Religion News 8 June

As anti racism demonstrations continued in towns and cities throughout the UK this weekend, the Bishop of Bristol Vivienne Faull has spoken of the profound significance of the toppling of the slave trader Edward Colston’s statue in the city. He was a prominent 17th Century slave trader whose  name and legacy is on many Bristol streets, memorials and buildings. In a tweet, the bishop said “The symbolism of this is profound. The old order is changing (and not just in Bristol).”

This weekend, the Church of England’s most prominent black bishop, Dr John Sentamu, retired after 15 years as Archbishop of York and 41 years ministry. This leaves no black bishops in senior ranks. The former CofE communications director, the Rev Arun Arora, reflected in the Guardian that the “monochrome nature of the senior leadership” of the church looks “perilously archaic”, especially when compared to the cabinet which has black and minority ethnic people in two of the four highest offices of state and others in ministerial jobs.

Dr John Sentamu’s retirement was marked by a virtual church service broadcast on all BBC local radio stations, where he said: “I have lived through the Idi Amin brutality in Uganda, salmonella poisoning, a burst appendix, prostate cancer and three serious operations.” His daughter and wife, both ordained, took part in the service. His successor is Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford.

The government has announced that places of worship may open for private prayer from Monday June 15th – two weeks earlier than previously suggested. The announcement – at 11pm on Saturday – followed lobbying from faith groups concerned that the original plan to open in July alongside nail bars and hairdressers, showed no understanding of the importance of sacred places in the lives of millions of people. But the decision is still subject to guidance from religious organisations. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales, who was a vocal campaigner for earlier opening, said care and guidance were still needed and not every Catholic church would be open on 15 June. Imam Qari Asim, chairman of the Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), has called on mosques not to reopen until it is safe to do so and they are able to hold congregational prayers. Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said communities needed “unambiguous guidance” so they could ensure the safety of everyone. Services and weddings will still be banned under the measures, which will be outlined to the cabinet on Tuesday. Private worship is already allowed in Northern Ireland, but Scotland and Wales have not yet taken this decision.

The Dean of Rochester Cathedral, Philip Heskett  has lit 1,184 candles in the shape of a cross, representing every person who has died because of coronavirus in Medway and the county of Kent in the last 3 months.  In a video, he said that as the country comes out of lockdown, it is important to remember precious lives lost.

Sikhs have been remembering the 36th anniversary of the assault on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984, when pilgrims had assembled to commemorate the martyrdom of their fifth guru, Guru Arjan Sahib. The Indian army said it was a counter terrorism operation to eject Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his followers, but Operation Bluestar resulted in thousands of deaths. A small demonstration was held in London to commemorate the event. The Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi has called for an independent judge-led public inquiry into the United Kingdom’s involvement in the massacre.The Labour MP Preet Kaur Gill said on twitter that many are still seeking truth and justice.