The travelling Christian hospital Mercy Ships has had to cancel a trip to care for people in Africa due to the Ebola outbreak that is wreaking havoc in the region.
The ship has been halted in a planned trip to Benin and is docked and waiting in the Canary Islands while the situation is assessed, and may have to postpone its work in West Africa until the risk reduces. Mercy Ships said that it is not equipped to treat people during viral epidemics, when the risk of infecting other patients and medical staff is high. It said in a statement that it “has delayed that sail pending further assessment due to the virulence of the outbreak in neighboring Nigeria.”
In total, thousands of cases of Ebola have been reported in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Guinea. Some doctors and aid workers have been infected as they work with the sick, and medical facilities are being overwhelmed. The disease is untreatable, though about half of the patients in the current outbreak are recovering. Some flights to the affected countries have been stopped due to the risk of spreading the virus.
Mercy Ships is kitted out for surgery and other routine healthcare needs to take people onboard for treatment as it docks in a country’s port. However during an infectious epidemic, a special set up is required. “Multi-bed wards and limited isolation facilities, close proximity to crew accommodation and dining for families and children are but a few restraints,” said founder Don Stephens in a statement.
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One of the UK’s largest hotel chains, Travelodge, is defending its decision to remove Bibles from all of its hotel rooms.
The budget hotel company took the Bibles away in 2007, but the decision drew international attention after the Daily Mail and other media outlets reported the removal last week.
Now, the hotel chain – which is a different company from the Travelodge chain in the United States – is explaining the decision to remove the books.
“Travelodge made the decision to move copies of the Bible from its hotel rooms and place them at reception for customers to borrow in 2007,” a hotel spokesperson told The Blaze on Tuesday.
“This decision was based on customer research and the fact that we live in a multicultural society.
“Therefore in order not to discriminate against any religion, customers who would like a Bible can pick a copy from any one of Travelodge’s 500 hotel reception desks across the country, whilst staying at the hotel.”
Last week, a hotel spokesperson mentioned another reason for the removal.
“People were also taking Bibles away and with the redesign of the rooms, it was felt that it would be better to remove them,” they said in a statement.
The Church of England decried the decision.
“It seems both tragic and bizarre that hotels would remove the word of God for the sake of ergonomic design, economic incentive or a spurious definition of the word ‘diversity,'” a spokesperson said.
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Minimum pricing and tough new rules for drink-driving were amongst a host of recommendations unveiled by a group of MPs and Peers this week, in response to a “national pandemic” of alcohol abuse.
The All Party Parliamentary Committee on Alcohol Misuse revealed its manifesto for 2015, which demonstrates the cost of alcohol-related incidents and calls for new measures to minimise alcohol-related harm.
Incidents ranging from drink-related crime to hospital admissions are thought to cost the UK economy as much as £21 billion annually.
In the foreword to the manifesto, Tracey Crouch, who chairs the group, said: “The facts and figures of the scale of alcohol misuse in the UK speak for themselves”.
She believes that there “must be a more thorough and full package of measures which tackles the problem more effectively and reduces the cost to people’s health of alcohol-related crime and treatment”.
The proposed new rules would see a reduction in the drink-drive limit, initially applied to drivers under the age of 21.
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The first Sunday morning worship at the newly-formed Broughty Ferry Presbyterian Church saw standing room only at the temporary premises in the Scout Hall on David Street.
Around 100 worshippers crammed into the hall for the first service, conducted by the Rev Alberto de Paula, after the split from the nearby St James’ Church which was caused by the Church of Scotland’s views on homosexuality and humanism.
The Brazilian-born preacher said the “good attendance” was a positive show of support to the new church.
“We think there were about 100 worshippers here,” he said. “We have also had a lot of messages of support from all over Scotland.”
The new church has a lease on the Scout Hall until the end of the year and Mr de Paula is confident of finding a permanent home for his flock by then.
Meanwhile, it was business as usual for the remaining congregation at St James’ Church in Fort Street, just 100 yards away.
Vicky Beeching announced that she is gay in an interview with the Independent yesterday.
The 35-year-old Christian commentator and former worship leader described an intense emotional struggle – and even illness – resulting from trying to hide her sexuality within the hostile environment of the evangelical church.
She has been attracted to women since she was a young teenager, but only came out to her parents at Easter this year.
She said at the age of 13 she felt like it was ripping her in half. “I knew I couldn’t carry on. I was trying to align the loving God I knew and believed in with this horrendous reality of what was going on inside me,” she said.
Beeching has come under attack in the last year for her support for same-sex marriage. Her stance has cost her financially, as her worship songs which were a major source of income have been boycotted by many conservative Christians, particularly in the US.
Having to keep her sexuality hidden eventually took its toll on her physical health. Her decision to come out was prompted by a degenerative auto-immune condition that caused scarring on her face, which she was told may have been triggered by stress.
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The stories of the persecution of Iraqi Christians fleeing from Mosul (also known as Ninevah), has caused condemnation in recent days. Whilst politicians debate military intervention, and Church Leaders appeal for a humanitarian response of food, shelter, protection, and asylum in the UK, individuals and families see their homeland taken over by the ISIS forces (now called Islamic State), and their homes and property daubed with the Arabic letter “N” or ن, the first letter of the Arabic word for Christian, “Nasrani” or Nazarene, as they flee for their own lives under threat either to convert to Islam, to pay a tax as a bribe, or to be killed.
The Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian Church describes the Church as a body. In his definition he states – 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. (chapter 12)
As Christians seeing, witnessing, hearing of this atrocity and persecution of these Iraqi brothers and sisters in Christ, we suffer too. During the persecution of the Jews during the Second World War, the Star of David was sprayed on the doors of Jewish families, and each of them forced to wear the symbol as a sign of shame. Many Christians across the world are choosing at this time to adopt the Nasrani symbol as a sign of solidarity with those who suffer in Iraq, and some, including myself, have made the sign their profile picture on Facebook. Some of you may feel it is a weak symbolism on my part. It certainly doesn’t truly share the pain and loss that is being suffered by these poor souls fleeing for their lives, but it does remind us of our common faith in Jesus Christ and that we too could well be called upon like them to choose to deny our Saviour or die for confessing him as Lord.
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In the light of the continuing and troubling crises in Iraq, Syria and other parts of the Middle East, in a prayerful response the Moderator of the Presbytery of Aberdeen, the Rev Hugh Wallace, invites you to join with him for a Prayer Vigil in Newhills Church this Friday, 15th August, from 7.00 p.m. – 9.00 p.m. to cry out to God for peace and justice for the various minorities and other vulnerable folk caught up in this conflict.
This will be open to whoever wishes to join us, from across and outside the city of Aberdeen, and across the denominations too. Please let this be known as widely as you can.