Religion in the News: 11th Mar – 17th Mar

Welcome to this week’s edition of Religion in the News.

More articles have been included this week from wider afield to incorporate new viewpoints into the blog.

This week in the news,


 Al Jazeera reports: ‘The world reacts to New Zealand mosque attacks’

 Political and religious leaders across the globe have come forward to express their condemnation of the terrorist attacks that occurred at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday, with forty-nine dead and forty-eight injured during the attacks.

The article states that political leaders from countries such as: Turkey, the USA, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Qatar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Germany, Scotland, and Australia have expressed sorrow for the victims of the attacks, and solidarity with Muslim communities.

Further organisations such as the UN, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and Al-Azhar University in Egypt are also mentioned as condemning this act of terrorism.


Al Jazeera further reports: ‘New Zealand mosque imam: ‘We still love this country”

 Ibrahim Abdul Halim, Imam of Linwood Mosque, one of the two mosques attacked in Christchurch stated that ‘the Muslim community’s love for New Zealand would not be shaken by the massacre’.

Ibrahim Abdul Halim said, “We still love this country”, and went on to say, “extremists would never ever touch our confidence”, and that the majority of New Zealanders “are very keen to support all of us, to give us full solidarity”.

One twenty-eight-year-old man was arrested for the mass shooting, along with two others being taking into custody while their roles are determined in the attacks.


Religion News Service reports: ‘A look at attacks on houses of worship over last decade’

 This article lists some of the deadly attacks of places of worship by extremists over the past decade, this includes attacks, such as that on the Christchurch mosque on the 15th March 2019, and the attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue on 27th October 2018.


HuffPost reports: ‘Washington Post Editorial Board Condemns Donald Trump’s Response To Mosque Shootings’

 President Trump’s response to the Christchurch Mosque attacks was called out by The Washington Post editorial board for giving the wrong message about the rise of white nationalism around the world.

Trump states that he didn’t see the rising threat of white nationalism around the world, and rather that it was “a small group of people”.

The editorial suggested that he should have stated unambiguously “that the New Zealand suspect’s ‘replacement’ ideology is an unacceptable trope in civilised discourse.”

The editorial board further stated that Trump “is not to blame for the tragedy”, despite his Islamophobia and travel ban targeting Muslim majority countries.


The Washington Post reports: ‘American Muslims anxiously consider security needs at mosques after New Zealand shooting’

 The Muslim community in the United States has expressed fear they their places of worship are not safe following the attacks in New Zealand on the 15th March.

Wajahat Ali summed up the feelings of many with “Our houses of worship are no longer safe places”.

The article states that the Muslim community in America has feared for its reputation since 9/11 and seen a rise in hate crimes against Muslims over the past three years. The attacks on the 15th in New Zealand have sent waves of anxiety through the community, leading to new security precautions being set in place at mosques, with the Police sending officers to mosques in many US cities.

Christians and Jews attended services giving their support to the Muslim community.

The Muslim community in America makes up less than 1% of the population, less than the population of Mormons.


CNN reports: ‘More than a third of American Catholics question membership in the church after sex abuse crisis, poll says’

 A new Gallup poll suggests that 37% of American Catholics questioned their membership following the clergy abuse scandal, which is an increase of 15% from the last major abuse scandal in the church in 2002.

The poll found that trust is higher in those Catholics who regularly attend Mass (with less than a quarter of these saying they had considered leaving), whereas 47% of those who self-identify as Catholic and are less active in attending Mass said they considered leaving the church.

Furthermore, the poll suggests that most American Catholics still have faith in Pope Francis’ leadership, as 40% say they have a great deal of confidence, and 18% saying that have quite a lot of confidence.


The Guardian/The Observer reports: ‘Marlon James: ‘I underwent gay exorcism in Pentecostal church in Jamaica’’

 The Jamaican novelist Marlon James explained during a radio interview on Friday the 15th that he wanted to alter his sexuality “more than anything” in his youth, and so underwent religious ritual to try and “drive out the gay”.

It was only once he left his former religion and the Caribbean that he was able to accept his homosexuality.

James endured an extreme evangelical exorcism at a Pentecostal church in Jamaica; he partook in religion to fit into Jamaican society, and stated that he did not realise he was gay.

He described his exorcism as “a kind of mental control”, when “back then I thought they were just driving out demons”.


BBC News reports: ‘Parkfield School: Protests called off as LGBT lessons ended’

 Parkfield School has made the decision to suspend the ‘No Outsiders’ project indefinitely following a meeting on Tuesday.

The school stated that it wants to continue working with parents to “find a solution”.

Ofsted defended the school for the ‘No Outsiders’ project and its lessons on race, religion, gender equality, age and disabilities, and LGBT issues stating that they are “age-appropriate”.

Ofsted did however recommend the school “develops its engagement with parents” to improve their understanding of how the curriculum is taught.


World Religion News reports: ‘Secularization: Canada Set to Shut Down a Third of Its Churches’

 Canada is due to close nine thousand of its Churches due to low numbers of worshippers at many churches.

The low numbers of attendees coupled with the high cost of repairing old churches contributes to the closures, according to the National Trust for Canada.

The National Trust for Canada further stated that some of the buildings would be sold off, whereas some will be renovated into art galleries or become homeless shelters.

Towns and cities may be affected in the way of losing a sense of communities, as the churches were used for many services, including weddings, funerals, and meetings.

Others see the change and a chance to innovate and reclaim the areas and buildings to better serve the communities.


And finally,

The New York Times reports the opinion piece: ‘Why Mortality Makes Us Free’

 In this piece, the writer, Martin Hägglund, puts forward the idea that life is our ultimate purpose, outlining mortality as core to our self-understanding, as “what we do and what we love can matter to us only because we understand ourselves as mortal.”

Hägglund picks apart the idea of eternal salvation, digging into the issues with eternal activity in heaven, such as how it would not be intelligible as my activity,  describing how eternal salvation is undesirable since it gets rid of “the care and passion which animates our lives.”

He goes on to say that to be free is not to be liberated from all constraints, but rather it is to have the ability to decide what to do with our time.

Hägglund’s argument proceeds by explaining what the spiritual life is to him, and how it must be “animated by the anxiety of being mortal”.

He states that “we must be vulnerable… in order to lead our lives and care about one another. We can thereby acknowledge that our life together is our ultimate purpose.”