Religion news 29 March 2022

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Church of the Intercession of the Virgin Mary, Byshev city Kyiv region. Image credit: Ukraine ministry of culture

Ukraine news

Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine take place in Turkey today; Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators “poisoned” at talks in Kyiv; People in Mariupol on verge of humanitarian catastrophe – mayor says civilians still trapped as Russia prevents safe passage; Ukrainian forces reclaim land east of Kyiv; Chernihiv encircled by Russian army.

59 religious sites damaged or obliterated in the war in Ukraine

A government department in Ukraine has issued a statement saying at least 59 spiritual sites have been badly damaged since war broke out. Most are Orthodox churches, but mosques, synagogues, protestant churches, religious education institutions and administrative buildings of religious organizations were also affected. Its website has graphic photos of churches partially damaged or totally destroyed.

More parishes and monasteries join the Orthodox Church of Ukraine

The head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epifaniy, said in a  tweet that dozens of parishes and a number of monasteries have left the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow patriarchate) since the war broke out. The independent church separated from Moscow allegiance in 2019 and was recognised by the Orthodox leaders in Constantinople. Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox church has supported President Putin, believes in his idea of a holy Russia including Ukraine and has not condemned the war.

Churches in Britain unite in prayer for Ukraine

Churches are uniting in a call to prayer on Sunday 3 April for an end to the conflict in Ukraine. They say there is a shared “feeling of horror and powerlessness” but prayer brings hope.  The call comes from Christian Aid and Churches Together in England and Great Britain,

Other news

Survivors of abuse in Canada’s residential schools fail to win Papal apology

The Associated Press reports that Indigenous leaders from Canada and survivors of residential schools told their stories of abuse by Catholic priests and others, when they met Pope Francis on Monday. More than 150,000 indigenous children were forced to attend the schools in the 100 years to the 1970s, in order to re-educate them into Canadian society. Stories of physical and sexual abuse emerged in recent years and hundreds of unmarked graves have been discovered near school grounds. The representatives in Rome wanted an apology, justice, reconciliation and reparations, but no Papal apology was given.

Taliban strict religious code imposed on Afghanistan

The Taliban in Afghanistan have issued edicts introducing strict religious laws. Men who are government employees have been ordered to wear a beard, loose tops and trousers, and a hat or turban, or risk being sacked. AP reports that girls have been banned from going to secondary school, women are barred from planes unless accompanied by a male relative, men and women can only visit parks on separate days and mobile phones are prohibited in universities. This week, the Pashto and Persian BBC services were taken off air. 

American report confirms faith leaders’ role in promoting vaccinations

A report published in the BMJ says one in ten Americans claim their religious beliefs prohibit them from getting Covid-19 vaccines. But research has found that faith based forums can mitigate doubts and promote constructive dialogue about health safety. It says this dialogue is needed because hesitancy remains amid increasing clamour for religious exemptions. The report confirms that religion is a way of life for many people and faith leaders are trusted more than medical doctors or public health institutions.

Relic with fragment from crucifixion on display in York convent

 A relic said to be a fragment from the crucifixion of Jesus, is on display at the Bar Convent in York, after being certified in historical research that places its origin at the time of the Crusades. A Latin inscription says it was given to an English knight by Arnulphus, Patriarch of Jerusalem, for his valour during the Crusades. It was then passed to a family and eventually a Jesuit priest who gave it to the convent. It is kept in a silver-gilded case with precious stones and crystal.

Oxford academic says religion persists because people are happier and belong in community

Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary anthropology at the University of Oxford, argues in the Guardian that religion persists because, on average, religious people are generally happier, healthier and live longer; and they are more likely to feel that they belong to a community. He suggests that rituals such as standing and kneeling in unison “trigger the brain’s endorphin system” which underpins social bonding. Humans have particular skills in the ability to engage in religious discussion and to imagine parallel worlds inhabited by invisible beings, he says, adding that a penchant for religion is  part of genetic inheritance. Prof Dunbar is a patron of Humanists UK. Guardian article here

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