Religion news 8 September 2023

Image credit: Gospel Music Festival, Liverpool

UK’s first gospel music festival in Liverpool today

The UK’s first gospel music festival is launched in Liverpool today with a packed programme of international stars taking to the stage in Stanley Park. The two day festival is organised by Liverpool Lighthouse, a charity based in Anfield working to create thriving communities of people living more fulfilled lives. It will feature international artists, including headliners the Kingdom Choir, CalledOut Music, Love & Joy Gospel Choir, Sarah Teibo, Sense of Sound, Lighthouse Choir, Volney Morgan & New Ye, DavidB, Wavertree Gospel Choir and NaffymaR. Our reporter Nsofwa Nwannadi explains that Gospel’s inclusive, joyful and uplifting sounds have helped to celebrate the stories, histories, cultures and achievements of black communities. And it has the power to connect with a mainstream, diverse audience. Her report is here

Anthony Reddie becomes Oxford university’s first Professor of Black Theology

Theologian Anthony Reddie has just been made Professor of Black Theology at Oxford University – the first such appointment in the university’s 800 year history. He is also the Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture at Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford and an Extraordinary Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of South Africa. He comes from Bradford, describes himself as a cradle Methodist, and has published widely on black theology, and issues of justice, race and poverty. Of his new appointment, he said he was “still taking it in”.

META ends its Community News Project scheme for reporting underserved communities

Meta, formerly Facebook, has announced that it will not renew funding for the Community News Project when the current programme ends next year. The $17million scheme has been going for five years and provided more than 70 community news reporters embedded in local newsrooms while being trained on the job in a scheme run by the National Council for the Training of Journalists. Their task was to report underserved communities and we’ve been pleased at the RMC to work with several over the past few years. Joanne Forbes, NCTJ chief executive, thanked META for the project and said: “We recognise the continued importance of the regional news media in training UK journalists and we will do all we can to seek alternative sources of funding to secure the project’s legacy into the future”.

The news follows drastic cuts in BBC local radio programming which have cut the number of local religious programmes from 39 to 13, with the new shows covering vast areas. The RMC is holding a briefing on the future of community reporting on Tuesday 12 September 1200. Further details info@religionmediacentre,org,.uk

French court upholds abaya ban in schools

France’s highest administrative court has ruled that the ban on school pupils wearing the abaya, a long robe, is legal. The government said wearing the abaya broke the rules on secularism in education and was a display of religious affiliation. Action for the Rights of Muslims took the case to court saying it was discriminatory against Muslims, but the court disagreed. France 24 reports that 67 schoolgirls defied the ban and were sent home from school. It says 10 per cent of France’s 67 million population are Muslim.

“Yes In God’s Back Yard” campaign by California religious groups for new housing on their own land

Religious institutions and nonprofit colleges in California could soon turn their parking lots and other properties into low-income housing to help combat a homelessness crisis. The Associated Press reports that religious institutions have launched a joint campaign to help the 171,000 homeless people in the state, called “Yes In God’s Backyard,” or “YIGBY”. A number of projects have been envisioned but the existing planning laws take years to go through and new legislation passed yesterday would short circuit this.  Sharon Quirk-Silva, the Democrat assembly member who supported the law change, said there are hundreds of faith-based organisations and several community colleges in her district that could move forward now: “If only a small fraction of them chose to build very small amount of units, we could start picking away at this issue one church at a time, one educational institution at a time”.

Documents shed light on Catholic help for Jews in Rome during WW2

Jewish and Catholic researchers in Rome have discovered documents listing the names of 4,300 Jews sheltered by 155 Catholic convents and monasteries in Rome during World War Two. The documents were uncovered in the archives of the Biblical Institute and contribute to historians’ theories about the actions, or silence, of Pope Pius XII during the Nazi occupation of Rome. Supporters insist he used quiet diplomacy to save Jewish lives and critics say he remained silent even when 1000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz from Rome in 1943. Iael Nidam Orvieto, director of Yad Vashem´s International Institute for Holocaust Research, says questions remain over the Jews who were refused assistance.

Orthodox leaders defend Ukraine church departure from Russia

The Church Times reports the latest statement from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, pledging continuing support for the independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which split from Russia over the war. Patriarch Bartholomew accused the Russian Orthodox church of trying to justify an unjustified, unholy, unprovoked, diabolical war. He is quoted in Greece’s online daily paper Patris, saying Russia should not expect “the war unleashed by their state to settle their ecclesiastical claims”.

Dermot O’Leary’s faith as part of his everyday life

Dermot O’Leary, TV host of the X factor and presenter of This Morning, has given an interview to The Times, where he speaks of faith as an everyday part of his life. At bedtime, he said: “I make time for a little prayer, have a word with the man upstairs”. He described his faith as part of his identity: “Faith has always been a way of bringing people together in the Irish immigrant community. I remember all of us heading up to Colchester for Mass when I was a kid, meeting up with friends and family, then loads of us congregating at some pub for a Sunday carvery. Faith is part of my everyday life and it’s a wonderful feeling — a lovely reminder of my homeland”. The Times interview was to promote his new children’s book “Wings of Glory”.

13,000 faith representatives attended two global events to discuss peace and harmony

Three thousand faith representatives gathered at the World Peace Dome in Pune, India, for the G20 Interfaith Summit, which took place in advance of the G20 meeting this weekend. They said their goal was to “explore the vital role of social cohesion in building stable societies” and work for the collective good, with the aim of creating a world where diversity is celebrated and harmony prevails. They listened to presentations and took part in discussions on women’s empowerment, climate change, technology, peace and religion in the workplace, a similar agenda to that of the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago three weeks ago, when 10,000 faith representatives met to discuss similar themes.


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