Religion news 9 November 2023

Image credit: Jewish News

Day 34: War in the Middle East

Israel says 50,000 Palestinians left the Gaza City area to move south. The UN’s human rights commissioner accuses both Israel and Hamas of war crimes. BBC war headlines here

30 Jewish media outlets worldwide unite against antisemitism

Thirty Jewish media outlets around the world have signed an open letter about the current situation in Israel and its impact on Jews, as demonstrations are organised in capital cities and levels of antisemitic attacks rise. In what’s described as “an historic first”, Jewish News in partnership with the Jerusalem Post brought together 30 outlets in seven countries to say “we’re witnessing raw hatred against Jews in cities across the globe”. They say the marches have a “chilling impact made worse when people echo and excuse hateful chants”. Antisemitism is “a deeply ingrained malignancy, perpetually lingering beneath the surface of society,” and until recent days, the extent and intensity of this hatred was tragically underestimated.” Justin Cohen, news editor at Jewish News, who initiated the project, said these are unprecedented times as Jews are targeted globally as never before: “While fear among our readers hasn’t been this profound in living memory, so too we’ve never been so united across borders and political views”. Jewish News article here.

Muslim Council of Wales thanks supporters after ceasefire vote in the Senedd

The Muslim Council of Wales has welcomed the Senedd’s vote in favour of an immediate ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas. It had lobbied people to write to their Senedd members using a template saying this was “one of the greatest human tragedies of our generation… An entire population is besieged and under attack, denied access to the essentials for survival, bombed in their homes, shelters, hospitals and places of worship. This is unacceptable”.

US Democrats ask for trebling of fund for security at places of worship

US Democrat governors have joined national leaders in calling for an increase in funding for security at places of worship, after a growing number of threats against Jews and Muslims. The project currently costs $305 million. President Biden has asked for $200 million more. The US Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, is asking for an additional $1 billion.

Community saves a New York coffee shop after five staff quit over Israel

Five baristas at a New York coffee shop walked out after the owner put up an Israeli flag and started collecting for Israel’s Red Cross. But rather than close down, a supporter posted the story on Instagram and the local community rallied round and queued to be served. Owner Aaron Dahan, aged 25 told the New York Post: “Our staff was young. They think they know everything, liberal, college-educated. They think we’re supporting genocide, we’re supporting colonialism”. He wanted to sit down and discuss it to help them realise “that we’re not all here trying to kill each other”, and was disappointed that they left.

Pro Palestine marches banned in Kashmir

The Associated Press reports that Indian authorities have barred any solidarity protest for Palestine in Kashmir and asked Muslim preachers not to mention the conflict in their sermons.  AP says analysts believe the ban reflects a shift in India’s foreign policy away from its long-held support for the Palestinians, to expressing solidarity with Israel after the Hamas attack but also arguing that international humanitarian law be upheld in Gaza. A Muslim cleric in Kashmir has been under house arrest every Friday since 7 October.

Former faith minister says closing churches during Covid was “outrageous”

The former Faith Minister during the Covid pandemic, Lord Greenhalgh, has told the Catholic Union that the closure of churches and other places of worship during the lockdowns was “outrageous”. He said that “people at the heart of power did not understand faith”, but places of worship did a “phenomenal job” at controlling the spread of the virus. The Catholic Union Director, Nigel Parker, is urging the UK Covid Inquiry to properly consider the decisions around the closure and reopening of places of worship. Its own survey on the impact of church closures will form the basis of its submission to the inquiry. He said: “The Catholic Union led the charge in getting our churches open again, and we’re now committed to making sure they are never forced to close again”.

Conversion therapy ban campaigner accuse government of callousness

Jayne Ozanne, leading a campaign to ban conversion therapy, has accused the government of treating callously the lives of LGBT+ people by not including in the King’s Speech, a commitment to progress a ban. Ms Ozanne, a lay member of the General Synod, said “We are now witnessing the serious rollback on rights and protections that many have feared”. In a TV debate, cabinet office minister Alex Burghart said just because it wasn’t in the King’s speech didn’t mean it had been ruled out, pointing to the phrase “other measures will be laid before you”.

Media bill scrapping protection for religious broadcasting in government timetable

The King’s speech included a commitment to progress the Media Bill, which will remove the quota system protecting the inclusion of news, entertainment, drama, science and religion in free to air broadcasting. The government argues that this remit is “outdated” and wants a shorter remit, “focussed on the things that they are uniquely positioned to deliver and that would make us poorer as a nation—culturally, economically and democratically—if they were not provided”. The Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport reported in September its concern that “removing such requirements will lead to a considerable reduction in content” and considered that removing genres was a step too far. The Sandford St Martin Trust has said that the changes would result in “a steep decline – if not the overall extinction – of socially valuable and valued but already endangered genres including content exploring religion and belief”.

Vatican publishes guidance on trans baptisms

Christopher Lamb reports that the Holy See’s doctrine office has delivered guidance saying transgender people can be baptised, provided it does not cause scandal and confusion. Trans people can also act as godparents “under certain conditions” and they can act as a witness at a wedding. The guidance came in a written response to a question from a bishop in Brazil.

Archbishop asks if he should resign and a vicar and his colleague put up their hands

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has reportedly questioned whether he should resign now, two years before his retirement date when he reaches the age of 70, over the division in the church on same sex relationships. A Facebook post by the Rev Lee Gatiss, director of the conservative group The Church Society, describes his attendance at a meeting at Lambeth Palace last Friday morning when opponents of same sex relationships met Justin Welby to tell him what they thought of the proposals for same sex blessings. In Mr Gatiss’ view the proposals are heresy.  According to his account, the Archbishop “asked if we had confidence in his leadership or whether he ought to resign prior to his planned retirement in two years. Both I and one colleague raised our hands to say he should resign”.

Service of commemoration for homeless people who died in the last year

The annual service of commemoration for those who have died homeless in London in the last year will be held at St Martin in the Fields in Trafalgar Square this morning (Thursday 9 November) at 11am. The Museum of Homelessness charity say 1,313 people died while homeless across Britain in 2022, a rise of 85 per cent over four years. Their average age was 35-55 and the causes were varied including suicide and addiction. The service is attended by many Christian denominations working with the homeless in the capital, who have condemned the comments from the Home Secretary Suella Braverman, that homelessness is a lifestyle choice. Fr Dominic Robinson SJ Chair of Justice and Peace, Diocese of Westminster said: “The guests we see at our services are not making a ‘lifestyle choice’ – rather they have no options left”. Mick Clarke, Chief Executive of The Passage in Victoria, central London, strongly condemned the comment: “This policy risks demonising the poorest in our society without even beginning to address the real issues facing our country regarding poverty and homelessness”.


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