Religion news 10 December

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Places of worship gear up for vaccination roll out

Cathedrals and churches are preparing to become Covid-19 vaccination centres as the vaccine begins its rollout across the UK. Lichfield and Blackburn cathedrals are among the first and are both in areas of high incidence of the virus. In Blackburn, the undercroft and crypt area will be a vaccination centre for an estimated 12- 14 months from December. This will enable it to offer vaccinations 12 hours a day, seven days a week to up to 1,700 people per week. The Church of England has issued guidance to churches called upon to join the national effort. It says attention needs to be paid to details such as access, space, sanitation and water supply, and as this is using a church building for a different use, special permission may be required from the church and local authorities.

Religious ideas manipulated against Covid-19 vaccine

While the Covid-19 vaccine is intended for everyone, a YouGov survey indicates 20% in the UK may not take it up. In a Religion Media Centre briefing, academics explored the religious origin of the anti vax movement, which often starts among people on the margins of society.  Dr Eric Stoddart, of St Andrews University, said fundamentalist evangelical and Pentecostal groups, who believe society is run by spiritual powers opposed to God, distrust anything from the state, including scientific advice. Similar distrust comes from faith groups with strict dietary laws, who are suspicious when told certain animal products are not used in the vaccine development. Dr Muhammad Munir, a bio medical scientist outlined eight reasons for resistance and said that only communicating the truth could deal with fear.

Government under fire over ‘strong-arm’ tactics to impose antisemitism definition

A heated debate has broken out over the education secretary’s attempt to force universities to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism by the end of this year.  The definition says antisemitism may be expressed as hatred, and lists contemporary examples including “claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour”. While some Jewish community organisations have welcomed the move, Yair Wallach from SOAS is among several academics to have expressed concern that it is bad for academic freedom and while it protects Israel,  it’s not clear it protects Jews”.  Only 29 out of 133 universities have taken up the definition. Full story here

French crackdown on radical Islam outlaws forced marriage and polygamy

The French government is continuing its moves against radical Islam in opposition to the republic, with a draft bill denying residency in France for people with polygamous or forced marriages.  The proposed legislation follows the beheading of a schoolteacher in Paris and the killing of three people at a church in Nice. The French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the government’s presonse was against a separatist ambition to make religious norms predominate over the law. In addition, home schooling will be allowed for special cases only.

Nigeria one of the worst offending countries for religious freedom

Sam Brownback, the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, has announced that Nigeria has joined the list of countries with bad records for religious freedom. He said there is an increasing number of organized terrorist groups and “a lot of religious-tinged violence”, with inadequate government response. Nigeria is split almost 50:50 between the Muslim north and Christian south and is a secular democracy. He admitted that he did not add India to the list, despite a recommendation because of its citizenship act which discriminates against Muslims. And Sudan, which has repealed an apostasy law, has been removed. The nations in the frame are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

Deadline for Government’s faith engagement review

Today is the last day to fill out a form in the Government’s Faith Engagement review. Organised by faith engagement adviser, Colin Bloom, this consultation seeks views on how those of all faiths, or none, perceive the government’s engagement with faith organisations. It covers ideas on faith groups acting in the community as a force for good, how to combat harmful practices or ideas, and whether people agree there is a need for greater religious literacy.

Bake- Off winner’s Methodist church still waiting for Christmas pudding cake

Peter Sawkins, who at the age of 20 was the youngest ever Bake-Off winner, is a member of Edinburgh City Methodist church, where his family still worships. The youth leader, who has seen him grow up, says there is a swell of support for this “lovely young man”. Speaking on a Methodist church podcast, she said she was unaware of his talent until the contest. But now she is dropping unsubtle hints that she is waiting to try his Christmas pudding cake and she doesn’t care if she has to wait until April to taste it. “Peter is a joy to be around. Funny, down to earth, bright, intelligent, a genuinely lovely young man” – and a Methodist.

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