Religion news 31 August 2021

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Image credit: Islamic Relief

Islamic Relief says 14 million people in Afghanistan lack sufficient food

Islamic Relief is among many aid agencies organising special appeals for displaced people in Afghanistan. It says almost 600,000 people have been displaced this year and have fled to Kabul and other main cities such as Herat, Nangarhar and Balkh. It reports that many live in makeshift tents and struggle to support their families with an estimated 14 million people – about one third of the population — without enough food. Islamic Relief has launched an emergency response including providing food, water and hygiene supplies to prevent the spread of disease. It has been working in Afghanistan since 1999.

Pope calls for prayer and fasting to bring peace to Afghanistan

Pope Francis has called for Christians to pray and fast to bring about peace and coexistence in Afghanistan. Speaking in St Peter’s Square on Sunday, he said he was following events in Afghanistan with great concern and shared in the suffering of those who mourn the dead at Kabul airport. “I ask all to continue to help those in need and to pray so that dialogue and solidarity can bring about a peaceful and fraternal coexistence that offers hope for the future of the country,” he said.

Atheist appointed as Harvard’s chief chaplain

Harvard University has appointed an atheist as its new chief chaplain. Greg Epstein, 44, has been Harvard’s humanist chaplain since 2005 and is the author of the bestselling book Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe. He will lead a group of more than 40 chaplains representing many world religions and beliefs. He told The New York Times: “There is a rising group of people who no longer identify with any religious tradition but still experience a real need for conversation and support around what it means to be a good human and live an ethical life.” He spoke about his appointment on the Harvard website here

University refuses to recognise Catholic chaplain over views on assisted dying

Nottingham University has refused to recognise a Catholic priest as a chaplain over comments that he posted on social media, the Catholic news agency reports. Fr David Palmer, a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, said the university referred to a tweet where he said the assisted dying bill would allow the NHS “to kill the vulnerable”. He was told it was fine to have this opinion, but there was concern with how he expressed it, suggesting he should call it “end-of-life care”. He said the university also objected to a second post in which he described abortion as the “slaughter of babies”. The university says it was concerned about the manner in which his views were expressed “in the context of our diverse community of people of many faiths”. He has been allowed to offer mass on campus on Sundays as a “guest priest”.

Fourteen arrested after climate change protest at St Paul’s cathedral

Fourteen people were arrested at St Paul’s Cathedral on Sunday after taking part in a Christian climate campaign protesting against the Church of England’s investments in fossil fuels. Premier Christian News reports that immediately after a communion service, a group processed to the altar and faced the congregation holding banners saying “No Faith in Fossil Fuels” and “Churches Divest Now”. Activists included clergy who said the Church Commissioners should disinvest from fossil fuel companies amid concern that some companies are ignoring calls to change.

Interfaith fun run encourages community regardless of differences

More than 50 people took part in London’s first Interfaith Fun Run yesterday at the StoneX stadium in Barnet, northwest London. Runners, including refugees, raised funds for their charities with the aim of creating a “connected London”, creating a community regardless of differences. They could choose one, five or 10km routes in an all-day family event including charity stalls and food. The run was organised by the Faith and Belief Forum in conjunction with MaccabiGB.

Covid forces Jewish youth summer camp to close early

A Liberal Jewish summer camp has been forced to end two days early after one child was confirmed with Covid and three others were suspected of having the virus. The camp was organised by the LJY-Netzer, a youth movement, in a venue near London. The Jewish Chronicle quotes Rabbi Charley Baginsky, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, saying that the 12 days of the camp had been wonderful and important, but the decision to close had to be taken on safety grounds.

‘Champing’ in historic churches more popular than ever this summer

“Champing” — camping overnight in historic churches — is on track to record its highest number of domestic visitors to date this summer, The Guardian reports. The scheme, invented by the Churches Conservation Trust, involves 14 churches. Visitors are given camp beds, chairs, kettles and lights and charged up to £59 a night. Fiona Silk, business development officer for Champing, said the holidays appealed to people who loved historical buildings and sought peace and quiet.

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