Displaying items by tag: Religion
The concert version of the 2016 production made a virtue of distancing on stage. ‘Could we start again please?’ asks Mary Magdalene in the lustrous 1970 rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Theatres have waited months for the same question to be answered since they closed in March amid the coronavirus outbreak. So it’s tempting to sing out your own ‘hosanna’ when a company of performers assemble on stage, two metres apart, and triumphantly rip off their masks at the top of this rainswept open-air revival to be performed until 27 September. Seating capacity was reduced by 2/3rds for a 90-minute concert-style version of the musical, leaving audiences to luxuriate in extra space, while requiring the strictly socially distanced actors to still convey intimacy on stage.
Currently, under the rules in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, face coverings are not mandatory at worship services. The heads of the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church, Catholic and Presbyterian Churches said it was their responsibility ‘to ensure that our services of worship are safe places’, so they have asked parishioners to wear face coverings during services. The move comes following consultations with health authorities. The face coverings should be used alongside two-metre social distancing. Earlier in lockdown drive-in services were used to facilitate parishioners. Although shops, restaurants and businesses are restricted to six people, religious services are allowed to have up to fifty attendees.
Individuals of almost every religious affiliation continue to face prosecution under Russia’s ‘anti-missionary legislation’ for exercising their right to freedom of religion and belief. Despite a 2018 constitutional court decision which offered some clarification of what ‘missionary activity’ means, police and prosecutors continue to initiate cases to punish a wide range of activities, from advertising events online to holding ordinary worship services for fellow believers. 142 prosecutions reached courts in the last six months.
Bible translator and literacy teacher Pastor Christopher Tanjoh was killed on 7 August following an attack in his village. Last year two other Bible translators in Cameroon died in similar incidents. He bled to death after being shot in the leg, leaving behind a wife and seven children. Wycliffe’s executive director said, ‘This tragic news reminds us how much the gospel message is urgently needed in Cameroon. Until people are transformed by Jesus, there will be no lasting peace. We continue to work with local partners to translate the Bible so that every Cameroonian can read the Bible in the language that speaks to them best.’
King Alfred the Great wrote, ‘There is only one way to build my kingdom, and that is on the sure and certain foundation of faith in Jesus Christ crucified.’ We thank God for the heritage of faith that lies within the foundations of this nation. We can pray for new movements of His people to be born, movements filled with those who have encountered Jesus, been impacted by His radical love, and are running with deep-seated obedience to His Spirit. May all who are activated by the Spirit of God, to lead or to follow, step beyond fear and doubt and take hold of all that He has put within their grasp. We can pray for all God’s people, old and young, to be equipped and empowered for the season ahead. May His presence rest on them in great measure. (These prayers are based on Transforming Declarations by Suzanne Ferrett of Passion for the Nation)
As September approaches, students will begin an academic year like no other as the coronavirus pandemic impacts universities. But God is still moving and working, students are searching for hope and purpose, and we can meet this moment in prayer walking. A core part of being a child of God is to nourish the place we have been given so it is fruitful and God is glorified. The places we inhabit are characterised by the community, culture, opportunities and experiences they enable. As we pray for our universities, we can grow in our personal devotion and intimacy. By prayer walking we can also grow in community and accountability as we pursue a common purpose together. Pray for churches to mobilise in order to reach students, inviting them to try church and offering pastoral care. Pray for students’ hearts to soften and accept Jesus.
1.5 billion people are still waiting for the Bible in a language that speaks to them best. Over 7,000 ethnic groups are still unreached without any knowledge of there even being a gospel. Pray for avenues and inroads into diverse cultures so that unreached people hear and read the gospel in a familiar language and culture. Pray for God’s anointing on anthropologists, researchers, and those with linguistic skills to analyse a language and devise an alphabet for the people they are studying. Pray for trained literacy workers assisting communities to read and write in their own language and for those making audio recordings or videos pointing people to Jesus. May accurately translated scriptures change lives and communities.
Since January there have been constant murders, looting, rape and abductions of Christians in Southern Kaduna. On 9 August a series of short videos entitled ‘Stop the Killings in Southern Kaduna’ was released as part of a campaign calling for an end to targeting Christian communities. The videos feature high-profile celebrities, actors, comedians, music artists and business executives. The president of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union said, ‘There is no greater lie than the narrative that the killings in southern Kaduna are between farmers and herders. 75% of the victims were women and children’. CSW has called for effective action to address the situation and echoes the Nigerian entertainment industry which has spoken out about the relentless loss of life. CSW says, ‘We continue to call for urgent international interventions, including the convening of a special session of the UN human rights council, with particular focus on the current crisis in southern Kaduna and Plateau State.’
A pro-life filmmaker is claiming censorship after his documentary was removed from Amazon Prime video ‘because of poor customer reviews’ despite the film receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews. Marcus Pittman’s movie, ‘Babies are Still Murdered Here,’ goes into the deep underpinnings of major national lobbyist groups. It asks why after 46 years babies are still being murdered. Amazon categorises reviews based on keywords: some keywords were pro-life, end abortion and pro-life movement. This may be why the film was removed. Amazon has faced allegations of censorship before. Last year it pulled books describing how a relationship with Jesus Christ helped people out of same-sex attractions, saying it was in ‘violation of our content guidelines’, but did not point out which parts were objectionable.
Dozens of foreign Christians in Turkey have been forced to leave the country or been banned from returning, in what appears to be government targeting of the Protestant Christian community. Many, like Carlos Madrigal of Spain, had been serving in Christian leadership roles in Turkey for decades, forming families and buying property. At the airport in November 2019, Carlos was given a stamp in his passport that would keep him from returning to Turkey, so he cancelled his trip and appealed the decision. He was told, ‘We must inform you that since 2019, it has been made increasingly difficult for foreign Protestant clergy serving in Turkey to be resident in our country’. An estimated 35 Christian workers received similar bans in 2019 and 16 more since the end of June. 10,000 Turkish Protestants attend 170 churches, many of them house churches. Turkey ‘officially’ allows freedom of religion, including conversion from Islam.