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Israel finds world’s longest salt cave under Mount Sodom, near where Bible says Lot’s wife froze

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Cave explorers in Israel believe they have discovered the world’s longest salt cave, larger than the previous record-holding cave in Iran.

The Malham cave, first partially mapped in the 1980s, is now known to stretch for over 10 kilometres (6.25 miles), through Mount Sodom, Israel’s largest mountain.

The cave is adorned with glittering stalactites and stalagmites formed from salt crystals, and it is close to where the Bible claims Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt upon the “sight of God”, who had descended to Earth to bring destruction upon Sodom and Gomorrah.

Indeed, the cave’s main outlet is close to a salt pillar nicknamed “Lot’s wife,” after the biblical character.

Amos Frumkin, the founder and director of the Hebrew University’s Cave Research Centre, mapped the first five kilometres in the 80s, but two years ago, Israeli spelunker Yoav Negev, the founder of the Israeli Cave Explorer’s club, decided he wanted to complete the exploration.

Last year a team of eight European and 20 local spelunkers spent 10 days mapping the cave, and then a second 10-day expedition this year with 80 local and international spelunkers finished measuring and mapping the cave with lasers.

Boaz Langford, a researcher at the university’s Caves Research Centre, and Antoniya Vlaykova, a Bulgarian cave explorer from the European Speleological Federation, led the expedition.

“What’s unique about this cave, as opposed to other salt caves in the world, is that it’s the longest in the world,” Mr Langford said.

They plan to publish the complete map of the cave in a professional publication in the coming months.

One of the chambers of the cave has been named the “Wedding Hall” due to its spectacular salt stalactites.

There is no official record for the longest salt cave, and such designations are generally decided by consensus among cave researchers after an underground chamber is mapped and published.

Iran’s Namakdan cave, which is about 6 kilometres in length, was identified as the longest salt cave after a study by Czech and Iranian scientists in 2006.

The relationship between the Malham cave and Mount Sodom is closely linked, as the mountain is essentially a large salt block, formed by the shifting of the Earth’s plates at the northern end of the 4,000-mile Afro-Arabian Rift Valley.

The tectonic activity also created the Dead Sea. Over millions of years successive flooding of the deep depression lay down thick layers of salt.

The mountain is covered by a thin layer of rock, but when it rains, the water trickles down into the salt layer eventually carving out the caves and forming the stalactites and stalagmites.

Efraim Cohen, one of the Hebrew University cave explorers, described the process of locating the cave’s entrances from the surface, rappelling down into surface shafts, squeezing through tight passages, and measuring each of the cavern’s serpentine branches with lasers.

Despite the difficult environment, he said the cave’s splendour makes it worth it.

“All the stalagmites and stalactites, their beauty, their colour — they’re really white, they’re shining, they’re amazing,” he said.

Radiocarbon dating of wood fragments found inside the cave have helped date its formation to around 7,000 years ago, making it extremely young by speleological standards.

“The reason why it’s so young is because it’s made of salt,” Frumkin said.

“Limestone caves are much slower to form. They are usually much older. But this one is developing very fast so it’s one of the youngest caves in the world.”

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Irish Bishop Against Practicing Yoga in Christian Schools

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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’.

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China Demolishes 3,000-Seat Megachurch during Worship Service

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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.”

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