News Roundup

Loss of Christians will damage Middle East – Report

A new report compiled by three Christian charities and the University of East London charts the extent of modern decreases in Christian populations across the Middle East and argues that the departure of the community risks damaging the fabric of Middle Eastern society as well as, in the case of Iraq and Syria, impacting their economies. Before 2011, Syrian Christians comprised around 8-10% of a 22 million population, though 40-50% of those Christians have since left. Meanwhile, there were approximately 1.5 million Christians in Iraq before 2003, but estimates now range from 200,000 to 500,000.

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Children should select preferred gender pre-school – UK council

A council in Britain has written to all parents whose children begin school this year to recommend that children as young as four be allowed to select their preferred gender before term begins in September. In a letter from Brighton and Hove Council, parents are urged: “Please support your child to choose the gender they most identify with. Or if they have another gender identity please…discuss with your child’s school.”

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Joint call for conscience rights in medical practice

Twenty-six religious, pro-life and medical organisations have issued a joint call on the US House of Representatives to pass the forthcoming Conscience Protection Act of 2016 for those health service workers who wish to opt out of participating in abortions. “Even many ‘pro-choice’ Americans realise that the logic of their position requires them to respect a choice not to be involved in abortion,” the groups stated. “Yet it is increasingly clear that the current laws offer far less protection in practice than in theory.”

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Number of Irish priests plummets

The number of serving priests in Ireland has plummeted by 500 in just a decade, new figures show. In the period 2013-14 alone, the number fell by 120. Vatican figures show that while there were 3,141 diocesan priests in Ireland in 2004, that figure had dropped by 514 to just 2,627 in 2014, the latest year for which statistics are available. However, since about a quarter of these priests are thought to be retired, the real figure for diocesan priests still actively working is probably closer to 1,900.

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Bishop Doran to launch Council for Marriage

Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin has announced the formation of a Council for Marriage within his diocese. The Bishop stated that the move was a response “following from the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia and in preparation for the World Meeting of Families in 2018…At this stage I have just identified the need and am beginning to consider what shape it should take”.

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High suicide rate making priests ‘sacramental firemen’

A priest has stated that clergy in Ireland are becoming “sacramental firemen” as they move from one crisis to another resulting from high levels of suicide here. Fr Paddy Byrne spoke out after no fewer than eight suicides in Co. Laois in recent weeks. The cluster of suicides comes after another which saw five men die by suicide in Newbridge, Co. Kildare in March. “I do think people are quite alone in Irish society,” Fr Byrne said.

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House of Commons labels Islamic State actions genocide

The British Houses of Common has voted unanimously to declare the actions of Islamic State against Christians and other religious minorities as genocide. The religious freedom group ADF International immediately welcomed the outcome of the Westminster debate as “a day of hope for every Christian, Yazidi or member of other religious minorities suffering under the terror reign of ISIS”.

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British Parliament urged to act against Northern Ireland abortion law

The British government has been called on to intercede in the case of a Northern Ireland woman convicted there of procuring an abortion. Despite differing laws within the two regions of the United Kingdom, the shadow justice minister, Jo Stevens, and shadow foreign minister, Diana Johnson have written a letter to parliament’s joint committee on human rights urging a move against women being convicted in Northern Ireland on the grounds that abortion is a human right. However, Britain itself has convicted several women of having illegal abortions in recent years.

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Faith leaders in Canada appeal for conscience clause in euthanasia law

Leaders from Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim faiths in Canada have joined in calling on the government there to include a conscience protection clause for medical staff in forthcoming legislation on euthanasia and assisted suicide. “We ask, simply, for the same protection that has been provided…in every foreign jurisdiction in the world that has legalised euthanasia/assisted suicide; that is, never to force hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and other care facilities to go against their mission and values, which are their institutional conscience,” the leaders stated.

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Christian woman killed in protest against church demolition

A Christian woman in China has been killed attempting to halt a church demolition. The woman, identified as Ding Cuimei, is reported to have been buried alive as authorities moved against the church in Henan province as part of a wider drive to demolish church properties across China. The woman’s husband, the church’s pastor, was also buried, but managed to escape.

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