Religion News 31 July

Image Credit: Dome Tours

Detailed planning at Hajj 2020

A pilgrim to the Hajj, who used to be a banker in London, has been describing the experience of taking part this year, with greatly reduced numbers due to the coronavirus. Only 10,000 people were allowed and all international visitors were banned.

Mohammed Emamally has just graduated from Medina university ending a decade of the study of Islam and as he was already in Saudi Arabia, he applied for permission to attend.

His account reveals the intricate organisation by the Hajj ministry to ensure health and safety. He was tested at home, told to self isolate for seven days before travelling, given a pack of medical and health supplies, travelled to Mecca by plane and coach with all arrangements sorted, self isolated in a hotel for three days and tested again, before taking part. The pilgrims were shepherded so that only a few people were allowed to gather at a time.

On You tube, interviewed by Abdel Rahman Helbawi, who runs Dome Tours which organises Hajj trips every year, he said: “The way they organised the Hajj – I am lost for words – the detail. It has been an excitement.  It’s a reminder that we take things for granted. It is a real blessing to do the Hajj.”

Eid al Adha in Croke Park

200 people are expected to celebrate the festival Eid al Adha in Croke Park stadium in Dublin today (Friday).  There had been uncertainty as the government changed the Covid19 restriction rules, but it has now been given the go ahead with fewer people attending while observing social distancing. The stadium can accommodate 82,000 people at full capacity. Eid al Adha is observed by all Muslims throughout the world in the next few days. The festival follows the Hajj and commemorates the story of Abraham who was about to sacrifice his son, when God produced a ram instead, saving the life of the child.
RTÉ News Now will broadcast the Croke Park event, starting at 9.30am, which means Ireland’s Muslim communities can watch the event from home. There are around 63,000 Muslims in Ireland in a total population of 4 million.

Eid al Adha.. coronavirus rules

The Muslim Council of Britain has issued guidance on how to commemorate Eid al Adha safely. The guidance  covers how to arrange an outdoor gathering, how to recite safely and how to arrange services with social, distancing.

How churches survived lockdown in a remote hill farming area in Cumbria

Churches in a remote rural area of north west England have been describing how they have been working during lockdown, serving hill farms and communities scattered over vast areas of land.

In the Kirkby Stephen, Appleby and Tebay Circuit, which covers 300 square miles between the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District, worship services have been put onto You Tube because internet speeds are so slow. The ecumenical Heart of Westmorland Mission Community went online, with clergy learning digital skills from scratch and their services and reflections have had 400 views a week, more than might attend in person.

Methodist minister Rev Stephen Radford said: “We have learned very quickly how to edit videos and we are now offering a Bible study on zoom. We have analysed the data coming from our online worship – the flexibility seems to work well for families and we hope that now churches are reopening we will bring some of that learning into how we plan services in church.” 

Services are written out and delivered to around 60 households not on the internet. Pastoral visits could involve a 30 mile journey to remote parts. Ministers have continued to visit nursing homes, delivering laminated posters and service sheets for residents to use, doorstep (and through the window) distanced chats and a drop in for tea at the manse front garden.

Stephen Radford says that his conversations have become longer than after church chats and so relationships have deepened as a result. There has been heightened anxiety and feelings of isolation amongst some, although he says that there is great resilience amongst the farming communities, for whom the period of lambing is the busiest time, which they had to manage while in isolation.

Foodbank use has grown significantly in recent months and 60 families, with children, are now being helped. 

The Methodist church says: “The communities of this corner of northern England have shown how adaptable they can be in a crisis and the strength of ecumenism on the ground.”

Anglican fund to help churches through coronavirus

The worldwide Anglican church has launched a fund to help Anglicans in various parts of the world hit hard by the coronavirus. It will provide income support, facilities for basic hygiene, equipment to slow the spread of the virus and food security – including for clergy. It is one of several covid19 related Anglican appeals. In a video message to all the bishops, who were due to meet for the Lambeth conference of bishops this month, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said “In our Communion, there is not one province, diocese or parish that is untouched by the pandemic. The Body of Christ is hurting. We know that some parts of the body are more hurt than others. And they need our help.”

The Christian pastor, President Tump and demon sperm

President Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr have retweeted a video featuring Dr Stella Immanuel, a medical doctor from Texas, in which she said hydroxychloroquine can cure covid19 and face masks were not effective. The video went viral on Facebook and Twitter and has since been taken down. Dr Immanuel is a Christian pastor and founder of ‘Fire Power Ministries’ in Houston. In the past, she has said that women can have sex with a demon in their dreams and collect demon sperm, but the result may be cysts and endometriosis.  Her twitter account has been suspended. Brandon Hawk, Associate Professor of English, Rhode Island College, wrote in The Conversation that  the idea of demons consorting with humans has a long history and there are stories associating demons, illness and sex in the Apocrypha – a section of spiritual writings rejected for inclusion in the Bible.