Hajj pilgrims fear losing thousands of pounds in chaotic booking process
Muslims trying to book through Saudi official channels for the Hajj have been flooding social media channels with stories of chaos, paying thousands of pounds for tickets but then being told there were no places. Aina Khan, writing in the Guardian, reports that hundreds of pilgrims from the UK have been left angry and frustrated at the chaotic system called Motawif. It came into play only recently when Saudi authorities abruptly changed the booking system, despite hundreds of people having already booked through established tour operators. Under the hashtag #paidbutfailed, people from different countries have been venting their fear that thousands of pounds have been lost and that long standing plans to perform the Hajj are now dashed.
Non-religion doubles in Australia while Christianity falls below 50 per cent
The Australian national census 2021 has shown the number of people identifying as Christian has dropped to 44 per cent and the number of people ticking the non-religion box has doubled in ten years to 39 per cent. Christianity has sharply declined in 100 years, accelerating in the last decade, from 61 to 44 per cent. Catholics have declined from 23 to 20 per cent; Anglicans from 13 to 10 per cent. The total population is almost 26 million. Around 684,000 people in Australia, or 2.7 per cent of the population, identify with Hinduism, an increase of 55 per cent in five years. Around 813,000 people in Australia identify with Islam, representing 3.2 per cent of the population – a rise of 0.6 per cent in five years.
Jewish complaints at appointment of new World Council of Churches general secretary
The Chief Rabbi in South Africa and the Simon Wiesenthal Center have objected to the appointment of the Rev Professor Jerry Pillay as the new World Council of Churches general secretary. Prof Pillay is a member of the Uniting Presbyterian Church and Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Pretoria. His opponents say that at a Presbyterian Assembly in the USA in 2014, he said disinvestment is one of the most powerful tools to bring about change; he has drawn comparisons between apartheid and Israel; and he was a member of a church delegation that visited Israel in 2012, describing the trip as traumatic and saying maximum pressure must be put on Israel to abide by international law. South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein said linking apartheid to Israel was a libel. In a statement, Prof Pillay said: “The WCC continues to promote and nurture justice and peace, and has consistently raised concerns about issues of justice in Israel and Palestine. The WCC will continue to stand firmly behind United Nations resolutions on the occupied territories and speak out against all forms of injustice, regardless of where or who they come from”. The WCC is calling for an end to occupation and equal human rights for all in Holy Land. Story here
Bishops in Scotland appeal for respect and civility in abortion dispute
Catholic bishops in Scotland have issued a statement on abortion saying that taking life from the unborn cannot be right, but deeply held and divergent opinions should be handled with respect and civility. Their statement follows escalating protests outside an abortion clinic in Glasgow, described as intimidating by the women who want to enter the building. The protests have caused concerns aired at a summit in Edinburgh, where first minister Nicola Sturgeon said the protests were completely unacceptable and pledged to support a bill which would create 150 metre buffer zones around clinics to stop harassment and intimidating behaviour.
Christian Concern will campaign for abortion ban in the UK
The conservative evangelical group Christian Concern has welcomed the US decision to overturn Roe v Wade, a move which bans the constitutional right to abortion. In a series of filmed reactions, various Christians say they welcome the decision, celebrate with America and call it wonderful news. Speakers include the evangelists J John and Tomi Arayomi, the Catholic bishop of Shrewsbury Mark Davies and the Rev Calvin Robinson, recently ordained in the Free Church of England. Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said she was delighted at the Court’s decision and prayed “that we will see preborn babies protected here as well.”
US Supreme Court backs teacher sacked for praying after football games
The supreme court has backed a former high school football coach who was sacked after kneeling and praying on the pitch when games finished. Joseph Kennedy worked in the Bremerton school district, Washington State, and was sacked in 2015. The case went through the court system up to the Supreme Court, which ruled by 6:3 that the school district had violated his First Amendment rights by terminating his employment. It said the free exercise and free speech clauses of the First Amendment protect an individual engaging in a personal religious observance from government reprisal and the constitution does not permit the government to suppress such religious expression.
Pope sends his Secretary of State to stand in for him on visit to Congo and South Sudan
Pope Francis has announced that he will send the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to Kinshasa and Juba in the Congo and South Sudan. It follows the Pope’s cancellation of a visit panned for July, when he was to have been accompanied by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Cardinal Parolin will visit from 1 to 8 July, the time when the original trip was scheduled. On 3 July, the Pope will celebrate mass with the Congolese community in Rome, the same day in which he would have presided over mass in Kinshasa.