Boris Johnson and his fiancée Carrie Symonds have confirmed that on 12 September they had their four-month-old son Wilfred baptised by Father Daniel Humphreys at Westminster Cathedral. While little is known about the PM's religious beliefs, Carrie Symonds is a practising Catholic. As it happened, this event provided a solid alibi for Boris when he was accused of travelling to Perugia for a short holiday. The accusation was withdrawn after it became apparent they had mixed up Johnson with former PM Tony Blair. A spokesman said that journalists could ‘confirm with the priest’ that the PM was not in Italy but instead at his son’s baptism.
The Eritrean government has released 69 Christian prisoners, many of whom have been in long-term detention without trial for their faith. Following the release of more than twenty male and female prisoners on 4 September, the authorities are continuing to make conditional releases from the notorious Mai Serwa prison which is known to put detainees in underground cells and metal shipping containers. The releases, linked to Covid-19 policies, are made on condition that bail securities are lodged, usually in the form of property deeds, with guarantors held liable for the detainees’ future actions. Christian leader Dr Berhane Asmelash hopes for further significant releases from the 300+ Christians, including children, who remain incarcerated.
Thailand was the second nation to report coronavirus cases, but now has effectively contained it with countrywide lockdown and continued precautions, now celebrating 100 days without a Covid case. Now a church-planting movement celebrates another milestone that wouldn’t be possible without word of mouth conversations, house gatherings, and in-person testimonies. The Free in Jesus Christ Church Association, a Thai-led movement which focuses on village-level evangelism, held the largest baptism in its history. They baptised 1,435 people in one day; twenty ministers lined up across a waist-deep reservoir waiting for new believers to come one-by-one from the shore to proclaim their faith and be submerged for the sacrament. Bob Craft of Reach a Village ministry said, ‘We believe it is the merciful hand of God to allow the gospel to spread at this crucial time.’
Praise God for a rescue last week that resulted in the arrest of 5 suspects and the rescue of 15 victims from online sexual exploitation. This rescue was the result of close collaboration between Philippine authorities, Australian law enforcement, and IJM. Pray for the survivors as they receive care and for continued strong collaboration efforts with international law enforcement. Read more on the story here
On 21 September the government’s chief scientific adviser said that without further action the UK could see 50,000 new coronavirus cases daily by mid-October, leading to about 200 daily deaths a month later. He stressed the figures were not a prediction but an estimation if nothing is done to curb the current doubling of numbers every seven days. Speedy action is required to bring numbers down: see On 23 September, the day after a Cobra meeting chaired by the PM, new rules were declared: closing pubs, bars and restaurants at 10 pm, and more face masks rules. Fines for breaking rules were increased. The motto ‘Stay At Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’ has been retired after an intense period of lockdown. Now Boris Johnson wants to ‘save lives, protect the NHS’ and ‘shelter the economy’.
The limit for wedding ceremonies and receptions is now only 15, a figure which includes the couple, the officiant, and guests. Funeral numbers remain at 30. Boris Johnson said, ‘I am deeply, spiritually reluctant to make any of these impositions, or infringe anyone’s freedom, but unless we take action we risk having to go for tougher measures later, when the deaths have already mounted and we have a huge caseload of infection such as we had in the spring.’ The Government's rule of six for social gatherings excludes weddings, funerals, baptisms, and organised outdoor sports. Justin Welby said, ‘It’s clear that the next six months will be challenging. It’s an urgent reminder that we must keep supporting each other - especially those who are struggling financially, physically, or emotionally.’
A new government scheme is enabling churches and charities to support some of the most vulnerable in the job market. The pandemic has disproportionately impacted those aged 18-24. Between March and August there was a 124% increase in claims for Universal Credit from people in this age group. With the economic future remaining uncertain, Rishi Sunak announced a new job creation scheme to help avoid damaging long-term employment for young adults. Dubbed the ‘kickstart scheme’, this package of support will subsidise the employment of 16 to 24-year-olds by providing six-month quality work placements that don’t cause existing employees or contractors to lose work; give a minimum of 25 hours per week for six months; paying at least the national minimum wage for their age group; and should not require people to undertake extensive training before they begin the job placement.
Ten workers at a hospital in Essex were suspended and two members of staff referred to the police amid claims that vulnerable patients with autism or learning difficulties were ‘dragged, slapped and kicked’. CCTV footage at the hospital, showing episodes of physical and emotional abuse, was passed to police after an unannounced visit by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection unit. At the time, the ten-bed hospital held eight adult female patients, who experienced ‘abusive, disrespectful behaviour' by staff. Staff failed to use ‘appropriate restraint techniques’, became angry with residents, and dragged them across the floor. Suspended workers included some who witnessed incidents but failed to report them. Pray for greater scrutiny of safeguarding procedures in care homes; for godly principles to generate the visible and hidden wellbeing of vulnerable communities; for complaints made by residents to be investigated and acted upon if necessary; and for God’s comfort for the abused.