Religion news 21 July 2021

Muslims mark Eid al-Adha in pandemic’s shadow

Muslims around the world have been celebrating Eid al-Adha in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic. In England, the lifting of restrictions meant Muslims could pray again in close proximity, but some event organisers remained cautious. The Guardian said the Walsall Union of Muslim Organisations organised their first Eid-in-the-Park event so worshippers could pray outside where infection risk is reduced.  The annual Eid celebration in Birmingham’s Small Heath Park which usually attracts up to 60,000 people was cancelled again with organisers hosting five separate events instead. London’s Central Mosque leaders decided to continue following restrictions as infection numbers are going up and ethnic communities are more adversely affected. In High Wycombe (pictured) people assembled in blazing sunshine to celebrate together. The Eid al-Adha festival marks Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac as commanded by God. He was saved by a ram which was slaughtered instead. Feasts include sharing a sheep or goat with others and the traditional greeting is Eid Mubarak – “blessed feast”.

US Catholic Conference of Bishops general secretary resigns amid allegations of improper behaviour

The General Secretary of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has resigned ahead of a media report alleging that he frequented gay bars and private residences while using Grindr, the popular social networking app for GBTQ people. The Catholic News Agency said a report by The Pillar, a Catholic news site, said an analysis of commercially available app data showed Msgr Jeffrey Burrill used the app on a near-daily basis during parts of the last four years. USCCB President Archbishop Jose Gomez announced Burrill’s resignation in a memo sent to all U.S. bishops on Tuesday.  According to Gomez, Msgr Burrill was not accused of misconduct with minors, but resigned immediately “to avoid becoming a distraction to the operations and ongoing work of the Conference”. He added: “The Conference takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and will pursue all appropriate steps to address them.”

Two-child benefits cap morally unjustified, say bishops

The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, says the adverse effect on larger families of the Government’s two-child limit on Universal Credit and Child Tax Credits “defies moral justification”. Dr Walker was responding to the latest figures from HMRC and the Department of Work and Pensions which show that the policy has affected 1.1 million children in about 318,000 households. The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, says the benefit cap penalises children for their parents’ circumstances, and the Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, says the limit was “now the main drievr of rising child poverty, and is pushing many more children into even deeper poverty”. Read Hattie Williams’ report in Church Times.    

Tokyo churches cancel Olympic engagement over Covid

Catholic churches in Tokyo have cancelled all plans for activities around the Olympics because of the state of emergency and rising Covid cases. Christian Today reports that the Catholic Archbishop of Tokyo, Isao Kikuchi, confirmed the decision in a letter to churches in his archdiocese. In addition to the cancellation of events, planned outreach and chaplaincy for competitors and spectators, any visitors to the Games are being asked to “refrain from visiting churches”.  He said the precautionary measures were to protect their own lives and those of others.

String of resignations over “abusive leadership” at John Piper’s evangelical mega church

The lead pastor and successor of the church founded by renowned teacher and author, John Piper, has resigned – the latest in a string of resignations from the leadership team amid allegations of abusive leadership.  The Roys Report says Pastor Jason Meyer is the fourth pastor to resign from Bethlehem Baptist Church, a multisite church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with 4,600 members. It quotes Kyle J Howard, a preacher and racial and spiritual trauma counsellor, saying the pastors’ exodus follows a push for reform regarding the way Bethlehem treats minorities and women.

Labour NEC approves proscription of four organisations amid protests

Labour’s National Executive Committee has backed the proscription of four groups which have denied claims of antisemitism in the party and promote communism. The Jewish Chronicle said the decision came at 7pm on Tuesday after “a marathon session” and means that anyone found to be a member of a proscribed group will be automatically barred from the party. A protest outside Labour headquarters was organised by groups opposing the expulsion of hundreds of members who denied claims of antisemitism in the party. Meanwhile the NEC has agreed to make antisemitism training by the Jewish Labour Movement compulsory for any member seeking elected public office or office in the party.

Facebook to promote Holocaust education in 12 languages

The Jewish News reports that Facebook is expanding its efforts to combat Holocaust denial by directing users to Holocaust education materials in 12 languages, including Arabic, Russian and German. From January this year, people who searched in English for information about the Holocaust or Holocaust denial were given a prompt to visit, a website that provides basic facts about the genocide and provides testimonies by survivors. It is a project of the World Jewish Congress and UNESCO, the United Nations cultural organisation. From last week, people who search for the topics in other la gauges will also be directed to that site.

Greenock minister conducts own mother’s wedding

A Church of Scotland minister has taken the unusual step of conducting his own mother’s wedding. Rev Jonathan Fleming said it was an “honour” to officiate at the ceremony to bind Margaret and Brian Carberry together in holy matrimony. the minister’s two daughters, Rachel, 12 and Hollie, 8, serving as flower girls. His younger brother, Mark, walked their mother down the aisle during the ceremony at Boclair House in Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire. The minister of Lyle Kirk in Greenock in Renfrewshire, said: “I am delighted that my mum has found happiness again following the death of my father in 2008 after a long journey with cancer.”


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