Religion news 10 October 2023

Image credit: @UKParliament

Hamas attack on Israel “terrifyingly close” to the UK

Chief Rabbi says Hamas attack is Israel’s 9/11

The Chief Rabbi, Sir Ephraim Mirvis, told Sky News that every Jewish family in the UK has been affected “in one way or another” by the attack on Israel, which has claimed an estimated 900 Israeli lives. He said this was Israel’s 9/11.   He confirmed that he had been inundated with messages of support and solidarity from people throughout Britain. 

Political unity in solidarity with Israel

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attended a prayer service for Israel at Finchley United Synagogue in north London. He said “I wanted to come here and stand with you in this hour of grief as we mourn the victims of an utterly abhorrent act of terror. To stand with you in this hour of prayer as we think of those held hostage, and your friends and loved ones taking refuge in bomb shelters or risking their lives on the frontline.”

An estimated 4,000 people attended a vigil outside Downing Street, for the victims and hostages taken in the attacks. The Chief Rabbi, ministers and shadow ministers stood together to condemn the attacks and pledge support for the Jewish community.   The Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council issued a joint statement thanking “the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and all others who have shown unequivocal support for the people of Israel as they respond to this unprecedented attack. We stand with Israel as it seeks to restore security and reunite families”.

Furious clashes outside Israeli embassy in London

Police had to divide hundreds of pro-Palestine protesters who gathered outside the boarded up Israeli embassy in south Kensington in London, from a counter demonstration by Israelis. The protesters climbed lamposts, waved flags, lit flares, chanted against Israel and threw fireworks towards the embassy. Israelis also arrived waving flags and police were forced to separate the sides.

Antisemitic attacks in London

Jewish News reports that graffiti saying ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Palestine will be free’ has been painted on bridges over Golders Green station in north London. A nearby kosher restaurant had its glass entrance smashed and the cash register stolen. The Metropolitan Police is deploying extra security around schools for reassurance. The Telegraph reports that some pupils have been told they do not have to wear blazers carrying their school logo.

Zero tolerance on antisemitism

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has urged police to step up patrols and use their powers to prevent disorder and distress to communities. She said there must be zero tolerance for antisemitism and there is no place for demonstrations that glorify terrorism or harass the Jewish community. She expected the police to use the full force of the law against displays of support for Hamas, other proscribed terrorist groups or attempts to intimidate British Jews. And she urged people worried about their safety to contact the police.

“Terrifyingly close” to the UK

Labour’s David Lammy and Yvette Cooper issued a strongly worded statement, published in the Jewish Chronicle, saying it was not just a news event in the Middle East, it touched people’s lives here in the UK: “With so many loved ones living, studying or visiting Israel, this is terrifyingly close”. They said Jewish friends and colleagues had spoken of their fear for their families in Israel and within the UK. “Cheering on terrorism is vile and repugnant. Hamas is a proscribed terrorist organisation in the United Kingdom. We will not tolerate that British Jews should be made to feel unsafe in the streets…Jewish communities in every part of the country also need to know they have the support to feel safe and protected”.

Grief, bereavement and fear for families and friends in the UK

More than ten British citizens are feared dead or missing after the weekend attacks.  Two are confirmed dead. Among the missing is a security guard from the music festival, another is a photographer. There are an estimated 50-60,000 British people in Israel. The SNP first minister Hamza Yousaf revealed that his parents in law are trapped in Gaza, having arrived to visit a sick relative and now with no way of escape.

Other news

CofE bishops commend prayers blessing same sex couples

The Church of England’s House of Bishops has agreed in principle that prayers asking for God’s blessing for same-sex couples – known as Prayers of Love and Faith – should be commended for use when they are presented to the next meeting of the general synod from 13-15 November.  The bishops also concluded that structures for special services for same-sex couples, based on Prayers of Love and Faith, should go forward to be formally authorised under canon law. But the proposals will take two years to go through, involving consultation with every diocese and will require final approval by General Synod. Draft pastoral guidance for those who disagree will also come to next month’s meeting of Synod. The proposals are fiercely contested but the bishops say they are trying to remain together as one church, “finding ways to live well with our different perspectives and convictions”.

Anglicans appoint refugee worker in Calais

Calais resident Bradon Muilenberg has been appointed as the Anglican Refugee Support Lead, working with refugees in Northern France. The role is a partnership between the Diocese in Europe, the Diocese of Canterbury and the Anglican mission agency USPG. Calais is served by the Church of England’s Pas-de-Calais Chaplaincy and Bradon’s work will involve informing church partners of the issues affecting asylum seekers in northern France, which will direct their Christian response. He says asylum seeking children in Calais are profoundly unsafe, facing the perilous journey across the Channel to be reunited with family. “The normalization of the risk, and loss of their lives should be objected to in the strongest terms”.

Petition to pardon women convicted of witchcraft in Britain

The author of a book about witchcraft, has launched a petition appealing for women convicted of witchcraft should be pardoned and not just apologised to. Charlotte Meredith, the founder of Justice for Witches campaign, says in the petition that witch persecution is still happening. “In 2022, the First Minister of Scotland issued an apology to those convicted under the Scottish Witchcraft Act.. The Scottish Government failed to issue a pardon. Our silence and failure to pardon our own sends the wrong message that the British people condone the witch executions in Africa, Papua New Guinea and India”. The petition needs 10,000 signatures to elicit a government response, but so far has raised just 1,229.


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