Deepa Bharath of the Associated Press reports that many Jews fleeing Ukraine are finding new meaning in the holiday of Passover with a modern-day exodus of their own. Jewish organizations are hosting special Passover Seders for the refugees near the Ukrainian border, while other organizations are sending Passover supplies directly to the Jews remaining in Ukraine. Chen Tzuk, who works for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, said, “Passover is something familiar and basic for Jewish people. For refugees who have left everything behind, it’s important to be able to celebrate this holiday with honor and dignity.”
Emily Belz of Christianity Today reports that American churches are practicing pysanky, a traditional Ukrainian ritual that involves intricately decorating Easter eggs with hot wax. Many churches are donating proceeds from the pysanky to Ukrainian relief efforts, while some ethnically Ukrainian American communities are using the practice as a therapeutic activity. Belz writes, “Several American churches have interpreted the Ukrainian cultural practice spiritually: that it has the power to keep evil at bay, or that the egg symbolizes new life and Christ’s resurrection, or that it is a ‘Lenten tradition.’ But according to Ukrainian Christians, the art of pysanky does not have spiritual significance on its own. It is a pre-Christian cultural practice from the region.”
Dave Phillips of The New York Times reports that four Sikh Marines are suing the Marine Corps over its refusal to allow them to grow beards while in boot camp and on deployment. He writes, “The lawsuit is emblematic of the larger struggle the tradition-bound military faces in trying to attract personnel in an increasingly diverse nation, while preserving practices that took root when its ranks were almost entirely white, male and Christian.” Captain Sukhbir Singh Toor, one of the plaintiffs, said, “I just want to move on, so I can do my job. There is no reason I should have to sacrifice my faith in order to serve my country.”
Ian Millhiser of Vox reports that the Supreme Court will soon hear Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a case involving a high school football coach who gave faith-inspired motivational speeches before games and knelt to pray at the 50-yard line with his team. Millhiser writes, “While the weight of established law should crush Kennedy’s case, the biggest open question in Kennedy is most likely to be just how much leeway the Court will give public school teachers and coaches to preach their religious beliefs to their students.” The coach’s lawyers have framed the case differently, alleging that the school infringed on his free speech and religious liberty rights.
Leonardo Blair of The Christian Post writes that a law firm’s independent report alleges that former Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz verbally abused parishioners and staffers and engaged in extramarital affairs. Blair writes, “It presents an unflattering view of Lentz as a lying, massage-loving, adulterer who presided over a congregation in which he did as he pleased in a hierarchy where he seemingly answered to no one.” Lentz was fired from the church in November of 2020.
Jack Jenkins of Religion News Service reports, “The World Council of Churches is under pressure to oust the Russian Orthodox Church from its ranks, with detractors arguing the church’s leader, Patriarch Kirill, invalidated its membership by backing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and involving the church in the global political machinations of Russian President Vladimir Putin.” The Rev. Ioan Sauca, the acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), opposes the expulsion. He said in a statement, “It is easy to exclude, excommunicate, demonize; but we are called as WCC to use a free and safe platform of encounter and dialogue, to meet and listen to one another even if and when we disagree.”
For The New Yorker, Dhruv Khullar writes that Francis Collins, the former head of the National Institutes of Health and a devout Christian, is trying to bridge the gap between the scientific community and its right-wing religious skeptics. Collins regularly appears on conservative news channels to speak directly to their audience and works with organizations encouraging dialogue across political and religious differences. Khullar writes, “For Collins, this pursuit is not an abstract ideal or a political goal. It is, in some sense, a higher calling. For our nation and our species, the future depends on its success.”
For The Atlantic, Jessica Bruder reports that abortion rights activists are preparing for a world in which Roe v. Wade is overturned. She writes, “Below the grass roots is the underground: a small network of community providers who connect with abortion seekers by word of mouth. This network, too, is growing. Its ranks include midwives, herbalists, doulas, and educators. When necessary, they are often willing to work around the law.” Bruder outlines several strategies that activists are planning to employ, including abortion pills, mobile abortion clinics, and self-performed abortions. Ellie, an abortion activist, said, “Just knowing the people who came before you had other ways of managing these things, not necessarily through a doctor or condoned by a government—there’s something really powerful in that.”
Caroline Vakil of The Hill reports that President Joe Biden marked the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with a statement. He said, “For so many around the globe, including fellow Americans all across the country, this sacred month is a time for reflection and spiritual growth.” Biden also called out governments around the world that are repressing the Muslim faith. “That’s why the United States will continue to speak out for human rights everywhere–including for Uyghurs in China, Rohingya in Burma, and other Muslim communities all over the world,” his statement read.
Deepa Bharath and Luis Andres Henao of the Associated Press report, “As U.S. refugee resettlement agencies and nonprofits nationwide gear up to help Ukrainians feeling the Russian invasion and war that has raged for nearly six weeks, members of faith communities have been leading the charge to welcome the displaced.” Many houses of worship have provided temporary housing, meals, and transportation for the refugees as they arrive in the U.S. Chad DeChant, a Buddhist doctoral student helping with resettlement, said, “The teaching is not to see ourselves as separate from others: Acting compassionately to help others is a core value in all Buddhist traditions.”