Religion news 7 November 2023

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Day 32: War in the Middle East

UN agencies say killing of civilians in Israel and Gaza is horrific. Secretary General Antonio Guterres warns Gaza is becoming a “graveyard for children”. BBC war headlines here

Four-year-olds at a London Jewish school taught how to hide in case of attack

British Jews are living with fear after facing unprecedented antisemitism in response to the war in Israel and Gaza, with central London a no-go zone during marches and outward signs of faith removed. The Community Security Trust has recorded at least 1,019 antisemitic incidents since 7 October, a 537 per cent increase on the same period last year. Lianne Kolirin reports the impact of the war in Israel Gaza on British Jews in an article here. She has spoken to a Jewish father who said: “My four-year-old at a Jewish school in London is taught how to hide in case of antisemitic attacks. It brings me to tears just to talk about it”.

Call for tougher action to protect Jewish university students from “horrendous abuse”

The government’s former faith adviser, Colin Bloom, has called for tougher action to protect Jewish university students from a “horrendous onslaught of abuse” on campus. He told BBC Newsnight that there were 9,000 Jewish students out of a total of 3 million in Britain. He knew of students who felt isolated, terrorised, under siege and stayed inside rather than attend lectures because of antisemitism at their colleges. The programme reported statistics showing university related antisemitism cases stood at 67 over the last four weeks, compared to 12 in the same period last year. And for Islamophobia the figures are 31 this year compared to 3 in 2022. Mr Bloom said student bodies and university staff needed to do more to stop the abuse.

Pope condemns spread of antisemitic demonstrations

Pope Francis delivered a speech to European rabbis denouncing antisemitism, war and terrorism. He strongly condemned the spread of antisemitic demonstrations and said believers in God are called to build fraternity and reconciliation.  People should search for their neighbour and certainly not “the brusque passion of vengeance and the folly of bitter hatred”, he said. He declined to read his speech as he was not feeling well, but handed it instead to the rabbis.

NHS Muslim network holds event to raise awareness of Islamophobia

The National NHS Muslim Network is holding an Islamophobia Awareness event this evening, at which several speakers working in the NHS will tell their stories of the positive contribution they are making to society through their work.  It is part of Islamophobia Awareness Month where Muslim groups and individuals are invited to put on events on the theme #MuslimStories, inviting audiences of Muslims and non-Muslims to build connections. The speakers tonight include the NHS chief strategy officer, a chief executive and several managers. 

Catholic bishops urge continuing efforts for a ceasefire in Israel / Gaza

Catholic bishops in England and Wales have issued a statement calling on the government to continue diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire, the immediate release of all hostages and the facilitation of humanitarian aid into Gaza. Bishop Declan Lang, Chair of the Bishops’ Conference’s International Affairs department, and Bishop Nicholas Hudson, Chair of the Holy Land Co-ordination say they remain in constant prayer for the Holy Land especially those in the Holy Family church in Gaza and people in the West Bank: “We remain close to you and in constant prayer for you at this most difficult, terrifying, and testing of times”.

Archbishop calls on global faith leaders to care for the planet

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has urged global faith leaders to care for the planet and protect the vulnerable. In a video address to the Global Leaders Faith Summit in Abu Dhabi,  he said there is more to be done to phase out fossil fuels, deliver clean energy and agree a fund to compensate for damage caused by climate change. The faith leaders are meeting ahead of the COP 28 in Dubai from 30 Nov – 12 December.

Attempted murder verdict after two elderly Muslim men set alight

Mohammed Abbkr, a 29-year-old man from Birmingham, has been found guilty of attempting to murder two elderly Muslim worshippers by dousing them in petrol and setting them alight. The men, aged 70 and 82, were attacked after attending prayers in their local mosques and suffered burns to their face and hands with one spending several weeks in hospital. Abbkr was diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and will be sentenced on 17 November.


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