January 2023 global news roundup: Churches and homosexuality; Violent clashes in Brazil, Israel, and Palestine; Political drama; End of China’s zero-COVID policy

Pope Francis in Vatican City (Photo by Ágatha Depiné on Unsplash)

This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last month (January 2023).

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Pope Francis criticised laws criminalising homosexuality and called on bishops to respect the dignity of everyone. However, while homosexuality is not a “crime”, he added, the church still recognises it as a “sin” in the context of official Catholic moral teaching. Similarly, in the United Kingdom, the Church of England rejected a recommendation to allow priests to marry same-sex couples, even though they would be offered “prayers of dedication, thanksgiving or for God’s blessing” after a civil marriage or partnership.

Violent clashes in Brazil, Israel, and Palestine

In Brazil, supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro stormed the country’s congressional building, supreme court, and presidential offices. At least 1,500 people were detained thereafter. In Israel and Palestine, a military raid in a West Bank town left at least nine Palestinians killed, and the Palestinian Authority suspended security coordination with Israel. Tensions continued to intensify, as a Palestinian gunman killed seven outside an East Jerusalem synagogue and as the Israeli government considers expediting gun application forms for Israelis.

In Israel too, following nationwide protests, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu compiled with a supreme court order and fired a top official.

There were other protests around the world. In France, over a million workers demonstrated against a proposed pension overhaul, which would raise the country’s retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030. In Peru, ongoing protests since a presidential ouster has led to the deaths of over 46, as protestors and the police continue to clash.

Political drama

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced that she would be stepping down and will not seek re-election after more than five years at the helm. She had become the world’s youngest female head of a government at the age of 37, but her party’s popularity has been sliding ahead of elections later this year. A new prime minister was later sworn in.

In the United Kingdom, the British government overruled a Scottish Gender Bill which would have made it easier for individuals to change their gender. Separately, the conservative party chair was fired following tax bill allegations. In the United States (US), after 15 tries, Republican Kevin McCarthy won the speakership in the House of Representatives. In other news, the discovery of classified documents in president Joe Biden’s personal residence and at his think-tank – from his time as vice president – has resulted in comparisons with ongoing investigations of former President Donald Trump and his handling of presidential records. There are now three concurrent justice department special counsels, two of whom are investigating Mr. Trump and the other looking into Mr. Biden’s actions.

And in Ukraine, top officials have been fired following misconduct and corruption allegations.

End of China’s zero-COVID policy

In China, a month after most zero-COVID restrictions were scrapped, infections and deaths – while not accurately and transparently reported – are believed to have increased exponentially, stressing medical facilities and resources. Separately and demographically, its population fell for the first time in six decades.

In Uganda, the World Health Organisation declared an end to the country’s latest Ebola epidemic, its worst outbreak in two decades.

In other news

Nepal’s deadliest plane crash in three decades left at least 68 people dead. In Pakistan, millions were left without electricity for the second time in three months, following widespread outages resulting from planned temporary blackouts.

There were man-made disasters: Bombings (Afghanistan, DR Congo, Pakistan), explosions (China, Somalia), a riot (Indonesia), shootings and mass shootings (Iran, South Africa, US), a hooch tragedy (India), and bus accidents (Pakistan, Peru). There were also natural disasters: Storms (the Philippines, US), avalanches (Japan, Tibet), as well as floods, fires, and leaks from gas heats (Afghanistan).

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