Holy Sites in Jerusalem Re-Opened

Last Friday three Arab Israelis opened fire from a sacred site in Jerusalem which is called Noble (Haram Al Sharif) Sanctuary for Muslims and Temple Mount for Jews. Using automatic weapons the three Arab Israelis killed two police officers and were later shot dead inside the compound. The Holy Sites were re-opened today with stricter security checks.

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The Arab-Israeli conflict is only studied a little in British schools as the focus is on modern wars such as World War I and World War II. We take an initial look at the subject in Religious Studies when studying about pilgrimages and how Jerusalem is contested and valued by Muslims, Jews and Christians. A short BBC video explains the importance of Haram Al Sharif and Temple Mount, and there is a BBC Pictures special about the holy sites, explaining how through modern history there has been unrest over who the site belongs to. The history of the sites brings you closer to understanding both faiths, with important stories for Jews such as Abraham almost sacrificing his son Isaac there, and Temple Mount being where people will receive redemption when the Messiah arrives. Compared to Muslim stories of Muhammad PBUH  having his Night Journey from Makkah to Jerusalem to hear in heaven from Allah about prayer (salah, one of the five pillar of Islam).

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3 million people displaced, 14 million facing starvation – heard of the civil war in the Yemen?

A YouGov poll by the Independent newspaper found that only 49% of people questioned had heard of the conflict currently causing death and hunger in the Yemen. This number got even smaller with the younger age group of 18-24 year olds with only 37% knowing about the conflict. The map below shows that Yemen is located south of Saudi Arabia:

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Thanks to Sophie our school’s BBC School reporter even more people will have heard about what’s going down in the Yemen. You may need to search Global, RE on the school’s BBC Report page to read Sophie excellent report. The Independent are trying their best to make  UK citizens aware of a conflict where British weapons purchased by Saudi Arabia are being used in questionable circumstance.

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Syria’s Banksy

A Syrian rebel fighter has been likened to Banksy for his politically motivated street art around Syria. The artist Abu Malik al-Shami has created some striking wall murals which send a strong political message.

This one made me remember talking about agape with Year 10 students…

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What’s your interpretation?

Heard of the war in the Yemen? Thought not.

You may never have even heard of the Yemen which is just south of Saudi Arabia. So it is therefore highly unlikely you’ve ever heard of the war which has been taking place in the Yemen since September 2014. When rebel troops took over the capital city and ousted the President, Saudi Arabia tried to set up a coalition of countries to fight back and re-instate the old Present because they were fearful that Iran and Shia Islam would rise to dominance.

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In March 2016 the BBC published a report which clearly explains who is involved in the war, and showed that the British were selling weapons to the Saudi troops. When those weapons are used like they were this weekend, killing a funeral party of 140 people, questions should be asked on whether a trade embargo should be put in place against the Saudi kingdom. Amnesty International provide a thorough analysis of the conflict so far.

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UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, condemned Saturday’s strikes on the funeral gathering as a “horrific attack”. He said that aid workers who arrived at the scene had been “shocked and outraged”.

How do long conflicts finally come to an end?

It looks like Colombia’s 52 year conflict will finally come to a peaceful end. It’s rarely made big headlines in the UK but is interesting for students of RE and PSHCE because the end of the conflict sees lots of things happening which we would expect to find at the end of a bloody conflict.

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First up there’s been a peace deal between the insurgents (rebels) and the government. This is going to be voted on by the people of Colombia in a referendum. The Farc rebels have also said they will pay reparations to the victims of this last Cold War conflict. There are thought to have been 260,000 people who died and up to six million people internally displaced by the conflict. With the end of the conflict the Farc rebels are also expected to stop their heavy involvement in Colombia’s drug trade too.

peace deal – an agreement between two or more hostile parties, usually countries or governments, which formally ends a state of war between the parties.

referendum -a general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to them for a direct decision. Britain had a referendum on leaving or staying in the EU in 2016.

reparations -the compensation for war damage paid by a defeated state/ group. At the Treaty of Versailles Germany was made to pay reparations for the damage caused in WWI. It was one of the reasons the Nazi Party was able to rise to power because the payment of the reparations crippled the Germane economy and people were annoyed at having to pay back so much.

internally displaced -a person who is forced to flee his or her home but who remains within his or her country’s borders. They aren’t allowed to be called refugees as the legal definition of a refugee has to see the person fleeing over the border to another country.

Hajj brings most of Islam together

The scenes from Saudi Arabia when Hajj is on each year are always breathtaking. To see millions of Muslims together celebrating their faith and asking forgiveness from Allah, walking in Muhammad’s footsteps. With all the news coverage you can easily learn about this Muslim pilgrimage, one of the five pillars and about the numerous stories which appear in the Qur’an.

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This year though there is a political story too with Iranian Shia Muslims not making the journey, partly in response to last year’s stampede deaths but also because of the conflicts in the Yemen which pits Shia and Sunni Muslims against each other. The biggest leader of Islam in Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, the grand mufti, who has given a speech for the last 35 years to pilgrims is this year not giving the sermon. Perhaps his recent comments that Iranians are not proper Muslims has lead to him sitting it out this year.

Knowing the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims has become paramount to anybody trying to understand current world politics, never mind RE Lessons! The BBC iWonder pages gives a really thorough but easy to understand explanation. Or you could check out this Daily Express article for a basic idea.