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World News

10 stories which made us smile in 2020

by Kelly Valencia

Although 2020 has been a difficult year, there were some positive stories that put a smile on our faces. Here are ten of them:

 

1. UK churches see a surge in interest since lockdown, says a new report

During the first national lockdown, we saw many churches shifting to online services. A report revealed that UK churches have seen an increase in people attending services and wanting to learn more about the Christian faith since the lockdown.

The Church Covid Survey, launched by the Evangelical Alliance, polled 694 UK church leaders and 194 faith organisation leaders to explore how the church has changed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The study found that 70 per cent of church leaders saw a rise in the number of people attending church who normally wouldn't.

 

2. 5 million meals provided by UK churches every month during a pandemic

We saw the church stepping up - as many as five million meals were provided by UK churches every month during the coronavirus pandemic.

A report which looks at the impact of the church's response to lockdown among a network of churches called YourNeighbour, suggests 58 per cent of the 1,100 churches who are a part of YourNeighbour provided emergency food despite nearly all of them facing financial hardship themselves.

 

3. Alpha Course sign-ups triple during UK lockdown

The national lockdown also saw an explosion of sign-ups to the virtual Alpha course, which encourages people to look into Christianity. 

According to the the head of Alpha in Northern Ireland, Jonny Campbell, they went from having none in March to 1,500 digital Alpha courses happening across the country via the video conferencing platform Zoom in June.

 

4. 'God is doing something very special': Almost 1,500 dunked in one of world's largest baptisms

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, it was still possible to get baptised this year. Some 1,435 Thai Christians gathered together at a reservoir in central Thailand in order to be baptised.

The growth of Christian believers began late in 2016 with the efforts of a local pastor establishing many home churches in different provinces. Today, there are more than 700 home churches across the country, from where many of those baptised originate.

 

5. Signs of change for persecuted Christians in Eritrea as believers freed from prison

Although many Christians continue to be persecuted, a wave of prison releases began in Eritrea.

More than 40 believers were released from Eritrean prisons during 2020. Let’s continue to pray that more will be released in 2021.

Eritrea maintains a tight control over faith. In 2002, almost all forms of religion were outlawed, except for Sunni Islam, Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholicism and the Lutheran Church.

 

6. French Muslims protect church in gesture of peace after Nice attack

In autumn, three terror attacks carried out by Islamic extremists shocked Europe. Two took place in France and one in Vienna.

One of the French attacks happened at a church. In the aftermath of the attack, a group of French Muslims decided to stand guard outside their town's cathedral to protect it and show solidarity with Catholic churchgoers.

 

7. Global faith institutions ditch fossil fuel investments in response to climate emergency

In a year of extreme weather events linked with rising global temperatures, the church decided to step up its fight in response to the threat of climate change.

47 faith institutions from 21 countries announced their divestment from fossil fuels. The institutions choosing to ditch their investments included five Catholic religious orders in the UK, two United Reformed Church Synods and UK-based local Anglican and Methodist churches.

 

8.  The UK's population has become significantly kinder over the last 12 months, study shows

Right at the end of 2020, a new report came out confirming that coronavirus had brought out increased kindness in people.

The poll, which surveyed 2,090 UK adults online between 4th - 6th December 2020, found that 27 per cent were writing more notes to people they don’t see often, and 25 per cent are saying hello to strangers in the street more than they did before.

 

9. The most popular verse of 2020

Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

YouVersion founder Bobby Gruenewald said the popularity of the verse goes to show how much people were looking for hope during a year marked with uncertainty and fear.

 

10. We got a vaccine 

After months of restrictions and devastation, news of the vaccine was largely met with positivity, as well as nervousness at its speed and chance of success. 

The Catholic church deemed the Oxford vaccine 'not sinful' to take and other Christian experts gave their take on the rights and wrongs of the different models. 

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