Religion news 11 August

Image credit: Caritas Lebanon

Prayers and cash for devastated Beirut

While Lebanon is in turmoil, the Pope has sent  €250,000 as initial aid to meet the needs of the people in the aftermath of the explosion which killed 155 people and left 300,000 people homeless. The Vatican said it will be used to counter the huge challenge of displaced people, with buildings, churches, monasteries, facilities and basic sanitation destroyed.  The turbulence has extended to the government, which has resigned, with the Prime Minister blaming a corrupt political establishment. Violent demonstrations have taken place on the streets near the parliament building, as police used tear gas to break up the protests. In a televised address, the Prime Minister said corruption by a ruling clique was bigger than the state, “May God protect Lebanon”.  The Anglican Archbishop and Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East in have called on the world to pray for Lebanon, for healing, comfort and recovery.

Orthodox Jewish communities at risk of coronavirus

A cluster of new cases of coronavirus have been reported in Stamford Hill, north London, where there is a large Orthodox Jewish community. 40% of cases in late July were centred there. The area is part of the London borough of Hackney which said that the number of weekly cases rose from 17 to 46 in a month. Dr Muna Abdel Aziz, Director of Public Health for Salford, said there are strong links between the communities in Stamford Hill, Manchester and Gateshead with families house swapping int he summer. Orthodox Jewish communities have been warned to stay “vigilant and take quick action if needed” . 

The organ can be played once more in Wales

The Welsh government has changed its guidance over the use of the organ in churches. It had banned organists from playing, because they could “spread coronavirus”, adding that organs should be avoided along with singing, chanting and shouting. But congregations and organists were said to be up in arms at the decision. So the Welsh government has changed its advice, saying the use of an organ “should be based on a risk assessment and adherence with social distancing, hand hygiene and cleaning guidance”.

US Attorney General says Democrats’ cause is a religion substitute

The United States Attorney General William Barr has said that the Democrats are pursuing absolute victory as a substitute for religion. In an interview with Fox News, he said Democrats had pulled away from classic liberal values and were now aiming to destroy the institutions upon which the country was built. “It’s a secular religion. It’s a substitute for a religion.”  His comments were part of a wide ranging interview where he was asked about the decision to send federal officers to protests, systemic racism in society, the integrity of the election and postal ballots. The presidential election is on 3 November.

Wordsworth’s home becomes Buddhist retreat centre

A Buddhist charity has bought the former home of  William Wordsworth, and intends to turn it into a centre for Buddhist retreats.  Alfoxton Park Hotel, in Holford, Somerset, was his home in 1797 and the place where he and Coleridge wrote ‘Lyrical Ballads’. In recent years, it was used as a hotel, but fell into disrepair. The charity, the Alfoxton Park Trust, bought it for £1.4 million and says it will take a year to renovate.