International Religious News Updates (1st Week of May)

 In Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam

International Religious News Updates (1st Week of May)

Mormon church to cut ties with Boy Scouts and start its own gospel-driven youth program

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ending its more than century-old relationship with the Boy Scouts of America and will create new youth programs for its members.

The church announced Tuesday evening that it will sever ties with the organization, effective Dec. 31, 2019, according to a news release. The church said it’s making the change to better serve its worldwide congregation.

“As a global church with millions of children and youth, we need to address diverse needs and fortify all children and youth with gospel-centered growth and learning experiences now more than ever,” the church said in a joint statement with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). In addition to ending its charter with with the Scouts, the new youth initiative could also affect church-run programs like Faith in God, Activity Days, girls’ Personal Progress and boys’ Duty to God. The church encouraged its members to continue participating in the Scouts and the other church youth programs until Dec. 31, 2019.

The LDS Church is the biggest participant in American Scouting, with approximately 425,000 LDS youths in Cub and Boy Scout programs. Mormons account for about 19 percent of the BSA’s membership, which totals about 2.3 million, according to the Boy Scouts.

Before Tuesday’s announcement, the LDS Church had alluded to starting its own global youth program. The new program, according to the release, aims to “help all girls and boys, young women and young men discover their eternal identity, build character and resilience, develop life skills and fulfill their divine roles as daughters and sons of God.” The curriculum is said to focus on helping youths set and achieve goals so they grow “spiritually, socially, physically, and intellectually as they seek to follow Jesus Christ.”

Shorter working hours in the UAE for Ramadan

The UAE’s Federal Authority For Government Human Resources has announced reduced working hours for the public sector during Ramadan. Civil servants will work from 9am to 2pm throughout the Holy Month. Ramadan is expected to begin on Thursday, May 17 in 2018.

While Ramadan working hours for the private sector are yet to be announced, the general UAE labour law states that all workers’ hours should be reduced by two hours a day. So if your regular working day is 9am to 6pm, you’ll be allowed to go home at 4pm.

There is one exception, however – DIFC is governed by a different law, which stipulates that the shorter working day is only for those who are fasting. During this time, employers cannot reduce compensation due to the shorter working hours, and if an employee is made to work more than six hours a day, it should be considered overtime.

Here’s what the labour law has to say about working hours in the UAE: “The maximum normal working hours for adult employees shall be eight hours per day or forty eight hours per week. However, working hours for the employees of commercial establishments, hotels, restaurants, watchmen and similar operations may be increased to nine hours per day as determined by the Minister of Labour. Likewise, working hours per day in respect of hazardous work or work detrimental to health, may be decreased by decision of the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs. During the month of Ramadan, normal working hours shall be reduced by two hours.”

Here’s what the DIFC labour law has to say about working hours during Ramadan: “During the Holy month of Ramadan, an employee who observes the fast shall not be required to work in excess of six hours a day. There shall be no reduction in compensation as a result.”

Saudi Arabia deals with Vatican to build churches for Christians living in the Muslim country

Recently the Middle Eastern media has reported a deal between Saudi Arabia and the Vatican. The supposed deal would see the Saudi government help Christian worshipper.

If confirmed, the supposed agreement between Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa of the Muslim World League would mark a historic first in Saudi history. The cardinal has visited Saudi Arabia this year and met the royal family, urging the Muslim country to treat its citizens equally.

Under the alleged agreement the churches will be built alongside the establishment of a committee to improve relations between the two, Egypt Independent reports.  There was no immediate confirmation from the Vatican. Saudi Arabia’s anti-extremism Etidal centre hosted Cardinal Tauran last month as the crown prince pushes for inter-religious exchange in the ultra-conservative Sunni kingdom.

There are no Christian churches in Saudi Arabia, the only country in the region without one.The Vatican has previously spoken of its wish to provide the Christian population of Saudi Arabia with the ability to worship.



New Canada Dry ad raises the question: “What does nirvana taste like?”

A new Canadian ad for lemon-flavored ginger ale inadvertently raising some heavy philosophical questions – What does nirvana taste like?

That could be a koan. One could spend lifetimes striving to answer that question. Or, you could answer it with a slightly awkward 30-second TV spot for lemon-flavored ginger ale.

That’s what Canada Dry did with their latest advert for Ginger Ale-lemonade. “Are you ready to taste nirvana,” a hipster yogi, sitting cross-legged in a garden bed, asks a man watering his lawn. The man accepts a sip of soda and looks mildly pleased, before asking the yogi, “How long have you been sitting here?” “Since Tuesday,” the yogi confusingly responds before the ad ends.

This is just the latest sighting of using religion makes an appearance in consumer marketing. Earlier this year, KFC launched a bizarre and elaborate series of guided meditations.

If you go looking for nirvana in a can of soda, you probably won’t find it there, say the religious leaders. But, that’s not to say that if you happen to find yourself sipping bubbly gingerade you couldn’t taste the truth of nonduality in that experience.

Food aid for struggling Egyptians during the holy month by charities

A head of the Ramadan charities are gearing up to offer food to the Millions of Egyptians struggling to cope with economic hardship caused by austerity measures to the needy families.

Volunteers have been busy preparing half a million staple food boxes for the poor. Others are preparing to set up 60 massive tents across the country to serve the iftar meals that follow dawn-to-dusk fasting during Ramadan. “We are giving out the largest box in Egypt,” said Sherif Azzouz, head of the volunteer network at Misr El Kheir, one of the charities involved said speaking to the Reuters.

Each box weighs 25 kg (55 lbs) and contains 16 products, including rice, pasta, ghee, sugar, flour, orzo, wheat and tea. Azzouz said Misr El Kheir, working with other smaller charities, hoped to feed a total of 10 million fasting people across 22 of the country’s 27 provinces.

Egypt has imposed tough economic reforms under a $12 billion IMF loan program, including deep cuts to energy subsidies and new taxes that have brought hardship for many. A currency float in late 2016 caused Egypt’s pound to roughly halve in value, pushing prices sharply higher in the import-dependent country.

Food demand soars during Ramadan as families stock up on supplies, causing further price rises. Ahead of Ramadan, Egypt’s Ministry of Supply said it was storing essential goods at state outlets and selling subsidized products to keep prices under control.

Ramadan is expected to start in Egypt on May 17 this year. The first day of the holy month often varies from country to country, depending on lunar sightings.

32,000 labourers in the UAE to receive free Suhoor during Ramadan

The UAE Community Development Authority’s (CDA) Youth Council will distribute meal packs to 32,000 workers in Dubai and Umm Al Quwain during Ramadan this year.

The ‘Their Suhoor On Us’ initiative returns for its second year, after volunteers successfully handed out over 53,000 meals last year, smashing their initial target of 20,000. The CDA expects to eclipse that number again this year as well. The 1.1kg meal pack will comprise of a complete Suhoor meal: a main course and a dessert, as well as fruit, dates, laban and water. Extras such as Karak tea and popcorn will also be included to provide variety.

Suhoor is the pre-dawn meal, traditionally eaten before the morning fajr prayer, and signifies the beginning of the day’s fast.

The main distribution site will be located at Abdulrahim Ktait Mosque in Al Quoz, with meals being handed out from 10pm to around 11.30pm each night during the Holy Month. Additional locations will be set up at six other mosques in Deira and Bur Dubai.

According to The Khaleej Times,  the reason CDA decided to go with Suhoor meals rather than Iftar is because there are already many other initiatives that focus on the traditional breaking of the day’s fast. Focusing instead on Suhoor allows the volunteers to “fill the gap” and remind people that it is still just as important a meal.

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