Religion news 9 March 2022

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Ukraine refugees in Moldova. Image credit: UN Women Europe Central Asia CCLicense2.0

UN says  406 civilians have been killed and 801 injured; Estimates of Russian soldiers’ deaths vary from 500 to 11,000;  Evacuation routes opened for residents of Irpin and Sumy but route from Mariupol was shelled; The US is working with Poland to supply fighter jets to Ukraine;  The US, UK and EU announced moves to ban the import of Russian gas and oil. President Volodymyr Zelensky was hailed as a hero when addressing MPs in the Commons on a live link, with rousing war time echoes: “I am not hiding. I am not afraid. We will fight them in the sea, air, forests, fields and streets. We will not surrender”.

International charity for millions of Ukrainian refugees

The United Nations says two million people have fled from Ukraine in the past two weeks since the invasion began and it is predicted that up to 5 million in total will be displaced. Most have arrived in Poland at the rate of 100,000 per day. International aid agencies have been joined by teams of volunteers at the borders and within neighbouring countries in an outpouring of charity:

Caritas Ukraine and Caritas-Spes are providing essential information, food, drinking water, personal hygiene kits, places to sleep eat and wash, transport and spaces for children.

USPG and the Church of England Diocese in Europe, which includes a small Anglican church in Kyiv,  have launched an emergency appeal, backed by the Archbishop of York, to work with partners providing food, medicine, shelter, care for children, refugees at the border and those internally displaced in Ukraine.

Welcome Churches in the UK has launched a website where people can offer help to Ukrainian refugees arriving in Britain

Patriarch Kirill says Russian invasion of Ukraine is to defend morality against decadence

The Associated Press reports that the Russian Orthodox leader, Patriarch Kirill, preached a sermon last Sunday, justifying the invasion in Ukraine as a struggle against sin demonstrated in gay pride parades in Kyiv. Kirill repeated Putin’s unfounded claim that Ukraine was engaged in the extermination of Russian loyalists in the Donbas eastern region.  Daniel Schulz, a US United Church of Christ minister, writing in Religion Dispatches, says Kirill’s effort to make the state the guarantor of true faith and public morality is troubling and surprising, but it is also shocking that Kirill put his beliefs “in service of the Kremlin’s neo-imperialist misadventure”.

Strong suggestions that Ukrainian Orthodox Church will reject Russia church links

Dr Jonathan Zecher, an academic specialising in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, has suggested that it is “quite possible” that the Ukrainian Orthodox church loyal to Moscow, will leave and join the self-determining Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Writing in The Conversation, he says the church is alienated by Russia’s invasion and already refusing to commemorate Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox church, in their prayers. He says the strongest condemnation has come from Patriarch Bartholomew in Constantinople, who has condemned the war as an unprovoked invasion, a violation of human rights and brutally violent.

British Jewish  leaders express solidarity with Ukraine

The Board of Deputies President Marie van Der Zyl has met Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, from the Ukrainian, Belarusian and Slovak Eastern Catholics, in London, to offer empathy and support for the people of Ukraine. She presented the bishop with a siddur (prayer book) as a spiritual symbol of friendship and solidarity.

Other news

United Methodists set to break up on 1 May over same sex marriage

The United Methodist Church in America has postponed for the third time in three years,  a vote on same sex marriage, prompting opponents to announce the launch of a breakaway church immediately. The Religion News Service reports that the postponement was on the grounds of a continuing Covid crisis preventing people attending the meeting, but anger and frustration spilled over and the schism looks set to happen on 1 May.

Call out for RE syllabus writers

The Religious Education Council is calling for applications to join a project shaping the future of RE in England and Wales.  Three grants of £10,000 are available for writers of syllabuses for a new RE curriculum, taking forward the “religion and worldviews” vision for RE, which understands common principles in belief and identity, beyond the religion / secular divide.

International women’s day

A study by Theos think tank has investigated the difference that faith communities have made to women suffering abuse, violence and poverty. It concludes that prayer was an interesting form of reflective practice which encouraged people to regard each other as equals and made vulnerable women visible.

Muslim Women self-defence classes are being organised in Birmingham by the charity Muslims Connect. It’s in response to more than 9,000 hate race crimes reported in the West Midlands during the pandemic. The charity told the BBC that women are the main targets because of their dress

In East London, football coach Yasmin Hussain is teaching other Muslim women to become coaches themselves. She told the East London Advertiser: “You don’t see many Asian Muslim women on the pitch, and we need more role models so girls know it’s possible”.

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