Religion news 6 October 2023

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Working class CofE clergy marginalised, ignored and misunderstood

Working-class clergy in the Church of England feel marginalised and typecast, alienated by a cheese and wine culture, according to a CofE report by researchers from Bournemouth and York St John universities. Fifty people were interviewed after concerns that working-class church leaders feel that they are suffering from class bias and have fewer opportunities for advancement. They also reported being sometimes regarded as thick because of a regional accent, and were more anxious over finances, being dependent on the church for income and housing. The report recommends the church faces up to classism, with changes in selection and training and greater transparency in appointments. Read Rosie Dawson’s article here and view the RMC briefing on the report here

Religiously motivated hate crime rose by nine per cent last year

Home Office figures show a rise in religiously motivated hate crime in the year to March 2023, going up from 8,602 to 9,387 offences – a rise of 9 per cent. This is the highest number for 11 years. Muslims experienced the most targeted hate crime, accounting for 39 per cent of cases. The Home Office report says “In the year ending March 2023, where the perceived religion of the victim was recorded, 2 in 5 (39 per cent) of religious hate crime offences were targeted against Muslims (3,452 offences). The next most commonly targeted group were Jewish people, who were targeted in around 1 in 6 (17 per cent) of religious hate crimes (1,510 offences).” The rise bucks the trend of the overall hate crime stats, which declined to 145,214 cases last year, after nine years of continual rise. Hate crime stats here

Sir Mark Thompson says religious literacy essential to report a diverse world

Sir Mark Thompson, formerly of the BBC, Channel 4 and the New York Times, starts another big job on Monday, as CEO and chair of the news organisation CNN. An observant Catholic, he told Roger Bolton of importance of religious literacy in journalism, which he said has been lacking in the media everywhere in the world he has seen it. Religious literacy means “not necessarily religious belief, but knowledge and at some level emotional empathy .. even if you don’t actually feel religious feelings yourself”. He said that not having a feel for or knowledge of religion means not having a feel for the vast global non white population who are likely to have deep religious faith. Religion was not a debating point: “For many of us, religion plays a very big part in our lives. It’s part of our habit, it’s part of the way we live, it’s the way we see the world”. He described his motivation for undertaking top media jobs as like trying to solve the puzzle of how to make sense of timeless values in a world of very different patterns of behaviour, media consumption and technology. He also spoke about the importance of BBC local radio, which has been subject to massive cuts. It had a role as an emergency service in national challenges such as Covid or extreme weather and he said: “I’m a voice very much still in favour of a strong, full service broad BBC”. Roger Bolton’s Beebwatch podcast is here

Faith Museum tracing history of faith in Britain opens tomorrow, Sat 7 October

The Faith Museum in Bishop Auckland opens to the public tomorrow, Saturday 7 October. Housed in a 14th-century wing of Auckland Castle with a modern extension, the museum has 250 objects from public and private collections across England, Scotland and Wales. It traces 6,000 years of faith in Britain, from the Neolithic period with the Gainford Stone, to the present day with displays of contemporary art. A spokesperson for the museum said it tries to portray the challenge of defining “something bigger than ourselves” without itself offering a definition. The Faith Museum is part of the wider restoration and redevelopment of The Auckland Project, which has been made possible with a £12.4m grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Sikh student support network re-groups for the academic year

Hundreds of Sikh students attended an annual Freshers Fair event in Coventry this week, to create a support system for students about to embark on their university journey. The Birmingham Mail reports that 14 university Sikh societies were represented and quotes the organiser explaining that there was a pressing need to support especially Sikh female students, after cases of grooming and exploitation.

Religious and economic duty to buy second hand clothes

Hyphen Online carries a report of the increasing interest in buying second hand and vintage clothes, especially among Gen Z, who were born between 1996 and 2010. It quotes Nabeela Zaman, managing director of British Bangla Welfare Trust, which runs a vintage shop in east London, saying young people are more conscious about climate change and see buying second hand as a religious and economic duty. Among the older generation, there is a reluctance not to wear second hand clothing out of pride. Her personal motivation is to follow the example of the prophet Muhammad’s family, who lived frugally. Another second hand buyer, Tara Alia Khalid, says her motivation is based on a moral choice against exploitative conditions in fashion factories. Hyphen Online article here

Report on the American “nones” says they really don’t like organised religion

The Associated Press and The Conversation have launched a special series of reports on the “nones”, people who identify as non religious, in the United States. In the first article, stats from the Pew Research Centre show 29 per cent of America identifies as “non religious”, up from 19 per cent in 2011. The report interviews people who include atheists, agnostics, the “nothing in particular” and the “spiritual but not religious”. It concludes that the nones are people who really don’t like organised religion.

More church halls could be turned into badminton courts

Church Times reports that “Badminton England” is looking for 200 places where badminton can be played in the community, and is eyeing up church halls. A spokesperson said they were perfect for the sport and their place within the heart of the community would be an incentive for people to start playing.


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