Religion news 19 July 2021

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Image credit: @IlmFeed

Millions miss out and UK business take a hit as Hajj pilgrims cut to 60,000

Sixty thousand pilgrims have begun the annual Hajj in Saudi Arabia, a much lower number than normal because of Covid-19 restrictions. Only those living in Saudi Arabia can take part, leaving a devastating impact on British Muslims who run businesses based on the Hajj, such as travel and accommodation. Ali Haider, of Al-Haram travel, said they have had to refund people who booked before the restrictions were announced in April. He told the RMC: “Lots of companies have shut their shutters, many companies have not been able to survive this pandemic because there is no business.” Full story by Basit Mahmood here:

Covid restrictions are lifted by CofE but it warns people to be cautious

Covid restrictions relax from today in England while daily cases have risen to more than 50,000 and the latest number of recorded daily deaths was 25. Supermarkets, business and transport companies are expressing caution, urging people to carry on wearing masks. The Church of England has said congregational singing and the common cup at the eucharist will be allowed and it will be up to clergy and church councils to decide whether to retain precautions such as face coverings, social distancing, and communion with one cup. The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, urged caution: “Taking personal responsibility means responsibility for our neighbour, not just for ourselves,” she said 

Turkey condemns EU headscarves ban as Islamophobic and discriminatory

The Turkish government has criticised an EU ruling that bans women wearing headscarves under certain conditions if they need to project an image of neutrality to customers. Turkey said the move was a violation of religious freedoms and would exacerbate prejudices against Muslim women in Europe. Reuters reports a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement that the ruling was a sign of rising Islamophobia at a time when Muslim women in Europe are being subjected to increasing discrimination for their religious beliefs.

Bishop of Winchester resigns

The Bishop of Winchester, Tim Dakin, has resigned and is taking early retirement after being suspended in a breakdown of relationships in the diocese. He faced a vote of no confidence by the diocesan synod and a complaint to Lambeth Palace over his management style. Bishop Dakin was formerly general secretary of the Church Mission Society. In a video message, he apologised to those he had let down and for financial decisions taken in the last year. Rosie Dawson gave her analysis of the story on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday. programme.

The Christian roots of England’s new football talent

The Observer carries a feature on the Christian faith of three black England football players, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling, who were brought up in devout churchgoing households and who make no secret of their faith. The feature says signs of the cross on the pitch and hands raised in prayer before games and after goals are now commonplace. It quotes Matt Baker, the national director of Sports Chaplaincy UK, saying there has been an influx of players of faith over the past 30 years. Julian Coman’s report here

Church service recognises gender change

A transgender woman who lived the first 40 years as a man has marked the transition with a name and gender ceremony at a church in Norway. Elin Stillingen told the Norweigan broadcaster TV2: “I’m a member of the Norwegian church, and I´m also about to come ‘out of the closet’ as a Christian, so this ceremony is important to me.”

Keswick Convention continues its festival despite Covid restrictions

Many Christian festivals have been cancelled this summer because of the Covid-19 risk. But the Keswick Convention in the Lake District is going ahead, with stringent rules including tests and social distancing. The convention, which started in 1875, says its site is Covid-secure for three weeks of meetings, including Bible study, prayer meetings and evangelical speakers.

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