Religion news 2 September

Image credit: Claude Truong-Ngoc, CCLicense

Charlie Hebdo republishes Prophet cartoons

The satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has republished cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed which sparked a massacre in which 12 members of staff died. The content was published just one day before 14 people stand trial on charges related to supporting the attackers. The people who died were gunned down in their Paris office, in an attack which shocked the world. Two days later, a gunman stormed a kosher supermarket in Paris, on the eve of the Jewish Sabbath, killing four hostages. All the attackers were killed in police raids. Charlie Hebdo is known for its irreverence towards leaders of various faiths. In an editorial, the magazine said “To reproduce these cartoons in the week the trial over the January 2015 terrorist attacks opens seemed essential to us.” For Muslims, any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous. But Reuters reports the French Council of the Muslim Faith tweeted that the freedom to caricature and the freedom to dislike are enshrined and nothing justifies violence. It urged people to ignore the cartoons.  

Investigation into Jerry Falwell’s presidency at Liberty University

The board of trustees of Liberty University has launched an investigation into financial, real estate and legal matters conducted while Jerry Falwell was its president. He resigned last month, following a sex scandal. The university was founded in 1971 by Falwell’s father, a famous televangelist, and is built on an evangelical tradition with a strict moral code. The trustees said in a statement that recent events had challenged it to the core.

Uighur detention camps investigation

Buzz Feed news has published an investigation by its middle east correspondent, Megha Rajagopalan, who says she has uncovered evidence of 268 new compounds in western China, which are believed to be internment camps for Uighur Muslims. The research involved examining satellite images with the help of an architect, and interviews with former detainees. The report suggests each camp could contain 10,000 people. In the interviews, various accounts were given for the reasons people were detained, including a farmer admitting to authorities that he had faith, downloading banned apps or travelling abroad. It’s reported that there were various grades of prisoners, with Imams and those considered subversive to the state kept in the strictest conditions.

Northern Ireland same sex couples can marry in church

Same sex couples in Northern Ireland can be married in religious ceremonies this month as new legislation comes into force. Same sex marriage has been legal since January, but a consultation period was held to review its introduction by churches or in other religious ceremonies. That has now concluded and new legislation drafted, allowing the change. There is an exception clause, which means that religious bodies cannot be “compelled by any means” to carry out services. From now on, couples wishing to marry can give 28 days ‘notice of intent’ , so the first religious ceremonies could take place on 29 September. Premier Christian news quotes the Rev Chris Hudson, minister at All Souls’ Belfast and Moderator of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, as saying it is “great news for couples who wish to celebrate their marriage in church, embraced by family, friends and the love of God”.

Oldest Christian chalice in British Isles found near Hadrian’s Wall

Archaeologists have discovered a 5th-century chalice covered in religious iconography, at the Vindolanda Roman fort near Hadrian’s wall.  The Guardian reports that this is Britain’s first known example of Christian graffiti on an object. Symbols include crosses, angels, a priestly figure, fish, a whale and ships. It was made of lead and was found in an excavation which unearthed the foundations of a significant church of the 5th or 6th century.