Scientists warn of a 6th Mass Extinction

Looking back through earth’s history there are five mass extinction events. You will have learnt about the last at school when dinosaurs waved their fond farewell. It was during the Cretaceous–Paleogene period that a mix of volcanic activity and asteroids resulted in the loss of 75 per cent of life on the planet, 65 million years ago. For the last year scientists have been warning that the 6th mass extinction is showing its face…

“Earth is now in a period of mass global species extinction for vertebrate animals,” Professor Gerardo Ceballos, at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México says, “but the true extent of this mass extinction has been underestimated”.

Here in the UK lots of well-known birds and animals are seeing their numbers plummet: hedgehogs, skylarks and birds of prey are being wiped out. Since 2000 the number of hedgehogs has halved and nearly two-thirds of skylarks and lapwings have disappeared. To blame is partly a farming industry which is described as factory farming that destroys the local environment through intensification; use of chemical fertilisers and insecticides; and the planting of large amounts of identical crops.

factory farming

“If he’s good enough for you he’s good enough for me, if he scores another few then I’ll be Muslim too.”

A Liverpool chant from the terraces, to the tune of the 1996 hit ‘Good Enough’ by Dodgy, has demonstrated once again that Britain is an inclusive society which celebrates our differences. The chant is praising Mohamed Salah, an Egyptian footballer who has scored 23 Premier goals for Liverpool this season. The chant, “If he’s good enough for you he’s good enough for me, if he scores another few then I’ll be Muslim too. If he’s good enough for you he’s good enough for me, he’s sitting in the mosque that’s where I wanna be” has been described by Liverpool fan Asif Bodi as showing “how tolerant and welcoming the people of Liverpool really are.”

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Manchester City FC

Salah is praying above. Sujud means to prostrate. It is like the position used in Muslim prayer movements: palms, knees, toes, forehead and nose must be the only body parts touching the ground. During prayer when someone is in this prostration position they would say ‘Glory be to God, the Most High’ repeated three times.

There are lots of Muslim players in the English Premiership. Mesut Ozil who is a German World Cup winner, and currently playing for Arsenal, is proud of his religion and happy to show it on the pitch. “I’m a Muslim, I believe in that. You can see before games that I pray and that I’m pleased to be able to go on this path. It gives me a lot of strength,” he said. “I’m someone who’s always been thankful, someone who doesn’t just wish the best for me but for the people. It’s a very important part of my life. What’s important is to come together and show respect.” In the picture below Ozil is praying with his hands in front and the palms upwards. During the prayer hands are kept openly up, towards the heavens. The two palms, standing at the level of chest as scale of a balance, wait openly for the blessings of the All-Compassionate Allah, from the heavens to come.


Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium has a multi-faith fans’ prayer room as does Liverpool’s main stand which was refurbished in 2016. This allows Muslims and fans of any faith to nip in for a prayer during their time watching football and supporting their teams.

Until the End of the World – a song about Jesus and Judas

Until the End of the World is a song by Irish rock band U2 which was released in 1991. The song was played by U2 when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. Their lead singer Bono introduced the song with these words, “A little Pop diddy – a conversation between Jesus and Judas.” The lyrics are about a fictional conversation between Jesus and Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus:

[Verse 1]
Haven’t seen you in quite a while
I was down the hold, just passing time
Last time we met it was a low-lit room
We were as close together as a bride and groom
We ate the food, we drank the wine
Everybody having a good time except you
You were talking about the end of the world

The first verse discusses the Last Supper. In the Book of Matthew Chapter 26 in the Bible it says about how Jesus at the Passover meal says, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” All of the disciples are saddened by this and plead that Jesus isn’t talking about them. But Jesus continues to explain that one of them will betray him and “It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Judas himself responds, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”
[Verse 2]
I took the money, I spiked your drink
You miss too much these days if you stop to think
You led me on with those innocent eyes
And you know I love the element of surprise
In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You, you were acting like it was the end of the world

The second verse is about Judas identifying Jesus with a kiss on the cheek in the Garden of Gethsemane. Still in Chapter 26 of Matthew it says, ‘His betrayer had given them a sign: “The One I kiss, He’s the One; arrest Him!” 49 So he went right up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.’ This idea of a Judas kiss is often mentioned by people in everyday language and for some they won’t even realise it is a reference to Christianity! The Oxford dictionary has it as a noun: Judas kiss: an act of betrayal, especially one disguised as a gesture of friendship.
[Verse 3]
In my dream, I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows they’d learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim
Waves of regret and waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You, you said you’d wait till the end of the world

The final verse is about Judas’ suicide after being overwhelmed with guilt and sadness. He had returned the 30 silver coins to the Jewish leaders and said “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood!” But they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” And throwing the silver coins into the temple he departed. And he went away and hanged himself.’ When you watch the musical Les Miserables there are some similarities between the character Javert (Russel Crowe in the movie) who is the detective who commits suicide near the end of the story and Judas.


Important Sites of Religious Pilgrimage

A BBC travel article in 2012 named 10 must-see pilgrimage locations around the world. You might have heard of the pilgrimages before, or simply learnt the famous religious story in class and can now discover how a village or town in 2018 can allow a religious person to feel closer to their faith by visiting a place written about in their holy books.

Location: Rupandehi, Nepal
Religion: Buddhism
Significance: birthplace of the Lord Buddha. Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born in 623 B.C. in the famous gardens of Lumbini, which soon became a place of pilgrimage. Buddhism has interesting ideas which we can reflect on when thinking about whether we are at fault for our suffering and if we should take care in our actions so not to harm others or ourselves.


Vatican City
Location: surrounded by Rome, Italy
Religion: Catholicism
Significance: home of the Pope and centre of the Roman Catholic Church. Currently Pope Francis is the man at the Vatican! He often brings to the world’s attention things we learn about at school, such as Christians being persecuted and the need for Christians to pray for them; how Christians should show mercy and compassion to refugees like the Rohingya Muslims; and that if you are fasting during Lent you should still be kind to others to be a truly just Christian.


Location: Saxony, Germany
Religion: Protestantism
Significance: birthplace of the Protestant Reformation. It was here in Wittenberg that the monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of  Castle Church in 1517. Unfortunately during the Seven Years’ War, much of Wittenberg was destroyed, but Castle Church was rebuilt in the 1800s and the text of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses was inscribed into the church’s front doors. Inside the church you will also find Luther’s tomb. There are some great Martin Luther raps; film clips; animations; and mini documentaries you can watch or sing along to to help you remember the facts!



Western Wall
Location: Jerusalem, Israel
Religion: Judaism
Significance: the holiest of Jewish sites. The Western Wall made headlines in May 2017 when the US President Donald Trump visited it and prayed there, and female journalist were kept in a penned off area behind male colleagues. It is a place where awe and wonder fills Jewish pilgrims minds and hearts.

Orthodox Jewish men praying in the  men's section, Western Wall (Wailing Wall), Old City, Jerusalem, Israel.

Lent Plastic Challenge

The Church of England is encouraging people to take part in the “Lent Plastic Challenge” that encourages people “to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation”.

“For Anglicans Lent is the time when we remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, facing challenge and temptation. It is a time when we reflect on God’s purpose for our life. This year we challenge you to give up single-use plastics – to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation,” the church wrote.

Ruth Knight, environmental policy officer for the Church of England, said, “The Lent challenge is about raising our awareness of how much we rely on single-use plastics and challenging ourselves to see where we can reduce that use. It ties in closely with the our calling as Christians to care for God’s creation.”

Anglican Christians can use a special Lent calendar with advice for each day, such as on 15th February it states: ‘Give up disposable cups & drinks in plastic bottles. Carry a travel mug or water bottle. Get a reusable bottle, fill it up with tap water before leaving the house, and refill it wherever you happen to be.’

Lent is connected to the Christian festival of Easter, and is 40 days when people often give something up.


The Right to Die

This is a really sad and emotional story about Kim Lute’s seriously ill step-father in the USA. Fred had spent three long years in hospital, fighting to keep his kidneys going, and when he finally died it had been his choice to stop life-saving measures like dialysis.

He could have ended his life more dramatically as Colorado is one of seven US states that has what is called a Death and Dignity Statute. This law gives terminally ill patients a right to end their incurable suffering. In the UK we do not have this possibility and we deem that active euthanasia is manslaughter or murder.

The Death and Dignity Statute in Colorado states that in all cases, patients must be terminally ill and have less than six months to live before an accredited doctor would administer a cocktail of drugs, hastening the patient’s death.

Kim Lute believes that, “Ultimately, the right to die, to exercise complete control over one’s physical self, is as fundamental a right as free speech and worshipping whatever God you choose. Just like a woman’s womb is hers alone, a terminally ill patients should have complete autonomy over their bodies. Facing the reality of one’s own mortality isn’t a task for the weakest among us.”

What do some religions think about euthanasia?



Even though most Christians are against Euthanasia there are some Christian arguments which could be used in sympathy for it:

  • Christianity requires us to respect every human being
  • If we respect a person we should respect their decisions about the end of their life
  • We should accept their rational decisions to refuse burdensome and futile treatment
  • Perhaps we should accept their rational decision to refuse excessively burdensome treatment even if it may provide several weeks more of life

From Ape to Modern Human is not a Linear Line of Evolution

Human evolution is not over, yet it’s impossible to predict how we’re going to turn out. When we look back at history at how we may have got to our current state, there are still lots of parts of the story which we are discovering and trying to understand.

An extensive article in the Guardian looks at how evolution has lead to the modern human. Some main points of interest are:

  • humans closest living relative is the chimpanzee
  • chimpanzees and humans share 98% of their DNA
  • the split between chimpanzee and humans occurred about 4-8 million years ago
  • the hypothetical common ancestor between chimpanzees and humans would have had a mixture of chimp-like traits, human-like traits and primitive traits that both species eventually left behind. So we don’t know if the common ancestor walked on all fours, or been more upright.
  • a big fossil find was “Lucy”, a 3.18m-year-old skeleton, who was excavated in 1974. Lucy is important because she has a unique blend of primitive features – a chimpanzee-sized brain, a powerful jaw and long, dangling arms – and human ones with her legs, knee and pelvis similar to our own anatomy. So it looks like she could walk and run.
  • the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens (us!) comes from fossils dated about 300,000 years ago which were excavated from a cave in Morocco. One of the scientists working on the dig said, “The face of the specimen we found is the face of someone you could meet on the tube in London.”

Studying evolution naturally brings us to Charles Darwin. He was an English naturalist who studied variation in plants and animals during a five-year voyage around the world in the 19th century. You can spot him in the animation The Pirates! when Pirate Captain stumbles upon the unhappy with love scientist Charles Darwin, who then persuades the Captain that the crew’s prized ‘parrot’, Polly, could be bring them lots of money.  In real life Charles Darwin explained his ideas on evolution in a book called, ‘On the Origin of Species’, published in 1859. His ideas were very controversial because they can be seen as conflicting with religious views about the creation of the world and the creatures in it. The basic idea behind the theory of evolution is that all the different species have evolved from simple life forms. A film from 2009 called Creation gives you a clever way to learn about Charles Darwin whilst relaxing with a film!