Religion news 28 July 2023

Israel demonstration Tower Bridge. Image credit: Defend Israel Democracy UK

Jewish News supports democracy protests: Israel’s future is imperilled

Jewish News, one of Britain’s two leading Jewish newspapers, has splashed its latest edition with a blacked-out front cover, with a striking one-word headline: “Demockracy.” Inside, an opinion piece is unequivocal in its support for the widespread democracy protests in Israel that reached a peak on Monday, when Binyamin Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition passed legislation to limit some of the Supreme Court’s powers — a move widely regarded as a threat to democracy. The campaign “Defend Israeli Democracy UK” said the new law would impact Jewish communities across the world, which look to Israel for inspiration and identity. Read Lianne Kolirin’s article on our website here

100 British Jewish leaders add voice against legal changes

Around 100 leaders in British Jewish communities have written an open letter urging the Israeli government to “reconsider” its judicial overhaul. The letter was initiated by the grassroots movement Defend Israeli Democracy UK, saying the legal changes threatened the values and institutions of the Jewish nation. It urges “extreme caution in undertaking any changes that might compromise the delicate balance of power and erode the foundations of Israel’s democracy”. The full letter is republished in Jewish News. Among the signatories were the heads of three Jewish denominations in the U.K.: Liberal Judaism’s Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Reform’s Rabbi Josh Levy and Masorti’s Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg. Several deputies of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and former president, Vivian Wineman, also signed. There was no orthodox representation, but Haaretz reports that the campaign said it  had spoken to orthodox rabbis who were supportive.

Chief Rabbi says Israel supporters feel pain of unprecedented division

The Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis did not sign this letter, but he published a statement on Twitter saying the state of Israel had become “a global beacon of Torah study, innovation, culture and democracy. Yet the deep polarisation and political animosity on display today, leaves many of the most passionate supporters of Medinat Yisrael feeling the great pain of unprecedented division….let us resolve to actively work towards a strengthening of all that we value in our cherished Jewish State, and a time when unity and respectful disagreement will reign.”

Israel’s Supreme Court has said it will hear an appeal against the new law in September.

Lord Sentamu cannot officiate in Newcastle after failing to apologise over safeguarding comments

The former Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has been declined permission to officiate in the diocese of Newcastle, because he is said to have refused to apologise over his response to criticism in a safeguarding review. A statement from the Bishop of Newcastle, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, says she has made this decision with extreme disappointment and sadness. He was suspended in May after a review that he had failed to act on a non-recent disclosure of abuse by the late Trevor Devamanikkam. He had also said that “safeguarding is very important but it does not trump church law”. Dr Hartley said she had asked Lord Sentamu to reflect on his words, and in particular the impact of them, and to offer an apology: “ I am extremely disappointed that Lord Sentamu feels unable to make an apology at this time”.

Closure of Muslim bank accounts attracted little public support compared with Farage case

The chair of Finsbury Park mosque, Mohammed Kozbar, has criticised double standards in the story of the closure of Nigel Farage’s bank accounts. He told The Guardian that British Muslims have also experienced this, with individuals and three Muslim organisations, including Finsbury Park mosque, having their HSBC bank accounts shut over the past 10 years. But whereas with Nigel Farage, two bank CEOs have resigned and Downing Street has issued a response, in the mosque’s case, there was little public acknowledgment or support.

Sweden faces more Quran burning episodes

The Swedish prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, has told a news agency that more requests have been filed with the police for permission to hold protests where desecration of the Quran is planned. He is “extremely worried” about the consequences. Previous attacks have led to protests in Muslim led countries, countries, including Turkey, whose backing Sweden needs to join Nato. The Prime Minister made it clear that it is the police who give permission, not the government.  The head of the security service Charlotte von Essen told reporters: “Sweden has gone from being seen as a tolerant country to being seen as an anti-Islamic land”.

Vatican prosecutor in London finance trial demands penalty of 73 years in prison

Vatican News reports that the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice, Alessandro Diddi, has demanded a total of seventy-three years of imprisonment, together with other financial penalties, for the ten people accused in the corruption trial over a London property. They face a variety of charges over the acquisition of a London flat, including embezzlement, fraud and abuse of office, He said that Cardinal Angelo Becciu should be jailed for seven years and three months, fined and banned from public office. The Cardinal’s defence team issued a statement saying the trial had proved their client’s innocence.  The trial started two years ago and closing arguments are underway, with judgment expected by December.  RNS story here

Vicar’s new family board game in line for international prize

Premier Christian News tells the story of the Rev Edward Canon, a vicar in Norwich, who designs board games in his spare time and has reached the final of an international competition to find the next big family game. His game, Serengeti Sanctuary, has a wildlife conservation theme, with cards featuring wild animals from the Serengeti, Tanzania. Players have to collect cards, expanding their wildlife reserves. He told Premier Christian radio that God has created us to play as well as do other things. A competitive streak can sharpen people “to do God’s purposes”. Ravensburger will announce the winner today.


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