Religion News 10 June

Pic: Lorie Shaull , flickr

George Floyd, the African American man whose death at the hands of police in Minneapolis sparked global protests against racial injustice, has been laid to rest in his home town of Houston, Texas. At his funeral service, the veteran civil rights campaigner the Rev Al Sharpton, said that once marchers for racial justice were black, but today they are also white, hispanics and Asians. He said all the nations know the name of George Floyd, who was born in a stable. He asked: “Can any good thing come out of a tragedy like this?”.

The reaction to George Floyd’s death is causing turmoil in the American church. President Trump’s action in posing for pictures while holding the Bible in front of St John’s church, opposite the White House, has been praised by his faith advisers who said he did the right thing.  Among them, Billy Graham’s son Franklin Graham, who said: “Offended? Not at all. This made an important statement that what took place the night before in the burning, looting, and vandalism of the nation’s capital—including this historic house of worship—mattered, and that the lawlessness had to end.”

The Southern Baptist Convention President, Pastor James David Greear, called for members of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination to declare that “black lives matter.” In a speech which should have marked the church’s annual meeting but was instead delivered on social media, he said: “We need our brothers and sisters of colour. We know that many in our country, particularly our brothers and sisters of colour right now, are hurting. Southern Baptists, we need to say it clearly: As a gospel issue, black lives matter. Of course, black lives matter. Our black brothers and sisters are made in the image of God.”

In the UK, the Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, in whose city the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was razed to the ground, told Premier Christian radio of his abhorrence at the views coming out of America. Mr Rees, a Christian of African descent, said that he is proud of the way some churches have responded to racism, but with others he is left thinking “is this the same faith?”. He said:  “We’re supposed to go out there and tell the truth. That doesn’t mean go out there to be offensive. It means going out there and telling the truth. It means being a voice for the voiceless, the dispossessed, and the marginalised.”

In other news:

The Faith Minister, Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, has said collective worship in England cannot start again until 4 July at the earliest. The government is working on guidance which will enable faith groups to open up once the green light has been given.  He told a Religion Media Centre zoom briefing on Tuesday that discussions over opening places of worship had been difficult but the partial opening for private prayer on 15 June was a great achievement and the government sees the importance of faith as absolutely critical to this country. Full report here.

Martin Gugino, the 75-year-old American man pushed to the ground by police officers at a protest against racial injustice in Buffalo, New York State, was part of the Catholic Worker Movement and a veteran peace protester. Film of the event went viral and showed him falling backwards with blood pouring from a head wound while officers marched forward. After two officers were charged with assault and suspended, all 57 members of the Police Emergency Response Team resigned from their unit in solidarity.  President Trump has now tweeted that Martin Gugino ‘fell harder than he was pushed’ and could be an ANTIFA (anti fascist) provocateur. The New York Mayor Andrew Cuomo told Trump to apologise, saying his comments were ‘reprehensible and dumb’. Mr Gugino suffered a head injury and is serious and stable in hospital.

The Dalai Lama has released an album ‘Inner World’ with a mantra set to music. He recites the mantra of the Buddha of Compassion which is said to “open our hearts and bring us closer to others, to feel love and compassion through wisdom, generating a desire to help”.  The album has been created by a student of the Dalai Lama, Junelle Kunin, who spent five years working with a small team to bring it to life. The music was composed by her husband, producer and songwriter, Abraham Kunin.  More than 30 instruments are played by musicians from around the world. In the words of His Holiness:  “Music has the potential to transcend our differences. It can return us to our true nature of good-heartedness”.