Eid Mubarak

It has finally arrived, the week where Eid Ul Fitr can be celebrated. Eid marks the end of a month of fasting from dawn to sunset, as well as spiritual reflection and prayer. So now that Ramadan has ended the festival of Eid Ul Fitr is enjoyed. The day will start with prayers and a big meal is usually the main event, but there’s lots of other ways people celebrate too. A really informative report from the United Arab Emirates not only excitedly explains when Eid will be but also throws in some advice on how to celebrate it. BBC Bitesize once again gives a really clear explanation of the festival and describes how it is celebrated in different ways around the world. And in the UK right now with the Cricket World Cup the Pakistan cricket team wished all their supporters Eid Mubarak too!

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How old is the earth?

A short (less than 2 minutes) Newround video by physicist Professor Brian Cox explains how we know that the world is 4 billion years old. Theories about the development of the universe are incredible and need to be understood not just for Religious Studies but also Science too. The BBC’s Bitesize pages do a pretty good job at explaining it too.

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Terrorist attacks against hotels and Christian churches in Sri Lanka

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The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres said, “I condemn the heinous terrorist attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, a sacred day for Christians. The UN stands in solidarity with Sri Lanka as the global community fights hatred and violent extremism together. Holy sites must be respected.”

On Easter Sunday more than 200 people were killed and 500 injured in Sri Lanka when there were terrorist attacks on churches and hotels. Below is a photograph of the aftermath at St Sebastian’s Church:

St Sebastian church

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but Sri Lanka has experienced rising sectarian tension in recent years. Sectarianism is when people have very strong support for the religious or political group that you are a member of, in a way that can cause problems with other groups.

About 1.2 million of Sri Lanka’s 21 million inhabitants are Catholics, and these include members of both major ethnicities, the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. In recent years, there have been clashes between the majority Buddhist community and minority Muslims (10% of Sri Lanka’s population), and in March last year the government imposed a 12-day state of emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots. Christian groups have also reported increased harassment from hardline Buddhist groups.

In response to the terrorist attacks today the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said it mourns the loss of innocent people in the blasts by extremists who seek to divide religious and ethnic groups. The All Ceylon Jammiyyathul Ulama, a body of Muslim clerics, said the targeting Christian places of worship cannot be accepted.

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The organisation Open Doors ranks Sri Lanka as No. 46 on its World Watch List of the 50 countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian. It explains:

Sri Lanka is a majority Buddhist nation, and so while Christians from more historical churches enjoy a little more freedom in expressing their faith, believers from Buddhist backgrounds are treated as second-class citizens and can face slander and attacks.
Believers from Buddhist or Hindu backgrounds face harassment and discrimination from their families and communities. They are pressured to recant their new faith, as conversion is regarded as a betrayal of their ethnicity. The majority of state schools do not teach Christianity as a subject, so Christian schoolchildren are forced to study Buddhism or Hinduism. Churches in rural areas have been attacked or closed, and Christians have been assaulted.

The media outlet Christianity Today reports that worldwide churches tighten their security over the Easter festival after 2017 attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt on Palm Sunday.

Golden Rule Day April 5th 2019

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This week the RS teachers are going to be wearing golden lanyards for our ID badges and students will be hearing and seeing the golden rule displayed around school. You may have heard of the Christian Golden Rule from the book of Matthew 7:12 in the Bible:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

People paraphrase it as meaning ‘Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.” We had already decided to really focus on the Golden Rule this week and have only now discovered that there is actually a Golden Rule Day which happens to be on Friday 5th April. A freaky coincidence!

Last week British comedian and TV presenter Joe Lycett called on people to apply the Golden Rule if people have questions about gender and sexuality. Joe requested that people be “compassionate” when dealing with those who are unfamiliar with LGBT concepts as things are pretty complicated and change so quickly that some people might honestly just needs things explaining.

The great thing about the Golden Rule is that it appears in loads of different religions.

all-faiths golden rule

At school we will be really making sure students understand the Christian and Muslim Golden Rules as we need those for GCSE examinations. The Muslim teaching is from a Hadith of the prophet Muhammad PBUH: “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” There are similar ideas in the Qur’an too.

The rock band Biffy Clyro have a song called The Golden Rule, which also references a Silver Rule. The silver rule inverts the golden rule to become: “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.” The silver rule has some obvious weaknesses, as it only requires a person not to harm others, and doesn’t make a person act with particular kindness or compassion. A song which really hones in on the Golden Rule is by Nature Jams; and though it might be a bit Primary School, it might stick in your head for an exam!

Sparrows

A sparrow as a spirit animal has different meanings. This small bird usually symbolises joy and protection, but it can also be a symbol of simplicity and community. This is probably because team work and hard work are what make the sparrows productive.

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Sparrow is the name of the new song by Emeli Sande, who has returned with her first solo music since 2017. The song has the rousing lyrics “Yeah, we’re gonna take the long, the long way home”; “Oh, we’re gonna take the world, the world by storm”; “We got magic in our bones just like the stars, we’re gonna shine bright and are golden.”and “With the heart of a sparrow tell me what arrow could ever bring you down?”

Sparrows are also big in the religious world!

In the Bible in the book of Luke there is the quote: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”  Then in Islam we have the Prophet who said “Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, Allah will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment.” The Prophet explained that a killing would be for a just cause if it was for food.

Don McCullin at Tate Britain

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At Tate Britain until 6th May 2019 you can catch a brilliant photography exhibition showcasing the work of British photographer Don McCullin. Following McCullin’s career as one of the world’s most famous photographers takes you on an emotional journey through world politics and suffering. There are photographs of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, US troops in Vietnam, the independence of Bangladesh, the civil war in Cyprus and the social divides in the UK with some living in opulence and others in poverty.

Shell-shocked US Marine, The Battle of Hue 1968, printed 2013 by Don McCullin born 1935

A recent documentary by the BBC, to tie in with the Tate’s exhibition, follows the 83 year old McCullin trace his footsteps around Britain. You will witness how those social divides are still visibly present and the amazing McCullin at work with his camera and in his darkroom developing his photos.

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One moment in the documentary shows McCullin watching a procession in Bradford to celebrate the Shia festival of Ashura. For Shia Muslims, this day commemorates the death of Muhammad’s grandson Imam Husayn ibn Ali – and some of his family and companions – at the Battle of Karbala.

Specific dua (acts of worship that call on Allah) are performed. These are known as Dua e Ashura and some of them must be recited seven times. As part of Ashura, many Muslims take part in an act of mourning called matam. This involves men gathering in large groups on the streets for ceremonial chest beating using their hands – or sometimes using a metal chain with blades fixed to it. The latter method has been banned in Iran and Lebanon but is still practised in India and Bangladesh. In addition, some Muslims make a pilgrimage to the Imam Husayn Shrine, at the burial site of Imam Husayn ibn Ali.

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There is also Tazieh, in which groups of performers re-enact the Battle of Karbala. These can be seen in rural areas of Iran. The term is also used for miniature replicas of the mausoleums of Karbala, made of bamboo and paper and carried in processions in South Asia and the Caribbean. Other acts of mourning include Shia lamentations by reading poems called noha, as well as public recitations from the book Rawdat al-Shuhada (Garden of the Martyrs) that tells the tale of the tragedy at Karbala.

Meanwhile for Sunni Muslims the Ashura festival means something different. For Sunni Muslims, the 10th day is a time when fasting is recommended, although not compulsory. This has its roots in the belief that this day was when Moses and the Israelites were saved from the pharaoh when God parted the Red Sea. Moses was told by God that this would become the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year in Judaism, when Jewish people take part in fasting and other rituals. When Muhammad PBUH was exiled to Medina and saw the Jews fasting, he said that Muslims should fast in honour of Moses too. That’s because Moses is also regarded as an important prophet and messenger in Islam as well as in Judaism and Christianity. Shia Muslims would not fast on this day.

“God made you” Letitia Wright

When Letitia Wright won the Rising Star award at the BAFTA’s she thanked God in her speech. She said, “A few years ago I saw myself in a deep state of depression and I literally wanted to quit acting. The only thing that pulled me out of it was God, my belief, my faith and my family, and an email from Bafta asking me to become part of the Bafta Breakthrough Brits.

wright award

Later her in speech she said, “I want to encourage young people. You don’t have to be young, you can be any age, but I want to encourage you – anyone going through a hard time… God made you and you’re important, there might be some of you here who might be going through a hard time. I just want to encourage you and God loves you. Just let your light shine. And the category I’m in… this means so much to me, you guys all inspire me. All of you have inspired me so much, so God bless you, thank you, Jesus thank you, thank you.”

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Letitia saying that God made us reminds me of quotes for the GCSE Religious Studies…

Matthew 19:4-6 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’.  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.