims of the mass shooting in Plymouth.  More than 200 people, including faith, community and civic leaders and emergency service workers and military, stood silently at Plymouth Guildhall. A bell tolled five times for each of the five victims killed by Jake Davison last Friday. The Bishop of Plymouth, Nick Mckinnel,  has called for continued prayers for those most affected. He told Premier Christian Radio there were a number of events planned for the coming week and he hopes they will be a time to help people “make sense of what’s happened”.  The bishop will be leading a civic service on Wednesday.

UK churches sign up to welcome Christian arrivals from Hong Kong

Clergy of Chinese heritage have warned the Church of England not to repeat its lack of welcome to the Windrush Generation when thousands of Hong Kong Chinese people move to the UK in what could be the largest planned migration for decades.  The Guardian reports that 600 UK churches of different denominations have signed up to be “Hong Kong Ready”, committing to welcoming Christians from Hong Kong into their church communities. It says that the Home Office has received 34,300 applications for a new visa for people in Hong Kong in just two months in response to Beijing imposing a harsh new national security law in the former British colony. One in 10 of new arrivals is estimated to be Christian. Premier Christian News says a newly formed group called “The Teahouse” which was originally set up by Bristol curate, Rev Mark Nam, as a WhatsApp group offering support and community to Chinese-heritage clergy during the Covid-19 pandemic will provide support and promote their presence in the church. Later this year the C of E’s committee for minority ethnic Anglican concerns (CMEAC) will host a conference on how parishes can welcome people arriving from Hong Kong.

Gallery removes ‘dangerously one-sided’ anti-Israel statement from exhibit

Manchester University’s Whitworth Gallery has been forced to remove a controversial statement about Israel from its ‘Cloud Studies’ exhibition after intervention from Jewish groups.  The exhibition aims to “investigate, explore and expose how power reshapes the very air we breathe” around the world, but the groups, including UK Lawyers for Israel and the Jewish Representative Council of Manchester, said its opening statement, “Forensic Architecture stands with Palestine”, and  the use of language such as “struggle against apartheid” and “settler colonial violence” was factually incorrect, dangerously one-sided and could ramp up anti-Jewish hatred in Manchester. The director of Forensic Architecture, the company which created the exhibit, Israeli-born Eyal Weizman, defended the statement, saying the company condemned and deplored anti-Semitism. It demanded the closure of its exhibit “with immediate effect” upon learning of the removal. Jewish News says this is the second time the gallery has been hit by controversy over the Israel/Palestine conflict and a review into governance arrangements for new art at the gallery is to  be carried out.

Kingdom Church leader appears in court accused of selling £91 ‘plague protection kits’ as fake cure for Covid-19

A South London faith healer has appeared before magistrates accused of selling “plague protection kits” consisting of a package containing a small bottle of oil and a piece of red yarn costing £91. The Press Association reports that Bishop Climate Wiseman, 46, who is the head of the Kingdom Church in Camberwell, is said to have marketed the mixture of cedar wood and hyssop “in person, online and in videos” to protect users from coronavirus. He pleaded not guilty to a single charge of fraud and two charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations between 23rd and 24th March. The charges allege Wiseman claimed the kits, advertised as “Divine Cleansing Oil” or as part of a “Divine Plague Prevention Kit”, could be used to “treat, prevent, protect against or cure” coronavirus. Lavender Hill Magistrates have sent the case to Inner London Crown Court where Wiseman is expected to appear on 13th September.

Holocaust survivor reunited with precious family Bible after 79 years

A prized Hebrew Bible hidden by a German Jewish family who eventually died in Treblinka extermination camp in occupied Poland during WWII, has been returned to its rightful owners. The Times of Israel reports that the original owners, Eduard and Ernestine Leiter, hid the 1874 Bible and other possessions behind a double wall in a loft of a house in Oberdorf, Germany. They had been forced there from Stuttgart when the Nazis came to power. The family that later bought the house discovered the items in 1990 and eventually sold them via eBay to German art historian, Gerhard Roese, in 2017. He approached the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to help him return them to the Leiters’ descendants. Twenty eight members of the family died in the Holocaust, but they tracked down Holocaust survivor, Susi Kasper Leiter, and her grandson, Jacob Leiter, in the USA. She said she was “overwhelmed with emotions and memories, and at the same time so grateful to witness this”.

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