Hajj pilgrims fear losing thousands of pounds in chaotic booking process
Muslims trying to book through official Saudi channels for the Hajj flooded social media with stories of chaos, paying thousands of pounds for tickets but then being told there was no room. Aina Khan, writing in the Guardian, reports that hundreds of pilgrims from the UK have been left angry and frustrated by the chaotic system called Motawif. It only came into play recently when Saudi authorities abruptly changed the reservation system, after hundreds of people had already booked through established tour operators. Under the hashtag #paidbutfailedpeople from different countries have expressed fear that thousands of pounds have been lost and long-held plans to perform Hajj are now dashed.
Non-religion doubles in Australia as Christianity drops below 50%
The 2021 Australian National Census showed that the number of people identifying as Christian fell to 44% and the number of people ticking the non-religious box doubled in ten years to 39%. Christianity has declined sharply in 100 years, accelerating over the past decade from 61% to 44%. Catholics went from 23 to 20%; Anglicans from 13 to 10%. The total population is nearly 26 million. About 684,000 people in Australia, or 2.7% of the population, identify with Hinduism, an increase of 55% in five years. Around 813,000 people in Australia identify with Islam, representing 3.2% of the population, an increase of 0.6% in five years.
Jewish complaints against the appointment of the new general secretary of the World Council of Churches
The Chief Rabbi of South Africa and the Simon Wiesenthal Center have opposed the appointment of the Reverend Professor Jerry Pillay as the new General Secretary of the World Council of Churches. Professor Pillay is a member of the United Presbyterian Church and Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Pretoria. His opponents say that at a Presbyterian assembly in the United States in 2014, he declared that divestment is one of the most powerful tools to bring about change; he drew comparisons between apartheid and Israel; and he was a member of a church delegation that visited Israel in 2012, describing the trip as traumatic and saying maximum pressure must be exerted on Israel to respect international law. South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein said linking apartheid to Israel was defamation. In a statement, Professor Pillay said: “The WCC continues to promote and foster justice and peace, and has consistently raised concerns about issues of justice in Israel and Palestine. The WCC will continue to strongly support United Nations resolutions on the occupied territories and to denounce all forms of injustice, wherever and wherever they come from”. The WCC calls for an end to the occupation and equal human rights for all in the Holy Land. story here
Bishops of Scotland urge respect and civility in abortion dispute
The Catholic Bishops of Scotland have issued a statement on abortion saying that taking the life of the unborn child cannot be just, but that deeply held and dissenting views must be treated with respect and civility. Their statement follows escalating protests outside an abortion clinic in Glasgow, described as intimidating by women who want to enter the building. The protests sparked concern at a summit in Edinburgh, where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the protests were completely unacceptable and pledged to back a bill that would create 150m buffer zones around clinics to stop harassment and bullying behaviour.
Christian Concern to campaign for UK abortion ban
Conservative evangelical group Christian Concern has welcomed the US decision to overturn Roe v Wade, a ruling that bars the constitutional right to abortion. In a series of filmed reactions, various Christians say they welcome the decision, celebrate with America and call it wonderful news. Speakers include evangelists J John and Tomi Arayomi, the Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury Mark Davies and the Reverend Calvin Robinson, recently ordained in the Free Church of England. Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said she was delighted with the Court’s decision and prayed “that we will also see the unborn babies protected here”.
US Supreme Court backs teacher fired for praying after football games
The Supreme Court has backed a former high school football coach who was fired after kneeling and praying on the field after games ended. Joseph Kennedy worked in the school district in Bremerton, Washington, and was fired in 2015. The case went through the court system all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled by 6:3 that the school district had violated his First Amendment rights by terminating his employment. He said the First Amendment’s free exercise and free speech clauses protected an individual engaging in personal religious practice from government retaliation and that the constitution did not permit the government to suppress such religious expression.
The pope sends his secretary of state to replace him during a visit to Congo and South Sudan
Pope Francis has announced that he will send Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to Kinshasa and Juba in Congo and South Sudan. This follows the pope’s cancellation of a planned visit in July when he was due to be accompanied by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Cardinal Parolin will visit July 1-8, when the original trip was scheduled. On July 3, the Pope will celebrate Mass with the Congolese community in Rome, the same day he would have presided over Mass in Kinshasa.