Religion news 20 July

Image credit: BBC 'The Andrew Marr show'

Uyghurs – no such thing as concentration camps

China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, has said that there is no such thing as concentration camps for the mainly Muslim Uyghur people. A film on twitter, taken by a drone, appears to show hundreds of Uyghurs blindfolded and herded onto trains. The ambassador told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme that he did not know what the video was showing and suggested “sometimes you have a transfer of prisoners, in any country”.  

The plight of the Uyghur people has hit the headlines with particular force in the last month with news of the US seizing a ship from China loaded with 13 tons of human hair, thought to be from the Uyghurs and renewed reports of enforced sterilisation to reduce the population. The detention of up to one million Uyghurs in China in re-education camps has been widely known and reported.

Now a group of lawyers representing Turkestan groups, frustrated at the failure of political action, is taking a case to the International Criminal Court demanding an investigation into Chinese leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity. The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, a group of senior politicians from several countries, is calling on the United Nations to launch an investigation. In the UK, the foreign secretary Dominic Raab, has accused China of “gross and egregious” human rights abuses against the Uyghurs and said sanctions against those responsible could not be ruled out.

Anglican clergy contemplate suicide due to “toxic” church disciplinary measure

A report into the way clergy are disciplined within the Church of England, is proposing a complete replacement to the existing “flawed” Clergy Discipline Measure. Published at the end of last week, the report surveyed one third of all clergy.  It found the disciplinary process had been so traumatic that one third of those surveyed who had been subject to the process, had thought of committing suicide. Two thirds who had been accused, were found to be innocent. The independent report was completed by Dr Carl Senior at Aston University, and Dr Sarah Horsman, Warden of Sheldon, an independent retreat centre for people in ministry. They concluded that clergy do not trust the process, and the way cases have been handled had contributed to toxic effects in relationships at many levels of church life. The Church Times reports that the Bishop at Lambeth Tim Thornton responded that he is  “committed to replacing the CDM Measure with a new process”. 

Coronaspection: 40 Global religious leaders offer wisdom on coronavirus lessons

The coronavirus pandemic has touched our deepest fears and created a need for hope, wisdom, vision and direction, which religious leaders can give. That’s the view of the Elijah Interfaith Institute in Jerusalem, which has created an online library of interviews with 40 religious leaders from all traditions and all countries, offering thoughts on the challenges posed by the coronavirus. The collection of introspective responses “Coronaspection” shows some saw the pandemic as a test from God, others not. Pope Francis cautioned against suggesting God was using the virus to judge humanity. “It is not the time of God’s judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away”. The Elijah Institute was set up in 1997 by Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein to foster unity in diversity. He has pulled together the insights into a book  “Coronaspection: World Religious Leaders Reflect on COVID-19”.

Appeal to allow Eid celebrations at Croke Park

A plan to use the Croke Park stadium in Dublin for the Eid celebrations in July, has been thrown into disarray after the Irish government extended limits on outdoor gatherings until 10 August. The Irish Times reports that  the Irish Muslim & Peace Integration Council is pleading with the Taoiseach Micheál Martin to allow the celebrations to go ahead.  Shaykh Umar al-Qadri said an exemption had recently been granted to churches and mosques to allow up to 100 people to gather, so long as social distancing rules were observed. And he is asking for another similar exemption to enable the Eid plans to go ahead. The Croke Park event was intended to attract 500 Muslims from all parts of Ireland.

Nantes Cathedral damaged by fire

Fire has destroyed the organ at Nantes Cathedral in France, and severely damaged the 16th century rose window.  The fire broke out in the early hours of Saturday morning and local officials say it appears to have started in three separate locations and is being investigated as possible arson. The French president Emmanuel Macron said the cathedral was a Gothic gem of the city of the Dukes. 

US religion “will be over”

President Donald Trump has said that if his presidential opponent Joe Biden wins, “religion will be over”. He said “Look at what they’re doing to the churches. They won’t let churches even open if they want to stand in a field six feet apart”. He said any measures proposed against abortion would go. “You can forget about life”, he said.  He was speaking in an interview with Fox News, aired yesterday, when he dismissed a Fox news poll showing he was 8 points behind Biden, as fake.