Religion news 10 November 2023

Image credit: pxhere CCO

Day 35: War in the Middle East

Israel agrees to implement daily four-hour military pauses, (but no cease-fire) in areas of northern Gaza each day to allow civilians to flee. The White House describes the move as a “significant first step”. BBC war headlines here

Warnings against antisemitic marchers alongside Saturday’s “Million March” 

The Jewish Chronicle reports that organisers of the convoy of activists with megaphones, shouting antisemitic hate speech through north London in May 2021 are planning further convoys alongside Saturday’s pro Palestine “Million March”. Lord Pickles, Lords Chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, described the prospect as “chilling” and that it “risks further escalating anti-Jewish racism and tarnishing what is a sacred weekend for many millions of Brits. It is high time the Metropolitan Police stepped up to the situation and closed down these harmful protests.” Steve McCabe MP, the chair of Labour Friends of Israel, the Community Security Trust and Lord Carlisle, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, all agreed the timing was potentially disastrous and called for a ban on the march. However, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, said he didn’t think a ban was justified and that the use of this power must be “incredibly rare”.

Queen opens Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey

The Queen has opened the 95th Field of Remembrance in the grounds of Westminster Abbey, marking the official start of the UK’s Remembrance commemorations in memory of those who died in service to their country. Queen Camilla laid a cross of remembrance before signing the St Margaret’s Church visitor book. Christian Today explains that the memorial is an annual tradition going back to 1928 when The Poppy Factory, the charity which makes remembrance wreaths, brought a tray of poppies and collection tin to the grounds of St Margaret’s Church, which sits next to the abbey. What started with a few poppies planted around a single cross has now become a powerful and moving memorial filling the grounds of the Abbey with thousands of poppies and crosses.

Canadian Prime Minister condemns antisemitic hate crimes and violence

The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has condemned recent violence in Montreal after student clashes over the Israel Gaza conflict and two Jewish schools reported finding a bullet hole in their front doors. Reuters reports there were no injuries, and it is not clear if the incidents are linked. Toronto police say hate crimes against Jews and Muslims have more than doubled the tally for all of 2022 in the three weeks after the initial Hamas attack on 7 October. Mr Trudeau said “violence, hate, antisemitism, Islamophobia and scenes such as the ones we saw in Concordia University or shots fired at Jewish schools overnight – all of that is unacceptable.”

BBC rejects accusations of being “institutionally antisemitic”

Two senior BBC executives have refuted accusations that the broadcaster is “institutionally antisemitic”. Speaking at an event organised by the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) at the South Hampstead Synagogue, David Jordan, BBC Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, said if he thought that was true, he would not be working for the Corporation. Jewish News describes how Jordan and Rhodri Talfan Davies, the Director of Nations at the BBC, faced a hostile and heckling crowd during the evening. Numerous complaints were put to the men and the audience also did not accept “neutrality” as  the reason for the BBC not using the word “terrorist” to describe the Hamas attackers. Read the full Jewish News report here.

Calls from both sides of CoE same sex rights debate for Archbishop to resign

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is facing calls from liberal and conservative campaigners to resign in the run up to next week’s General Synod meeting to consider blessings for same sex couples. The Times reports that the calls follow two meetings held at Lambeth Palace – one with traditionalist groups who oppose recognition of same-sex relationships and the other with progressives who want the church to bless and marry gay people. Jayne Ozanne, a gay evangelical Christian who has spent 14 years on the Synod, said it “was time for him to step aside”, claiming “there are now many unhappy with his leadership”. The Rev Dr Lee Gatiss, director of the evangelical Church Society, said he believed blessing gay couples would be a heresy and also thinks the archbishop should resign.

Vatican’s “collision course” with US over transgender rights

The Vatican’s decree that transgender people can be baptised into the Catholic Church and be godparents and witnesses at weddings, is likely to prove controversial in the United States, according to a report in The Telegraph. It says Pope Francis has tried to make the Catholic Church more welcoming to LGBT people without changing religious teachings, including one that says same sex attraction is not sinful, but same-sex acts are. However, the move could put him on a collision course with US bishops who have rejected the concept of gender transition.

Interim Chair and Vice Chair appointed to CofE National Safeguarding Panel

The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Panel has a new interim chair and vice-chair – General Synod member, Kashmir Garton, and church abuse survivor, Jane Chevous, who founded the group, Survivor Voices. The Church Times quotes Ms Chevous as saying she was “pleased to bring a survivor voice to this role. It’s so important that independent professional and survivor perspectives continue to support and challenge the church in its safeguarding practice.” The NSP was set up in 2014 to offer “independent” scrutiny of, and guidance on, church safeguarding policies and practice.

Diwali celebrated this weekend

Diwali, the festival of lights, will be celebrated on Sunday in the UK by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. It symbolises the lifting of spiritual darkness and the festival involves fireworks. lanterns and street lights. People celebrate with parties, music. Leicester is planning a festival on Sunday afternoon with 100 willow lanterns, street theatre with giant puppets and LED rickshaws.


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