Religion news 1 August 2023

Image credit: Gary Bembridge from London, UK CCLicense2.0

Christian objections to new fossil fuel exploration licenses in north sea

Christian Aid has condemned the Prime Minister’s announcement that more than 100 North Sea oil and gas extraction licenses are to be awarded. In a tweet, they said: “These wrongheaded priorities on new oil and gas licenses fly in the face of climate science, obliterate the UK’s net-zero commitments and let down people on the frontline of the climate crisis”.  The Christian campaign group Operation Noah, said the decision was dangerous, pointing out that 500+ UK Church leaders, including 68 bishops, have called on the UK government to stop all new fossil fuel developments. And Green Christian’s spokesperson, Barbara Echlin, told Premier Christian News that she was staggered new licenses would be given describing the decision as a dereliction of duty to the future of the world. Rishi Sunak, speaking on a visit to Aberdeenshire for the announcement, said it was vital to boost the country’s energy security to deliver more affordable, clean energy to British homes and businesses.

40,000 Ahmadiyya Muslims gathered near Farnham for annual convention

Around 40,000 Ahmadiyya Muslims attended the Jalsa Salana convention in East Worldham, near Farnham, last weekend, for an annual festival event. They gathered to attend services, listen to sermons and give time for self-reflection. This was the 57th year of the convention and attracted people from Britain and abroad. The Ahmadiyya Muslim movement started in Punjab in 1989 when Mirza Ghulam Ahmad proclaimed himself as the Messiah, a claim not accepted by other Muslims who regard the movement as heretical. Following persecution, the movement’s leaders moved to London where they built a mosque in Morden, recently refurbished at a cost of £20 million. The headquarters are now in the village of Tilford, near Farnham and close to the convention site. The movement’s leader is the fifth Caliph, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, who addressed the gathering.

Charity Commission looking at donations to Soul Survivor’s gap year programme

The charity commission is investigating large donations to Soul61, the gap year programme of Soul Survivor, whose founder Mike Pilavachi has resigned after allegations of inappropriate relationships with young men. In an exclusive in the Telegraph, reporter Gabriella Swerling says Soul61 accounts show donations of £750,000 from a Malaysian company, presently run by an evangelical Christian, between 2016-2019. The article quotes a Charity Commission spokesperson confirming it is assessing information relating to donations. A Soul61 spokesperson confirmed to the Telegraph that three gifts were donated and the trustees approved the disbursement of funds.

Church leaders protest at Israeli radicals’ intrusion into Al Aqsa mosque

Patriarchs and leaders of churches in Jerusalem have expressed concern over “lamentable events” in the grounds of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which they describe as an “intrusion by Israeli radicals, a grievous violation”.  Their statement follows last Thursday’s event when Israel’s far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir led a group of more than one thousand to the Al-Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem, saying: “This place is important to us and we have to return to it and prove our sovereignty”. The leaders’ statement says the erosion of safety for Muslim worshippers transgresses the Christian principles of peace, love, and compassion. The World Council of Churches acting general secretary, Marianne Ejdersten, condemned attacks on Christians, Muslims and others seeking to exercise their right to freedom of religion. Jerusalem is a shared holy city of three religions, she said, and violations to the status quo bring division and violence.

Survey due out today on British Jewish attitudes to Israel’s leadership

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research is due to unveil a study of what British Jews think of current Israeli leadership and the growing turmoil in the country, which has seen hundreds of thousands take to the streets in the past week. The results are based on  a number of surveys conducted in the six months to May and the details will be published on the JPR website here at 10am this morning.

Catholic young people start to gather in Lisbon for World Youth Day

Final preparations for World Youth Day are underway in Portugal, when thousands of young Catholics will gather from all over the world, to meet the Pope and to take part in services and events over six days from Tuesday to Sunday. This is Pope Francis’ fourth World Youth Day event, with previous gatherings in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Krakow and Panama City. Young people stay in homes and venues provided by local churches and the main events are in the park “Campo da Graça”. The Lisbon website detailing events says “World Youth Day has proven to be a laboratory of faith, a place of birth of vocations to marriage and consecrated life, as well as an instrument of evangelisation and transformation of the Church”.

Why casting J Robert Oppenheimer with a non-Jew was an omission

David Baddiel, reviewing the film Oppenheimer in the Jewish Chronicle, says it is significant that the lead role is played by a non-Jew. J Robert Oppenheimer, the inventor of the nuclear bomb, was Jewish and faced antisemitism, but Baddiel suggests that giving the role to Cillian Murphy was a possible omission in delving into the “psychological underpinnings of the narrative”. He says Oppenheimer’s ethnicity was key to who he was, “the secret driver of his work at Los Alamos”. His interpretation is that “even physics has an emotional undercurrent, and the emotional undercurrent for J Robert and Albert Einstein and the other Jews involved in trying to make this weapon before the Nazis did, was fear and desperation”.

Open coffin parade in Spain allowed to resume

A centuries old festival in the Spanish town Ribarteme, where parishioners are paraded through the streets in open coffins, has been allowed to resume after a change of heart by the local parish priest. Father Francisco Javier de Ramiro Crespo ended the practice during Covid lockdowns, saying it was a promotion of superstition, folklore and witchcraft.  The tradition involves people in death shrouds, being carried in procession to the hermitage of Santa Marta, patron saint of the resurrected and protector of souls in the afterlife. Local people demanded the festival’s return, collecting a 500 signature letter presented to the bishop, who struck a deal allowing the procession to take place after a Mass. Times story here

The Norfolk rector who bought the pub opposite the church

The new rector of Pulham Market in south Norfolk, and his partner, have bought the local pub opposite the church. The Church Times explains that the Rev Carl Melville and his partner Steve Smart, had been looking at pubs to buy – Mr Smart has 17 years in the hospitality business. They found the Falcon in the village then noticed the church opposite needed a rector, so they have filled both positions. Mr. Melville will help to run the pub in his spare time and on days off, but he thinks the two jobs work well together: “For Steve, it is a place of business, which he does incredibly well to the best of his abilities; and, for me, it is a place of mission. I hope, even if we don’t talk to people about Jesus, they see some warmth and love in the welcome and hospitality we provide.”


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