Religion news 18 February 2022

Image credit; ©Sue Hogben CCLicense2.0

Jewish community in Ukraine appeals for help as threat of war intensifies

The Chief Rabbi of Odessa and Southern Ukraine, Rabbi Avraham Wolf, is appealing for help in “dire times” as the threat of war intensifies. He says the relief project, Mishpacha Chabad Odessa, is preparing to support hundreds of Jews unable to evacuate the country including orphans, students, and holocaust survivors. Preparations are also underway to absorb Jewish refugees from the surrounding regions of Kharkiv, Kiev, and Dnieper. He says they need medical gear, protective equipment, and basic necessities such as clothes and sleeping bags. They are also preparing to stock emergency shelters with several tons of cereal, buckwheat, sugar, rice, flour and other non-perishable staples. He says additional security personnel are arriving from Israel to help protect the Jewish community.

Bishop advises ‘hunker down’ and stay safe in storm alert

As Storm Eustace prepares to batter the south west of England, the bishop of Truro Philip Mountstephen has told people in his diocese to stay safe. Weather forecasts suggest this could be the worst storm for 30 years with wind speed exceeding 107mph, and a severe weather alert has been issued. Taking to Twitter,  the bishop said: “You are much more valuable than church buildings however lovely! Charge your phones and hunker down”. Hugh Neilsen, the Bishop of St Germains, a village in Cornwall, also the bishop to the armed forces, said he was praying for those out at sea on this stormy night, the emergency services and “anyone needing the promise of God’s faithful, strong presence”.

Campaign against social media giants for ‘contributing to genocide’ of Yazidis

Yazidi activists are calling on national governments to investigate the role of social media companies in the auction and sale of Yazidi women and girls by Islamic State militants on social media.  Reuters reports one family paid $80,000 ransom money for their niece’s return. The campaigners are demanding tougher regulation of social media giants which they say contributed to the genocide of Yazidis, persecuted for their faith, in Sinjar, northern Iraq. They outline the way WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were used in cases of online trafficking, with negotiations over the price of a young Yazidi woman on Facebook, and YouTube videos on characteristics that would merit a higher price. The companies say they did remove material, but the campaigners say their response was patchy and too slow.

Jewish covid death toll in UK passes 1,000

The death toll from covid-19 among the UK’s Jewish communities  passed 1,000 this week. Speaking to the Jewish Chronicle , Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis mourned the loss of all who have died and reflected on the trauma of bereavement in the pandemic. The numbers have been officially curated by the Board of Deputies, whose president says she hopes a memorial can be created for those who died.

Eleven Methodist ministers in Fiji resign over compulsory vaccinations

In Fiji, eleven ministers have left the Methodist Church in protest at the compulsory order to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Radio New Zealand reports that the “no jab no job” plan was brought in by the government last summer, and the Methodist church followed suit saying it needed to ensure the safety of its members. Ministers were told to get vaccinated first and those that refused were asked not to take part in services and to stay at home. Now they have decided to leave. A third of Fiji’s 800,000 population is Methodist. 820 people have died from Covid

Church lawyers reprimand Archbishop over Rustat memorial

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has been taken to task by two prominent church lawyers at his comments about the removal of a memorial to Tobias Rustat, associated with the slave trade, from a Cambridge college chapel. He told the General synod he thought it should be removed, but a consistory (church) court hearing is active to decide the case. The former Dean of the Arches and a former Chancellor of Derby and Blackburn, have written to the Church Times saying his comments were a breach of sub judice rules and should not have been allowed lest they sway the outcome of a case.

Vatican conference on use of redundant heritage buildings

 A conference is being held at the Vatican to discuss the future of church buildings, as religious orders face decline in numbers. A press statement says this risks buildings of immense cultural worth being abandoned or falling into disrepair. Papers to the conference will provoke discussion on their management and re-use.

 Bishops’ fear of local radio interviews on science and religion

A survey on the attitude of clergy towards science found bishops would “run a mile” before doing a local radio interview on science and Christianity. Researchers from Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science, based at Durham University, surveyed 1100 clerics, mostly from the Church of England. The Church Times reports findings that clerics did not, on the whole, believe science was in conflict with religion, with 91 per cent saying they engaged in conversations about science and 85 per cent saying they had read about or watch programmes about science in the last year. Yet they backed off the idea of a local radio interview. The Church Times reports: ‘Asked by the researchers, “Would you take part in a local radio interview on science and Christianity?” one anonymous Church of England bishop replied: “I’d run a mile!” Another bishop responded: “I’d clench my buttocks!”’.


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