CSW has called on China to release Christian human rights defender and former lawyer Zhang Zhan, who is on a hunger strike, causing fears for her health, after 150 days in detention. She posted videos and articles from Wuhan about the Covid-19 outbreak. Social media platforms are blocked in China. She questioned whether the authorities' response to the epidemic infringed on human rights, and asked if the severity of the outbreak had been covered up. She was deeply concerned about the voiceless Wuhan citizens who face destitution after losing livelihoods. She is accused of ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ and refuses to plead guilty. Zhang’s lawyer met her for the first time in detention on 18 September and reported she was still on a hunger strike and had lost weight. Detention staff are force-feeding her as she refuses to eat or drink anything.

On 5-6 October pilgrims from across Senegal flocked to the holy city of Touba, where they slept, ate and prayed together for the Magal religious festival, lasting about a week. Despite coronavirus, roads to Touba were congested. Buses packed with pilgrims inched along and tollbooth attendants greeted people with ungloved hands held out for change. It was one of the biggest events to be held anywhere in the world since the start of the pandemic. Up to five million came after the leader of the Mourides, the Muslim sect that organises the event, issued a call for pilgrims to come despite the pandemic. The Magal’s emphasis is on community and hospitality. Pilgrims don’t book hotel rooms. Touba’s residents open up their homes and travellers bed down, many in each room. Lunch and dinner, in the Senegalese tradition, are usually eaten off a communal plate.

‘The fastest-growing church in the world has taken root in one of the most unexpected and radicalised nations on earth,’ according to Sheep Among Wolves, a two-hour documentary about Iran’s revival that is reproducing discipleship movements that own no property or buildings, have no central leadership, and are predominantly led by women. Many of the ruling class still follow Islam, ‘because that’s where the high paying jobs are’, according to the film; but the majority of the ordinary people love God and recognise that Islam is the problem. The most powerful Christian leaders are very gentle, courageous women going out on the highways and byways sharing with prostitutes, drug addicts and everybody they come into contact with. Praise God for the abundance of Bibles in Farsi being distributed, and pray for those still translating His word into various Persian ethnic languages.

Dr Jerome Adams grew up poor in rural Maryland on a family farm. Government assistance sustained the family. His mother recently had a major stroke. His brother struggles with substance abuse. All four grandparents died prematurely of chronic disease. An uncomfortable childhood prepared him for an ‘uncomfortable’ tenure as US surgeon general. He said, ‘I’m a Christian and I believe God doesn’t put you where you’ll be comfortable, He puts you where He needs you.’ He has been criticised for recommending the use of masks and for working with a president who some believe is ‘insensitive to people of colour’, saying, ‘Our issues as people of colour are too important to go four years without representation in the highest levels of government. I personally have faith that I am put where I am most needed. I spent my life fighting and will keep fighting for the poor, the disadvantaged, the people of colour.’

Late summer has seen our hedgerows laden with fruits and berries, and ancient oaks bowed under the weight of acorns. Their deep roots have stood the test of time and enabled them to remain fruitful through drought and storm. Give thanks for this sign of the Lord’s steadfast faithfulness in uncertain times and His promise of future growth and harvest, material and spiritual. Covid-19 has led to businesses closing and job losses nationally. Rural pubs can’t trade under the new regulations. Many rural communities are heavily dependent on tourism, hospitality, and seasonal work, and coronavirus has further exposed the weaknesses of this narrow economic base: yet those communities also have great potential to contribute to the recovery of the nation’s economy. Pray for all who have lost jobs and businesses, asking especially that they will find a hope and a future in the One whose plans for us are for our welfare and peace (Jeremiah 29:11).

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Irish Council of Churches, and the Roman Catholic Church have insisted it is in everyone’s interests to achieve the clarity and security a Brexit agreement will provide. They have also reaffirmed their commitment to protect the 1998 Good Friday Agreement - which established a new era of non-violence in Northern Ireland following 30 years of brutal sectarian conflict. The group stated, ‘We do not underestimate the challenges faced by the negotiating parties in terms of the complexity and the significance of what is at stake. As church leaders on the island of Ireland, we have welcomed the important commitment of both parties in the negotiations to the protection of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement in all its parts. We hope that the agreement will serve as a source of inspiration and a foundation to build upon, as we continue to work through the Brexit process.’

A mother is taking a gender clinic to court to prevent it giving sex-change drugs to her autistic daughter. She wants to prevent youngsters making 'catastrophic' decisions that they live to regret. The woman, called 'Mrs A' for legal reasons, fears her 16-year-old daughter will be fast-tracked for transgender medical treatment once she is seen by clinicians at the Gender Identity Development Service in London. She says they will simply 'affirm' the girl's belief - mistaken in her mother's opinion - that she is really a boy. In reality, Mrs A believes her daughter's desire to be male is driven by having Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. She said, 'This is bigger than just my child. The whole narrative is that if your child is confused about their gender, then transition is the only course of action. There doesn't seem to be any discussion of other possibilities. That's frightening.'

In a virtual Conservative conference speech in which Boris Johnson’s gaze extended over the horizon, to the time when our national conversation is no longer dominated by coronavirus. He said he wanted to build a ‘new Jerusalem’, with opportunity for all and improved housing and healthcare. He warned the UK could not return to normal after the pandemic, which would be a ‘catalyst’ for major change; and rejected suggestions he had ‘lost his mojo’ as ‘drivel’. He wants to see the back of coronavirus and the ‘erosion of liberties’ it had led to. He wants to see the country flourishing again. He said, ‘Even in the darkest moments we can see the bright future ahead, and we can see how to build it and we will build it together.’

Page 3 of 1622