Religion news 12 October 2023

Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis. Image credit: @chiefrabbi

Day 6: war in the middle east

US President Joe Biden has confirmed reports that children were beheaded during the attack by Hamas on Israel on Saturday. He said it was the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. The death toll  of the continuing conflict stands at 1200 in Israel and 1,000 in Gaza. More than 150 people were taken as hostages. There is no electricity in Gaza after the sole power plant ran out of fuel and Israel has promised a complete siege. The Pope has appealed for restraint as hostilities escalate.

Chief Rabbi visits Jewish communities across England vowing solidarity with Israel

The Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis has been visiting Jewish communities across Britain, offering support and comfort to people in deep shock at the Hamas attack. It is said that every British Jew knows someone caught up in the attack on Israel last weekend. In Manchester, he said his visit was to show solidarity with Israel and to assure Israelis that Jews across the world cry and pray with them. He has also visited the Jewish community in Bushey, Mill Hill, Borehamwood and central London.

BBC rejects Chief Rabbi’s appeal to use “terrorism” to describe the Hamas attack  

Sir Ephraim Mirvis has called on broadcasters to change the way they describe Hamas, saying “the barbaric, murderous terrorism of Hamas cannot be denied or obfuscated… To purposefully avoid that word is to wilfully mislead”. He said editorial guidelines restricting its use, may be borne out of well-intentioned aspirations to appear accurate and impartial, but there is a point where failing to use the word is a failure of accuracy and impartiality. He made his views known in a statement on Twitter / X at 1420 yesterday. Two hours later, the BBC’s director of editorial policy and standards, David Jordan, defended the editorial guidelines. He told Radio 4’s The Media Show that they had been in place for many years and were intended to avoid a perception of bias, making the BBC seem to be favouring one side of a conflict, and there were no plans to revise them. This decision is a rejection of the appeal by the culture secretary Lucy Frazer, who asked the BBC DG to change the guidelines after being lobbied by the Board of Deputies of British Jews. BBC news explains in an online article that Sky, ITN, Channel 4 and Channel 5 let their newsrooms decide on a case by case basis.

Royal statements use “terrorism” to describe attacks

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “His Majesty is appalled by and condemns the barbaric acts of terrorism in Israel.” A Kensington Palace spokesman said: “The Prince and Princess of Wales are profoundly distressed by the devastating events that have unfolded in the past days. The horrors inflicted by Hamas’s terrorist attack upon Israel are appalling; they utterly condemn them”.

Muslim Council of Britain gives advice on safe responses to crisis in Israel and Gaza

The Muslim Council of Britain has issued guidance for Muslim communities on how to respond and advocate, sensibly and safely, in the wake of the recent escalation of violence in Palestine. This includes writing to MPs to urge a peaceful resolution of the crisis, talking to young people who witness disturbing content online, reporting media bias and fostering interfaith community relations. It says all Islamophobic incidents should be reported to the police. And it offers guidance for posting on social media, ensuring information is fact checked and does not incite hate, bearing in mind that Hamas is a proscribed organisation in the UK, which makes support illegal. It says conflicts abroad should not affect community relations here and invites people to stand together for justice and peace in Palestine.

Justin Welby condemns “utterly abhorrent attacks” by Hamas on Israel

The Archbishop of Canterbury condemned the “utterly abhorrent” attacks by Hamas against Israel and his intense horror and dismay at the escalating conflict. “The attacks by Hamas are utterly abhorrent, and to witness the unfolding of such violence, particularly against innocent civilians, children, and the elderly, strikes at the heart of all that is good and holy. I want to convey my deepest sense of solidarity with you at this time.”

Pope Francis appeals for peace in the middle east

Pope Francis has expressed his “sorrow and concern” for the war that has broken out between Israel and Hamas, in which more than 2,000 people have died . Speaking at Wednesday’s general audience, he appealed for the immediate release of the hostages and prayed for the bereaved. He acknowledged that it is the right of those who are attacked to defend themselves, but said he was concerned at the “total siege facing the Palestinians in Gaza, where there have also been many innocent victims.” He appealed for peace and a return to dialogue.

US evangelicals support Israel’s right to defend itself

Sixty American evangelical Christian leaders have written to the President supporting Israel’s right to defend itself and proclaiming the need to protect the lives of innocent civilians. They condemn the attack by Hamas and the “false equivalence” in comparing attacks by Hamas with action by Israel’s armed forces. 

Other news

Labour pledges ban on conversion therapy

Shadow equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds, has told the Labour party conference that a future Labour government would introduce new legislation to ban gay conversion therapy. Thousands of church leaders have urged the government not to do so, saying it would limit religious freedom when counselling people. But Ms Dodds says conversion therapy is abuse and she was astonished it had not already been banned. Independent report here

Attempt to add “caste” in anti-discrimination law fails in California

California Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill adding a definition of caste to the list of protected categories under existing civil rights laws. He said the change was unnecessary because the law already prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, ancestry, national origin and other characteristics. The request for a change was made by California Senator Aisha Wahab, a Muslim, in February this year but received polarised criticism from Hindus who said  it would increase discrimination against them as they would all be unfairly associated with a caste hierarchy. Others went on hunger strike to persuade the governor to sign it. Religion News Service article  here


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