Religion news 10 January 2022

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Image credit: Pxhere CC0 public domain

Jerusalem church leaders accuse radical Israeli fringe groups of threatening their existence

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, has accused radical Israeli groups of threatening the presence of Christians in the city. In the Saturday edition of The Times, Theophilos III said he believed the aim was to drive the Christian community from Jerusalem’s Old City. “Our churches are threatened by Israeli radical fringe groups,” he said. “At the hands of these Zionist extremists the Christian community in Jerusalem is suffering greatly. Our brothers and sisters are the victims of hate crimes. Our churches are regularly desecrated and vandalised. Our clergy are subject to frequent intimidation. The sworn intent of these radical groups is to extinguish the light of the Christian community from the Old City.”

BBC accelerates complaints process over antisemitic bus attack story

The culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, has questioned the BBC’s complaints process in the row over its report of an antisemitic attack against Jews celebrating Hanukkah, while traveling through central London on a bus. The BBC reported that a slur about Muslims had been heard from inside the bus, a claim hotly disputed and taken up by the Board of Deputies. The Guardian reports that the BBC director-general has instructed that the complaints process is accelerated to the executive complaints unit, which is editorially independent from news and “will ensure complaints are fully responded to as swiftly as possible”.

Religious leaders appeal for calm in Kazakhstan

Religious leaders have united in calls for peace in Kazakhstan after protests claimed the lives of 160 people. Kazakhstan is a secular state with a population 70 per cent Muslim and 26 per cent Christian. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has called for the cessation of violence. The Pope has called for an end to the unrest and evangelical leaders urged the government to de-escalate the unrest and citizens to express their grievances peacefully.

400-year-old Reformed Church in America splits over same-sex marriage

The Religion News Service reports that 43 congregations of the Reformed Church in America, one of the oldest Protestant bodies in the United States, have broken away in part over theological differences on same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ+ clergy. The conservative breakaway group has formed the Alliance of Reformed Churches which is attracting support from at least 125 traditionalist churches in other denominations. The Reformed Church is 400 years old, has fewer than 200,000 members and 1,000 churches.

Australian states rebel against religious discrimination bill

In Australia, the federal religious discrimination bill is causing concern to state governments, while it is considered by two parliamentary inquiries during the summer recess. The New South Wales and Tasmanian state Liberal governments fear it will override their anti-discrimination laws. The proposed legislation seeks to ensure that statements of belief may not be considered discriminatory, as long as they do not threaten, intimidate, harass or vilify a person. The bill follows the 2018 sacking of the rugby player Israel Folou after he said LGBTQ+ people should repent or risk going to hell. He later denied he was homophobic. Inquiries into the bill will report back on 4 February before parliament resumes, but the proposal is struggling to win support. The Guardian‘s story here

Catholic charity reinstated by Facebook

The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, has been reinstated on Facebook after a ban two months ago when it launched a campaign calling on the government and the United Nations to help Christian and other minority faith women suffering sexual violence. The charity told Premier Christian News it had no idea why restrictions were placed upon it. Premier quotes a statement from Meta / Facebook issued in December saying payment issues were the cause of the restriction, but Aid to the Church in Need denies this.

The plough and the Thames blessed this weekend

The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, has blessed the plough of a farmer in East Sussex in a tradition to mark the start of the farming year. Plough Sunday is an old English celebration where parishioners and members of the agricultural community mark the start of the agricultural year, after fields have been left fallow. Also yesterday, clergy and parishioners from St Magnus the Martyr Church and Southwark Cathedral met on London Bridge to throw a cross into the River Thames as an ancient ritual of blessing for all who work there and enjoy its waters.

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