Religion news 27 November 2023

Image credit: @antisemitism

Antisemitism march in London is largest since anti-fascist demonstrations in 1936

Tens of thousands of people took part in a March Against Antisemitism in central London yesterday, with estimates varying from 50,000 to 100,000 people. Celebrities including Laureen Lipman, Vanessa Feltz, Rachel Riley, David Baddiel and Boris Johnson joined the march from the Royal Courts of Justice to Parliament Square, which was said to be the largest protest against antisemitism since the anti-fascist “Battle of Cable Street” in 1936. A poll for the Campaign Against Antisemitism suggests 69 per cent of British Jews are less likely to show visible signs of their Judaism; and 90 per cent of British Jews say that they would avoid travelling to a city centre if a major “anti-Israel” demonstration was taking place there.

Controversy over Pope saying actions of Israel and Hamas are acts of terror

The Pope’s comments on the Israel Gaza war has caused controversy after he condemned the actions of both Israel and Hamas, as acts of terror.  At his audience last week, he said that the conflict had gone beyond war, and that terror does not justify terror. He was reflecting on meetings with families of hostages and prisoners, one of whom went on the record to say the Pope used the word “genocide” to describe events in Gaza. The Vatican denies he used this word. His biographer, Austen Ivereigh, told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme that the Pope was naming the truth of what is happening and that he believes Israel’s attacks are terrorising Gaza. The comments were carefully thought out, he said, and the Pope was also calling for an immediate end to the war which has killed 6,000 children in Gaza.

Despair, powerlessness and heartbreak for Caritas workers in Gaza

The Secretary General of Caritas International Alistair Dutton has given an assessment of the dire situation facing people trying to offer humanitarian help in Gaza. In an interview with Vatican Radio, he spoke of despair, with staff being heartbroken after colleagues were killed in air strikes and for those workers based outside Gaza, the feeling of powerlessness to get supplies in.

British surgeon at Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza says this war is against children

The British-Palestinian surgeon, Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta, who was working at the Anglican-run Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza a week ago, is back in the UK. The Church Times reports that he recorded a video message for a service in Bahrain last week speaking of 5,000 children killed and 2,000 missing after Israeli strikes on Gaza, concluding “This has effectively been a war on children.” Dr Sitta has worked within twelve wars over 30 years. He is also a plastic surgeon based in Harley Street, London.

More British people choosing not to have a funeral

The think tank Theos publishes a report today Love, Grief, and Hope: Emotional responses to death and dying in the UK, which shows significant changes in the ways that people in the UK are approaching death and dying. The stand-out finding is that less than half of us now want to have a funeral at all. Direct cremations, where the body is taken directly to a crematorium without any service or other event, are now chosen for 18 per cent of all deaths. The research also shows that the proportion of deaths marked by Church of England funerals fell from 37 per cent in 2009 to 23 per cent in 2019. Theos suggests this trend could grow further, translating into a crisis for the funeral industry as a whole.  RMC briefing on this report Tuesday 28 November 1200, with report authors and guests. Details from [email protected]

Cathedral illuminations are drawing people into the light for Advent

Light shows of angels, stained glass colours and snowscapes, beamed onto cathedrals, are a familiar sight across England this Advent season, which began on Sunday. For cathedrals and artists, these illuminations are seen as important ways of connecting with the wider community. They appeal to a mass market, people of all ages, of all faiths and none. Peter Walker, of Luxmuralis, one of the companies that creates the light shows, says: “As a fine artist, I am looking at ways of encouraging deep emotions and deep responses, in light, colour and scale. Visitors are at the heart of the event.” Read Angela Youngman’s article on our website here

Ofsted Chief Inspector critical of RE in schools and calls for government clarity and support

The chief inspector of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, has given a damning review of Religious Education in schools and blamed the government for lack of clarity and support, which “makes schools’ job harder”. In her annual report, she concludes that RE in schools “is generally of poor quality”,  often considered as an afterthought and is undervalued. In her list of faults, she finds that many schools do not meet the statutory requirement to teach RE at all stages; pupils are rarely taught enough substance to prepare them to engage in a complex, multi-religious and multi-secular society; topics are not taught deeply enough and non-examined RE is typically not high quality. The report says RE is a complex subject and a coordinated effort is required by stakeholders to improve the quality of RE in schools.  It concludes: “The government should provide clear expectations about RE provision in schools. Schools should follow these. Current non-statutory guidance for RE should be updated and include clear information for schools about the breadth and depth of the syllabus they are expected to teach”.

World RE research unit opens in Lincoln

A “World Religions and Education Research Unit” has been launched at the Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln. It has 49 academic members so far, from all over the world, researching the interplay between education and religion. Its co-directors are Professors Leslie J Francis and Julian Stern, whose opening speech explored how big issues in education could be understood through key religious themes, and how both education and religion can help “understand a world that seems increasingly troubled and lonely”. Professor Francis said the research supports faith communities and brings better understanding within diverse societies

Muslim Council of Britain says Dutch election result deeply worrying

The Muslim Council of Britan has issued a statement saying the Dutch general election result, where Geert Wilders’ car fight party won most of the seats, “is deeply worrying, for minority groups and values such as religious freedom and expression”. It says the win is a sign of divisive far-right populist politics in Europe, based on a manifesto of banning of The Qur’an, mosques, Muslim schools and women’s headscarves. The MCB urges the party’s coalition partners to prevent its xenophobic agenda from being enacted.

Leicester Cathedral is open after two year renovation project

Leicester Cathedral re-opened to the public yesterday after a two year renovation project to restore and renew the building so it can cope with the influx of news visitors since the remains of Richard III were found nearby and interred in the Cathedral. Renovations have included repairs to stonework, restoration of the parapets and a new limestone floor throughout.

Bristol airport prayer room resembling a bus shelter mocked on social media

Bristol Airport has unveiled a new multi-faith prayer building in its car park, which has been ridiculed online as resembling a bus shelter. The airport explains it was responding to increased demand and the new facility is near a place where relatives wait to pick up their families. It is an hour away from the terminal building, where there is a larger multi-faith quiet area in the departure lounge. There are plans for more dedicated areas across the site.



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