Religion news 18 September

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Jewish communities prepare to welcome in the New Year

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, which is observed this weekend, is usually the busiest time of the year for synagogues, with ticketed services and additional premises for overflow. But Covid 19 has changed all that, with many services streamed online or only able to accommodate fewer people. Family gatherings are also curtailed because of the ‘rule of six’. Usually people greet each other with ‘Shanah Tovah Umetukah‘ – ‘a good and sweet new year’, offering honey cake and apple dipped in honey. This year that continues, with volunteers delivering sweet things to vulnerable and isolated people. Full story here

Israel goes into a national lockdown again today for a period of three weeks, including the festivals of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when large social gatherings are usually commonplace. The measures have been taken because of a spike in coronavirus cases, with 5,000 reported each day. Story on Israel and coronavirus here.

People are suffering ‘moral injury’ in the pandemic and churches must respond

Faith Action, an evangelical organisation with extensive social action projects, is urging churches to look out for people suffering from ‘moral injury’. Project leader Matt Allen, says  there is  growing concern about the long term mental health effects of the covid-19 pandemic, caused by this newly named condition. Moral injury is when something violates a person’s values and principles. He cites examples of nurses who don’t have time to care for patients the way they would wish, or people of faith whose rituals for funerals and the deceased could not be observed because of social restrictions and families unable to show affection to relatives. He says that churches should be aware of this and offer help. As a start, Faith Action is running a bereavement webinar on 30 September to discuss the issues involved.

Covid19 forces review of Church of England finances, structure and engagement

Church of England bishops have discussed strategic plans to cope with its future through the pandemic. In a meeting yesterday (17 September) they said the church needed to address spiritual needs of society in this crisis and must be inclusive, broadening engagement with younger and diverse people. Church services and activities will continue despite the ‘rule of six’ limiting numbers in a group and discussions are continuing about the use of a common cup or individual cups of communion wine. They also discussed the financial strain experienced by dioceses because of the pandemic, new Church governance structures, and the organisation of activities at a local level – no further details were given in a press statement last night

Research initiative to plot impact of Covid19 on British Muslims

The Muslims in Britain Research Network is running a one day symposium on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected Muslims. It says that existing research has highlighted the disproportionate impact on black and Asian minority ethnic groups (BAME) but there is only a limited understanding of the relationship between faith and the virus. In the lockdown, mosques and madrassas were closed, Friday congregational prayers cancelled, and Ramadan and Hajj were restricted. The symposium will map and analyse the impact of Covid-19 on British Muslim communities during and after lockdown and the interplay of ethnicity, religion and deprivation.

Bishop: Government must look for alternatives to custodial sentencing

Bishop Richard Moth, the Catholic Bishop for prisons, is urging the government to make every effort to persevere with sentencing reform, restorative justice and alternatives to custodial sentencing. His comments follow the government’s sentencing reform proposals announced this week. He welcomed the piloting of ‘problem-solving courts’, improving pre-sentence reports and reforming criminal records, as part of a criminal justice system rooted in hope, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Italian street priest, Roberto Malgesin, a martyr for the poor

Roberto Malgesini, a 51 year old Italian street priest, who was stabbed to death on a street near his church, has been praised by the Pope as a martyr for his devotion towards the poorest.The Pope invited prayers for Malgesini “and for all the priests, nuns, lay people who work with people in need and thrown away by society”. It is reported that Father Malgesini left his rectory early in the morning to deliver breakfast to the needy, when he was stabbed multiple times in the neck. A man has confessed to the crime.

Trump tells American Jewish leaders: “We love your country”

As Jews prepare to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Donald Trump was speaking to American Jewish leaders to rally their vote. But the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that he raised eyebrows by telling them: ‘We love your country’, by which he meant Israel.  A spokesman for the Joe Biden campaign said this suggested that Jewish Americans are less than loyal to the United States. The Jewish vote is traditionally strongly democratic and could be vitally important in swing states.

2,000 Hasidic Jews still stuck at Ukraine border

Two thousand Hasidic Jewish pilgrims who have been stuck on the border with Ukraine for days, have been told to go back home. The Ukrainian authorities said its borders are shut because of the coronavirus and no exceptions will be made. The pilgrims are en route via Belarus for an annual pilgrimage to the city of Uman, where they pay respects at the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, who died in 1810.