Religion news 16 August 2023

Ram Katha, Jesus College Cambridge, by Morari Bapu. Image credit: Duncan Lawrence CCLicense4.0

Rishi Sunak: “My faith guides me in every aspect of my life”

Rishi Sunak, has told a Hindu gathering at the University of Cambridge that his Hindu faith influences every aspect of his life and gives him the courage to do his best as Prime Minister. He was visiting the “Ram Katha”, a recital of the story of Lord Rama, led by the Indian spiritual leader Morari Bapu at Jesus College. He said he was present not as a prime minister, but as a Hindu. He spoke of his upbringing in a Hindu family and taking his place serving the local community at the temple. He said: “For me, faith is very personal. It guides me in every aspect of my life. Being prime minister is a great honour, but it is not an easy job. There are difficult decisions to make, hard choices to confront and our faith gives me courage, strength, and resilience to do the best that I can for our country”. He also revealed that a golden Ganesha, a symbol of Lord Ganesha of happiness and prosperity,  “sits gleefully” on his desk at Number 10 Downing Street.

Thousands at Parliament of World Religions told religion should never be a force for harm

6,500 people from 95 countries, representing 212 spiritual traditions, are attending the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago this week. The programme opened with a speech by Rashad Hussain, the US ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, who urged the audience to seek a unity of purpose, not uniformity. The Religion News Service reports him saying that the Parliament is an example of the way religious communities can help address global challenges. He said religion can be a powerful force for good all around the and should never be used to harm or oppress people. The Parliament includes plenary sessions with global religious and civic leaders and multiple fringe events on themes such as climate change, racism and women’s rights.

Nationally important Knights Templar church found near Dudley

Graves belonging to members of the Knights Templar have been discovered at St Mary’s Church, Enville, a village to the west of Dudley in Staffordshire, leading historians to think this could be one of the most nationally important Templar churches in Britain. The Knights Templar were a devout Christian and military secretive group renowned for protecting pilgrims to Jerusalem, for a formidable role in the crusades and, post Da Vinci code,  believed to be keepers of the secret of the Holy Grail.  Researcher Edward Spencer Dyas found three graves belonging to the Knights Templar in the churchyard in 2021 and has now discovered five more. Each grave features a Templar cross within double circles and one has a Crusader cross. The church was built in the early 12th century and has close links with William Marshal, first Earl of Pembroke, considered the most famous Templar in history.

Anger over removing prayer mosaic from Israel to US Bible museum

The Israel Antiquities Authority is considering a proposal to remove an ancient Christian mosaic with a reference to Jesus as God, to the evangelical Museum of the Bible in Washington.  The Associated Press says the Megiddo Mosaic is from what is believed to be the earliest Christian prayer hall in northern Israel, discovered by Israeli archaeologists in 2005.  Some Christian fundamentalists believe an adjoining field is the site for Armageddon, the decisive battle between good and evil in the end times. Heralding the second coming of Jesus Christ. The Israel Antiquities Authority said that it will decide about the move in the coming weeks, following consultations. AP reports academics and archaeologists angrily object to any removal of the mosaic to a museum linked with white evangelical, Christian and Zionist nationalism.

Work starts on independent safeguarding model for the CofE

The Future of Church Safeguarding Programme, led by Professor Alexis Jay, set up to recommend a model for  independent safeguarding within the CofE, has outlined its schedule of work on a new website.  It intends to start by collecting a range of views from people with recent experience of safeguarding processes. It says Professor Jay expects to complete her report for the Archbishops of Canterbury and of York by the end of December 2023 and will publish the report herself to ensure full transparency.

Birmingham mosque awarded £2.2million for youth centre

Green Lane Masjid in Birmingham has been awarded a government grant of £2.2 million to build a new youth centre for 12 to 17 year olds. The centre provides more than ten services including sports activities, youth clubs, education and outdoor excursions. The new centre will allow more courses in mentoring and skills development, with a fully equipped teaching kitchen and a creative arts area. The money is from the Youth Investment Fund in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The centre is expected to be open in  April 2024.

The only Jew in Greenland

The only Jew in Greenland, Paul Cohen, features in an article for the Jewish Telegraph on his decision to live with his wife in a remote village accessible only by helicopter or boat. Describing himself as “non-observant but culturally Jewish,” he describes the area as like the Garden of Eden in many ways, where he finds that he is the last person left on earth. His only contact with his Jewish roots are a silver mezuzah with Bible verses on parchment and Hannukah candle lighting ceremonies with his family in America. There are also the times when Jewish tourists find him, bringing Kosher food, paper plates and plastic cutlery.


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