Religion in the News: 18th Mar – 24th Mar

Welcome to Religion in the News


This week,

 HuffPost reports: ‘New Zealanders Create Human Chain Around Mosque To Shield Muslims In Prayer’

 In solidarity with the Muslim community, during Friday prayer in New Zealand, hundreds gathered creating a human chain around the Kilbirnie Mosque is Wellington.

This gathering took place a week after the shootings at Christchurch in which fifty were left dead.

The human chains were possibly organised as part of the movement ‘NZ Stand Together’ which creates events in support of the Muslim community.


 Al Jazeera reports: ‘Christchurch holds public call to prayer at site of mosque attack’

 A week after the Christchurch shooting, a national moment of silence was observed in New Zealand on Friday the 22nd March. It was ushered in by the Muslim call to prayer.

Both the Prayer and two-minute reflection were broadcast live. The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, attended the gathering at Al Noor mosque, which was one the of places of worship targeted by the terrorists in the attack.

Prime Minister Ardern spoke at the event, saying “New Zealand mourns with you, we are one.”

Thousands of non-Muslims attended the ceremony, while the Muslims worshipped, they partook in the moment of silence.


 Al Jazeera further reports: ‘Christchurch mosque reopens amid call for action on Islamophobia’

 The Christchurch Mosque, Al Noor has reopened eight days after the attack in Christchurch.

Armed police stood at the gates to the mosque, where flowers had been laid for the victims of the attack.

A woman under the fake name Fatima who attended the mosque spoke with Al Jazeera, stating that:

“Our religion teaches us that all mankind should live under one umbrella in peace and unity, but we were unable to deliver that message to people in practice”.


 The Guardian reports: ‘Convicted French cardinal says pope has refused his resignation’

 Pope Francis is reported to have turned down Cardinal Philippe Barbarin’s resignation after Barbarin was convicted earlier this month for failing to report sexual abuse allegations.

Barbarin himself is appealing against the verdict of his failure to report abuse claims, while abuse victims hailed his conviction as the beginnings of a period of accountability in the French Catholic church.

Barbarin is the most senior French cleric to be caught up in the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.


 BBC News reports: ‘Pompeo says God may have sent Trump to save Israel from Iran’

 The U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo stated that it is possible that President Donald Trump was sent by God to save Israel from Iran in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, he further praised U.S. action to “make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state, remains”.

The comments came on the Jewish holiday of Purim, in which the rescue of the Jewish people by Queen Esther from the Persians is celebrated.

Pompeo was asked if Trump was similar to Queen Esther and had been “raised for such a time as this” in order to “save the Jewish people from an Iranian menace”. Pompeo stated that he believes it’s possible.

This article goes on to explain the relationships between the U.S. with Israel, and with Iran.


 Religion News Service reports: ‘‘Nones’ now as big as evangelicals, Catholics in the US’

 ‘Nones’ or, people of ‘no religion’ represent 23.1% of the population in America, according to a new General Social Survey analysed by Ryan P. Burge of Eastern Illinois University.

In comparison, Evangelicals have dropped in percentage from 23.9% percent in 2016, to 22.5% now, meaning that people claiming to have ‘no religion, and those claiming to be evangelical are tied with Catholics statistically, as the largest religious groups in America.

It is possible that the rise in non-religious people could offset the influence of the evangelicals politically, however they do not vote in the same numbers as the evangelicals.


 The Independent reports the ‘voices’ piece: ‘BAME groups are dying over religious falsehoods about organ donation. Why aren’t faith leaders helping?’

 This article explores the issues faced by BAME patients on the NHS as they have to wait significantly longer for organ donations than white patients, moreover how a survey of BAME Londoners revealed that concerns over religious conflicts held them back from donating organs upon death, with fifty-one percent being unwilling due to religious beliefs, and nineteen percent saying organ donation conflicted with their cultural beliefs. 

The article further states that organ transplants are more likely to be successful when they are between people of the same ethnic group.

Nearly a quarter of the people surveyed suggested that they would consider organ donation if someone within their faith/community encouraged them to donate; a similar amount of people stated that they did not know if their religion permitted organ donation or not.

The article goes on to argue that faith leaders have a duty to give clear guidance on organ donation, in order to assist in increasing the number of BAME donors.


 World Religion News reports: ‘Historic Jewish Cemetery Defaced With Anti-Semitic Graffiti’

 Fall River’s Hebrew Cemetery in Massachusetts was defaced in an Anti-Semitic attack, with marks such as swastikas as well as anti-Semitic phrases being left on gravestones, with some stones being toppled over.

Over twenty of the gravestones in the cemetery were defaced in the attack, with two others knocked over.

Some of the graves are of Jewish immigrants who came to America many years ago, as such the defacing of the graves now is considered a terrible insult by the community.

In Massachusetts, based on information from 2016 and 2017, there has been a forty-two percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in recent years.


And finally,

 The New York Times reports: ‘Vietnam Orders Monks to Stop Profiting From Karma Rituals’

 Monks at a popular Buddhist pagoda were ordered to stop “soul summoning” and “bad karma eviction” ceremonies in Vietnam after said rituals were found to be scams.

People had been paying between one million and several million dongs for the services to remove bad karma.

The rituals are not uncommon and had been going on for years, with monks taking payment via bank transfer as prices increased.

The Ba Vang pagoda was built in the Uong Bi district of Quang Ninh province, it was recently renovated and is one of the largest pagoda complexes in Vietnam. Many non-Buddhists use the pagoda to practice folk-religions, including some Buddhist practices, as Buddhism is a minority religion in Vietnam.