Tensions continued to bubble Monday on the Temple Mount after the “Gate of Mercy” structure near the Al-Aqsa mosque was certified as another mosque, with silent agreement from Israel, despite official denials issued by Israeli authorities.
Government officials said that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu issued an order to remove equipment from the site and disallow prayer there.
The structure was recently fitted with rugs and other furnishings along with renovations. Eran Tzidkiyahu of the Forum for Regional Thinking visited the site on Monday and assessed that it would soon be used as a permanent prayer area for Muslims.
Meanwhile, the Islamic authority that oversees Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, known as the Waqf, announced it has already appointed an imam for the “Gate of Mercy” structure and that its status would be identical to other sites of worship on the Temple Mount.
Israeli police on Sunday arrested the head of Waqf authority, Sheikh Abdelazeem Salhab, and other Waqf leaders, following violent protests last week on the Temple Mount. Salhab, who was released shortly after his arrest and barred from the area for one week, was appointed by neighboring Jordan.
From one mosque to five
If Israel does not act to reverse the trend, the number of mosques at the Temple Mount compound will stand at five.
Some 52 years ago, immediately following the Six-Day War, there was only one mosque, Al-Aqsa mosque. Over time, the Dome of the Rock was also certified as a mosque and mostly serves Muslim women on Fridays. In the 1990s, two other mosques were certified, but underground: the “Gate of Mercy” area, which some Muslims in recent days have hailed as the “fifth mosque,” was shut down by Israel in 2005 after a Hamas-linked group carried out activities there.
The new Waqf leadership, comprising officials from Fatah, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, breached the site around two weeks ago, and last Friday thousands of worshippers prayed there. Waqf leaders arrested by Israel, as stated, were released a short while later on shaky legal grounds, as the aforementioned Hamas-affiliated group that had operated there, and which served as the pretext for shutting the site down, no longer exists, and doubts emerged over the legality of the most recent closure order.
It should be noted that before 2005, although the compound was controlled by the Muslims it didn’t function as a mosque and people normally didn’t use it for worship.
Senior Arab-Israeli figures, among them the head of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab citizens of Israel, former Knesset member Mohammad Barakeh, together with representatives of the Balad and Ra’am parties, visited the structure on Monday and met with Waqf leaders.
“It is the right of every Muslim to prayer at Al-Aqsa mosque. The actions of the Israeli government to Judaize Jerusalem and erode the status quo at Al-Aqsa will be met with strong resistance,” they threatened.
An Israeli government official said: “The prime minister gave instructions to enforce the court’s order without compromise. The political echelon won’t allow the site to become a mosque. This directive was passed to the police and this message was delivered to certain authorities and to Jordan as well. The prime minister has instructed the public security ministerGilad Erdan to remove the rugs and other equipment from the site.”
Irish Bishop Against Practicing Yoga in Christian Schools
An Irish bishop has written to Catholic schools urging them to ban yoga as it is ‘not of Christian origin’ and the children should spend their time ‘in adoration of Jesus’ instead.
Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, wrote to principals, teachers and school staff members in Waterford City and County, Ireland, on October 10.
In his letter, he said: ‘Yoga is not of Christian origin and is not suitable for our parish school setting and especially not during religious education time.
‘I have been asked by several people to say a word on yoga and mindfulness. My question is, ‘Will they bring us closer to God or replace him?’
The bishop claimed that Christian Mindfulness is ‘meditation on Christ’ which empties the mind of ‘everything unnecessary’ in order to become ‘aware of the presence and love of Christ’.
While he also quoted Pope Francis that practices like yoga are ‘not capable of opening our hearts up to God’.
The bishop added how people can ‘take a million courses in spirituality’ but this activity ‘will never be able to give you freedom’, echoing Pope Francis’s speech in 2015.
He said Pope Francis’s philosophy was in keeping with Ireland’s Grow In Love programme. This touches on Christian doctrine, Scripture, morality and prayer.
Teacher’s were reminded that October is the ‘month of the Rosary’ and they should each pray in a bid to get closer to Jesus, in the letter.
But the primary school curriculum allows a degree of flexibility about how its implemented, according to the Irish National Teachers Organisation, who hit-back at his view.
John Stokes, a yoga instructor in Waterford, said the practice of yoga, meditation and mindfulness should be ’embraced’ in ‘an age where children are really suffering from anxiety and stress’.
‘There is no dogma taught in our classes and Yoga in it’s truest sense is a movement and breath awareness practice for health and wellbeing.
They said ‘here’s to tolerance, love and unity’ and invited him to a one-to-one yoga session or class of his choice’ at their Wellness Centre in Youghal, Ireland.
The Irish National Teachers Organisation said the primary school curriculum allows schools a certain amount of flexibility and autonomy with regard to its implementation.
They said the schools ‘are best placed’ to make the decisions about how the subjects are taught, taking into consideration the ‘school culture, ethos and needs of the pupils’.
This is not the first time Bishop Cullinan has received backlash for his views as he said he was to establish a ‘delivery ministry’ group to rid people of the devil through exorcism, last year.
He also claimed the cervical cancer vaccine could lead to promiscuity in 2017.
The bishop said the vaccine ‘lulls girls into false sense of security’ and encourages sexual activity, adding: ‘Prevention, the number one and most effective protection, is abstinence. A good old traditional value.’
He later apologised and admitted he was not fully informed about the vaccination programme. Cullinan’s ‘intention was solely motivated to protect people from HPV’.
China Demolishes 3,000-Seat Megachurch during Worship Service
The People’s Republic of China destroyed a church that reportedly could seat 3,000 people and detained its pastors, according to a human rights organization.
An international nonprofit Christian human rights group based in Texas, reported the incident in a statement released Saturday. According to the group, Chinese authorities provided no legal papers to justify the demolition.
The church was located in Funan, Anhui province. Its pastors, Geng Yimin and Sun Yongyao, were detained under suspicion of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.”
China Aid President Bob Fu said in a statement that the incident was “yet another clear example showing the escalation of religious persecution today by the Chinese Communist regime.”
“The total disregard of religious freedom’s protection as enshrined in the Communist Party’s own Constitution tells the whole world President Xi is determined to continue his war against the peaceful Christian faithful. This campaign will surely fail in the end.”
While China’s persecution of religious groups has existed for many years, recently under President Xi Jinping a wave of crackdowns on religious practices in China has taken place.
The Communist government has destroyed or damaged several churches, reflecting concerns about the increasing Christian population of the country.
In the summer, True Jesus Church in Henan province was razed to the ground, according to persecution watchdog Bitter Winter. Police officers reportedly dragged out all believers from the church before they demolished the property.
Bitter Winter also reported last month that the Ten Commandments have been removed from nearly every Three-Self church and meeting venue in a county of Luoyang city and replaced with the President Xi Jinping’s quotes as part of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to “sinicize” Christianity.
In addition to cracking down on its Christian minority, China has engaged in violent persecution of its Uighur Muslim and Falun Gong communities.
The China Tribunal, a human rights group, told the United Nations Human Rights Council last month that the Chinese government is harvesting organs from religious minorities, with possibly hundreds of thousands of victims.
“Forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, including the religious minorities of Falun Gong and Uighurs, has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale, and that it continues today. This involves hundreds of thousands of victims.”
“Victim for victim and death for death, cutting out the hearts and other organs from living, blameless, harmless, peaceable people constitutes one of the worst mass atrocities of this century.”
UAE to rebuild Iraqi churches destroyed by Daesh
The United Arab Emirates, a Muslim-majority country, has pledged its support to help rebuild two historic churches in Mosul, Iraq. The efforts come in conjunction with UNESCO’s initiative, Revive the Spirit of Mosul.
Al-Tahira Syriac-Catholic Church and Al-Saa’a Church in Mosul were both destroyed by ISIS and are being rebuilt under a program to help postwar Iraq. Al-Tahira, an 800-year-old building, was damaged during mass raids in 2017 while Al-Saa’a was blown up by ISIS terrorists in 2016. The rebuild efforts will target to employee up to 1,000 locals and increase the city’s tourism economy.
UAE’s support of Iraqi Christians comes as part of their 2019 “Year of Tolerance” as proclaimed by the President, Sheikh Khalifa. The goal of the initiative is to place the UAE as a model of tolerance and increase communication between divided groups. The Abrahamic Family House, a religious facility that includes a mosque, church and synagogue, is another portion of UAE’s proposed religious tolerance efforts.
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