Religion news 18 May 2021

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Image credit: WCC

Christians support Palestinians facing eviction and launch appeal for Gaza hospital

A Christian delegation visited the Sheikh Jarrah community in east Jerusalem on Friday, standing in solidarity with 28 families who face eviction from homes claimed by Jewish ownership. The delegation was from the Jerusalem Inter-Church Centre and a World Council of Churches programme in Palestine and Israel, which has campaigned in their support.

The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Hosam Naoum, is appealing for $1.6m to equip a hospital in Gaza dealing with the casualties of the Israeli airstrikes. In a statement, he said: “It is particularly disheartening that this violence erupted out of police disrespect of Muslim sacred sites and traditions in Jerusalem during the various religious feasts.” He is calling for an immediate ceasefire on both sides, calm to be restored in cities where rioting has broken out, and a long-lasting solution peace between Palestinians and Israelis “that incorporates a viable two-state solution”. He says al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza is on the front line, overwhelmed and in desperate need of money for hospital generators, emergency medicine and medical supplies, and he is appealing for people of goodwill throughout the world to donate.

According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, four hospitals run by Gaza’s ministry of health have sustained damage, along with two hospitals run by non-governmental organisations, two clinics, a health centre and a facility belonging to the Palestine Red Crescent Society. The Guardian quotes Palestinian health officials saying that damaged facilities included the Hala al-Shawa clinic, which is no longer operating, the Indonesian hospital in the northern Gaza Strip and the Beit Hanoun hospital.

Violence has continued with Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel. More than 200 people have been killed in Gaza and 10 in Israel. Diplomatic efforts are continuing to stop the fighting.

Rihanna’s “Live Your Life” replaces Christian ethic of sacrifice

The sociologist Professor Linda Woodhead argues in her Cadbury lectures this week that the singer Rihanna is a more important guide to ethics in today’s world than the Pope. There has been a generational change, she argues, which has replaced the authority of religious leaders and of an ethic based on sacrifice, with a new system of values she sums up in the title of one of Rihanna’s songs, Live your Life. The new value system, she says, replaces the Christian emphasis on the value of suffering with a belief that life, not pain, not death, is of value, and that no one else can live your own life for you. So self-expression, or self-discovery becomes a moral good. Read Andrew Brown’s report on the first Cadbury lecture here

Church of England issues new guidance on Covid restrictions

As the UK starts to emerge from lockdown, the Church of England issued guidance saying up to 30 people can attend weddings but they must wear masks and observe social distancing; numbers of people at a funeral can be locally determined, depending on the size of the place and ensuring social distancing. Public worship is still subject to social distancing and masks must be worn. But the guidance warns that there is still uncertainty due to the India variant, and it advises a measured approach.

Muslim Council of Britain prepares for life after lockdown

The Muslim Council of Britain has set up three “recovery groups” to focus on life emerging from the lockdowns. They will look at health (medical and mental health) community (mosques, youth and disabilities), and economic (economic & financial impact). The MCB indicates that it will chart changes by reviewing social media and produce guidance, for example on vaccines, as decisions are required with changing circumstances.

Church joins campaign for Thank You Day on 4 July

The Church of England is joining the Together Coalition in its call for a Thank You Day on Sunday 4 July. It says everyone has someone to thank, such as clergy who took worship online, delivery drivers who brought supplies, or volunteers who helped. The coalition was registered as a charity in January. Its trustees include the Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, and it has won the support of more than 150 “partner” organisations including the BBC, Marks & Spencer, the CBI and groups from all parts of society.

Faith groups disinvest from fossil fuel companies

Thirty-six faith institutions in 11 countries are to withdraw investment from fossil fuel companies, the Church Times reports. They include the World Council of Churches, Church in Wales and the dioceses of Oxford and Bristol. The report says Christian institutions are hoping to put pressure on the prime minister to ensure that the G7 summit in June, and the Cop26 climate talks in November, reduce emissions and achieve net zero carbon emissions.

Church imposes human rights conditions on investments

The Church of England has published investment advice, saying international human rights norms must be respect by companies in which the church invests. Investment policy was put under scrutiny after Rio Tinto Zinc destroyed Juukan Gorge in Australia, a site that human beings had inhabited for 46,000 years. Now there is consideration given to companies that recognise a company’s ethics on social media and issues such as the place of modern slavery in supply chains.

The Pope and Roman Catholic bishops take steps to save the planet

Roman Catholic bishops in England and Wales have urged Catholics across the UK to use the feast of Pentecost (23 May) to rescue the earth from damage caused by climate change. They say the world is a precious gift and a common home for all generations. Everything is interconnected and interdependent so that everyday lives impact everyone on earth. John Kerry, the American special presidential envoy for climate, has met the Pope privately, saying he is a compelling moral authority on the climate crisis. The visit was part of a European tour leading up to Cop26 in Glasgow in November.

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