Religion news 2 October 2023

Image credit: HMGovt CCLIcense3.0; & RMC

Home office meeting made bishops’ staff “feel like lepers”

The Home Secretary Suella Braverman has reportedly refused to hold talks with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, after he criticised government policy. According to Tali Fraser, a reporter with Politics Home, a former senior bishop’s adviser said the relationship between the bishops and the home office is “toxic” and bishops’ staff who met junior home office ministers came out “feeling like lepers”. In her article, Tali Fraser says the Church of England found it unusual that they were unable to effect a meeting, saying that others had taken place, for example with education secretary Gillian Keegan and the former home secretary Amber Rudd. The breakdown in relations has appalled former attorney general Dominic Grieve. He told the Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4 that the Home Secretary’s response was “incredibly rude”. The Archbishop outranked Braverman as a privy councillor and refusal to even meet him for a discussion was inexcusable, he said. But Tory MP Chris Loder, known for his Christian faith, said it was understandable. He had done his own research showing that since 2017, 96 per cent of the bishops’ votes in the Lords had been in opposition to the government, so what was the point, he asked, in a home secretary meeting “commentators who happen to wear mitres”. He said bishops and archbishops needed to focus on “fixing on-the-ground issues in the parishes” especially in Truro, Leicester and Winchester. BBC Radio 4 Sunday here (30 mins in)

Thousands attend ecumenical prayer vigil preceding the synod in Rome

An ecumenical prayer vigil “Together 2023” has been held in St Peter’s Square, Rome, to offer prayers for the synod of bishops which starts on Wednesday. Thousands of people across denominations listened to speakers, sang with musicians and prayed, sometimes in silence. Pope Francis was joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and many other church leaders representing more than 50 denominations. They prayed for unity, the synod process, each other, peace and creation. The project was the idea of Brother Alois, Prior of Taizé, as a symbol of unity and Taizé songs and silence punctuated the gathering.  The Pope offered the hope that the forthcoming synod, which follows years of global consultation, will be a moment of fraternity “where the Holy Spirit will purify the Church from gossip, ideologies and polarisation”, reflecting that  “God seems to prefer silence to shouting, gossiping and noise”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury met Pope Francis for a private meeting which he described as “always a privilege” . He said they discussed hopes for South Sudan and the impact of migration and climate change on the world’s poorest.

Sikh protest outside Indian High Commission in London today

Hundreds of Sikhs from across the UK are expected to join a protest outside the Indian High Commission in London this afternoon, to protest against the drive-by killing in Canada, of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was an activist supporting an independent state of Khalistan. The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, told the country’s parliament that the Indian government was involved in the assassination. The Sikh Federation is urging further investigation into the death of Avtar Singh Khanda, a Sikh activist who died on 15 June 2023 in Birmingham, three days before Nijjar was killed. Police say the death was not suspicious, but the Sikh Federation says Khanda was targeted after a protest at the London High Commission on 19 March this year when the Indian flag was removed. In July, a film was shown on Indian TV showing a “hit list” of 20 Sikhs in the diaspora, including six Sikhs from the UK.

Elon Musk says he’s “aspirationally Jewish” and “pro semitic”

Elon Musk, the richest man on earth, has taken part in a live chat on X/Twitter, which  he owns, refuting accusations that he and the platform are antisemitic. In an interview with Ben Shapiro, he said: “My entire life is pro semitic”.  He said his first name has Jewish roots, he went to a Jewish pre-school and had visited Israel twice.  “I don’t know if I am genetically Jewish…but I am inspirationally Jewish,” he said.  The broadcast followed accusations from the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish non-profit, that antisemitism was unchecked on X/Twitter, something Elon Musk angrily denies. Following the X/Twitter interview, the Daily Wire reports that five prominent Jewish leaders rallied behind him.

Former vicar aged 90 cycles from Lands End to John O’Groats, for the homeless

The Rev Peter Langford, aged 90, has become the oldest man to cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats, in a sponsored cycle ride for the homeless. The 1,100-mile route took him a month to complete – the fourth time he has cycled the course, having previously notched up the miles aged 75, 80 and 85. He told Premier Christian News that he chose B roads and when times were tough – he suffers from arthritis – he thought of Bible verses to inspire him through. His target is £50k and he has currently raised £37k for various charities helping the homeless. In a film on his JustGiving page he says: “I’m so grateful for having a house to live in and I pray for the homeless every day”. Story and pics here


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