Religion news 30 July

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Christian Concern takes abortion case to the Court of Appeal

The conservative campaign group, Christian Concern, has asked the Court of Appeal to judge whether the government was right to allow women to take abortion pills at home instead of at a clinic, during the lockdown. The temporary change was made following concern that abortion clinic closures meant a significant number of women would have been unable to access early medical abortion. It allowed women to have medical abortions at home following a phone or video consultation with a doctor. But Christian Concern argued that this was “one of the most significant amendments” in the last five decades of abortion law. It lost a legal challenge in the High Court in May, so brought the case back to the Court of Appeal. Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern said: “The UK government is going to extraordinary lengths to protect lives due to the threat of Covid-19. It appears to fail to see the irony in opening up access to abortion and counting the lives that will be lost as a result of such action.”  Clare Murphy of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service told the BBC: “The Secretary of State for Health was absolutely right to take this action, because this has protected womens’ health during the pandemic. We can treat women safely in the comfort and privacy of their own homes. It’s particularly meant for women in difficult circumstances, with health tissues or in coercive relationships, who cannot leave their homes, that they can access safe legal care.”

Hajj pilgrimage and preparations for Eid-al -Adha

An estimated 10,000 people are attending the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, a fraction of the number it usually attracts. All international visitors were banned, but 70% of the pilgrims were selected from foreign residents in the country. They were tested, given an electronic bracelet to monitor their movements and many were restricted to their hotel rooms. The pilgrimage was shown live on TV, with the day ending in pouring rain and the kiswah (covering) on the sacred Kaaba being replaced.

Muslims are preparing to celebrate the festival of Eid-al-Adha, (the festival of sacrifice) which follows the Hajj pilgrimage, and commemorates the story of  Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, when at the last moment, God replaced the son with a ram. The festival start on Thursfay and lasts four days. It is a public holiday in many Muslim countries. Public Health England has issued guidance saying people should not gather in large groups in people’s homes. Local mosques and councils will supervise gatherings outside.

Antisemitic incidents in UK report due

The Community Security Trust is releasing its annual report on antisemitic incidents today. The Trust seeks to protect the Jewish community from hate attacks. Its last annual report said it had recorded 1,805 antisemitic incidents in the UK, the highest total that CST has ever recorded in a single calendar year

Priest aged 96 jailed for sex abuse cases

A Roman Catholic priest aged 96, who sexually abused young boys has been jailed for six years after admitting 32 offences including indecent assault. John Murphy was ordained a priest in 1962 and served in Merseyside, Lancashire and Greater Manchester. Liverpool Crown Court was told that he was a predatory paedophile who would take his young victims for swimming lessons and camping trips. He had already served one jail term for similar offences, and the latest case included offences which came to light when victims read reports of his crimes and came forward.

Stonehenge stones from Marlborough Downs

Archaeologists have discovered that the giant stones at Stonehenge came from an area 15 miles north of the site, near Marlborough. The key to the discovery was a metre long core of stone, which was removed from the site during excavations in 1958 and only recently returned by a person involved in the works. Scientists matched its chemical composition with stones in Marlborough Downs to make their discovery. Stonehenge dates from around 3000BC and is thought to have been a sacred space, used for ceremonial gathering, aligned to the rising sun at midsummer and the setting sun at midwinter. 


Vatican and papal mission to China “hacked

The New York Times is reporting that Chinese hackers infiltrated the Vatican’s computer networks within the past three months. Recorded Future, a private monitoring group, is said to have detected that the Vatican and the Holy See’s Study Mission to China were hacked. In September, the Vatican and Beijing are expected to start talks over control of the appointment of bishops and the status of houses of worship.  The Vatican has not responded to the claims.

Ahmadiyya Pakistan man shot dead in court

A Pakistani member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, who was on trial for blasphemy, has been shot dead in a courtroom. Tahir Ahmed Naseem had been in prison since his arrest in 2018, allegedly after claiming he was a prophet. He was shot in the head at a high-security complex next to the Peshawar high court. It is thought the attacker smuggled in a weapon in a major security breach.


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