Religion news 1 October 2021

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Global hostilities involving religion fall to the lowest level in five years

Terrorism and mob violence involving religion around the world declined in 2019 to the lowest level in five years, while government restrictions on religion remained at a peak. Pew Research Center’s 12th annual global study of restrictions on religion found that this was partly due to a decrease in reports. However, government restrictions, such as interference in worship or detaining individuals for practising their faith stayed at a record high. The study says governments in 180 countries harassed religious groups in some way in 2019 and 163 interfered in worship.

California man gets life sentence for fatal synagogue attack

 A 22-year-old former nursing student has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing one worshipper and wounding three others with a semi-automatic rifle in a Southern California synagogue on the last day of Passover in 2019. Associated Press reports that an agreement with prosecutors spared John T. Earnest the death penalty, but the hearing gave victims and families their first opportunity to address the killer directly during victim-impact statements in San Diego Superior Court.

New appointments to Independent Safeguarding Board

Dr Maggie Atkinson, a former children’s commissioner for England, has been appointed to chair the new Independent Safeguarding Board that oversees the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team. Lambeth Palace says she will provide expert recommendations to enable the CofE to embed a proactive, preventative, safer culture, and ensure the church is held publicly accountable for any failure to respond to the board’s recommendations. Jasvinder Sanghera, who founded Karma Nirvana, a charity that supports “honour” abuse victims, and who chairs the Leeds Children Safeguarding Partnership, is the board’s new survivor advocate. She will ensure that the experiences and views of victims and survivors are heard and embedded within the safeguarding policy and practice development frameworks.

Campaign to save historic parsonages also seeks to preserve the Book of Common Prayer

The Save Our Parsonages campaign, established in 1995 to encourage the Church of England to preserve rectories and vicarages, has added the Book of Common Prayer to the historic assets it is keen to protect. It has joined the Prayer Book Society in its aim to rediscover the 1662 prayer book at the heart of the church’s worship. Campaigners say both groups are seeking to safeguard the CofE’s traditions and counter moves towards being “trendy and relevant”.

Conversion therapy report recommends ban on prayer to change gender identity

A report on conversion therapy, written by senior human rights experts, MPs and community leaders, recommends that acts of prayer with the purpose of seeking to suppress, “cure” or change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity must be banned. Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, who chairs the Cooper Report, said: “We see criminalisation as essential when dealing with human rights abuses, as this draws a clear line as to what acts will and will not be tolerated in a civilised society. This should sit alongside new civil law measures, such as protection order.” The report is launched days after the government announced a delay to the publication of its public consultation on conversion practices, to allow for more consultation.

Bishop calls for DNA tests and physical checks as transsexuals ‘infiltrate’ seminaries

Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee in the United States, says bishops should order physical examinations or DNA tests for candidates for the priesthood, after reports that transsexual women are presenting themselves as men to “infiltrate” Catholic seminaries. The Catholic Herald says the advice came in a memo to members of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Archbishop Listecki, who is chairman of the conference’s canonical affairs committee, said: “In all instances, nothing in these individuals’ medical or psychological reports had signalled past treatments or pertinent surgeries.”

Ex-trans Christian defends evangelical training event after Oxford college’s apology

A Christian woman, who lived as a transgender man before de-transitioning, has defended an evangelical training event held at Worcester College, Oxford, where she recounted her story. The event run by the Wilberforce Academy, part of Christian Concern, caused controversy after students complained about the attendance of a conversion therapist and about its stance on Islam. Worcester College apologised for hosting it. Student Libby Littlewood told The Oxford Tab that the conference was misunderstood and was “an opportunity to share our experiences, which are so often silenced by one-sided politics and public intolerance”.

Bible translated into more languages than ever before, despite the pandemic

One new translation of the Bible was launched every week during the pandemic, according to Wycliffe Bible Translators. It says the Bible is now translated into 717 languages, almost 10 per cent of the number of languages spoken in the world and an increase of 13 languages on last year. Wycliffe Executive director James Pool told Premier Christian News that the hope is for 95 per cent of the world’s population to have the Bible in the next 10 to 15 years.


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