Religion news 10 June 2024

Peter Kerridge. Image credit: Premier

Premier’s CEO, Peter Kerridge, has died at the age of 63

Peter Kerridge, who developed Premier Christian radio into what is said to be Europe’s largest Christian media organisation, has died aged 63, after suffering from acute leukaemia. Born into a Baptist family in Gateshead, he started his radio career as a football reporter for hospital radio, then studied theology and was called into the ministry, serving a church in Essex. His freelance presenter role at Essex Radio led to an appointment as head of radio development for the Essex Radio Group and then in 1995 he became managing director of Premier. In a tribute, Premier said its “digital first” ethos was a key hallmark of his leadership. And the former chair of trustees, Roger Bolton, said: “Peter could not stop having ideas. They tumbled out of him, all delivered with a chuckle in that gorgeous warm Geordie accent. He was his own man, utterly committed to his Christian faith and to Premier”. Peter Kerridge passed away on Saturday morning and is survived by his wife, Karen, and their two sons.

Vatican conference calls for new global platform for religious freedom

A high-level conference on religious freedom and human development has been held at the Vatican, involving 60 academics from 19 countries, the Vatican, the United Nations and the Order of Malta, a global lay religious order which co-organised the event.  It called for a new global platform to research and campaign for religious freedom.  Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican secretary for relations with states and international organizations, told the conference that according to some estimates, almost 4.9 billion people live in countries with serious violations of religious freedom.  Yet this freedom is arguably fundamental to all human rights, because it revolves around the freedom of conscience.  He said more than 365 million Christians, approximately 1 in 7, face high levels of persecution, increasing significantly in 2023. He appealed to nation states to be neutral, granting religious groups and individuals an equal right to the public manifestation of their religious convictions. Other speakers argued that the right to religious freedom is not as determinative and decisive as it could be, and needed to be grounded within a wider framework of “integral human development”, something that should not rest on economic factors alone. Video of the event will be streamed by the Vatican on Tuesday 18 June, at 1400 BST. Vatican news story here

Interfaith business network set up in Ireland

An interfaith business network has been founded in Ireland, in a project led by American Brian Grim, founding president of the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation. Networks have already been set up in the US and UK, aimed at making workplaces religiously inclusive. The Ireland initiative was hosted by Servicenow, which helps organisations use AI. It has reached consistently high scores in the REDI index which measures activity on religious equity, diversity and inclusion, running an interfaith group which explains and observes religious festivals from many traditions represented among the staff. Other companies attracted to the inaugural meeting included Citigroup, PayPal, Accenture, Bluebird Care and public sector employers including the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Scottish Episcopal Church overspends due to bishop investigation

The Times reports an overspend in the budget of the Scottish Episcopal Church arising out of the legal process and investigation into Rt Rev Anne Dyer, who was suspended as the Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney in 2022. The overspend is outlined in the church’s annual report: “The single largest area of overspend relates to the costs involved in the ongoing Canon 54 process in the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney.  Legal and other related fees incurred in the years were in the region of £325,000 and in excess of the anticipated costs for the process which has not yet been concluded”. Her suspension follows complaints including bullying, “likely to bring the church into disrepute” and she faces a church disciplinary tribunal in September. Her spokesperson told The Times: “Bishop Anne is confident that, once all the facts are presented, she will have clearly established her innocence as well as the motivation of the small group of individuals who have campaigned against her.” Times story is here

Ancient Christian manuscripts expected to fetch £2-3million at auction

Christies is due to auction early Christian texts from Egypt, known as the Crosby-Schøyen Codex, which may fetch between £2 – 3 million. The manuscripts are among the oldest in the world, dating from the 3rd and 4th century and were written by a monk for celebrations of Easter by monastic communities.  Written in Coptic, they were found in a jar buried in sand in 1952. Texts include sections from Jonah, II Maccabees, I Peter and a homily on Passover. After their discovery, they were sold several times including to the University of Mississippi, from a donation by Lucius Olen and Margaret Reed Crosby. Eventually they were bought in 1988 by a Norwegian private collector, Martin Schøyen. They are one of his 61 manuscripts up for sale. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme, Eugenio Donadoni, from Christies, said the text was of huge significance, giving insight into early Christian thought. The auction is tomorrow, 11 June.

The Mandean story of survival in diaspora

The Guardian reports the survival of the Mandaeans, who believe John the Baptist was the last prophet, and who have been dispersed throughout the world since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Mandaeans’ origin is contested, with evidence of history in Palestine and southern Iraq, where they settled. But 85 per cent of the Mandean population of 70,000 in Iraq have gone elsewhere – Syria, Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States, where a large community have settled near Detroit. The article profiled the Darwish family, who fled Iraq after their business was ransacked and they were threatened with kidnapping. Now they run a jewellery shop and the children are going through the US education system.  They observe ancient customs, the festival of new year, baptism, daily prayer, weekly worship at the “Mandi” and they are maintaining their knowledge of the Mandean language. There are 80 associations worldwide and six Mandean schools in different countries.

Statue of Hindu saint to be sent back from Oxford to India

Oxford University is handing back a 500-year-old sculpture of a Hindu saint to India. Tirumankai Alvar was a Tamil poet and saint from south India and his statue, dating from the 16th century and believed to be looted from an Indian temple, has been on display at the Ashmolean Museum. It says: “On 11 March 2024 the council of the University of Oxford supported a claim from the Indian high commission for the return of a 16th-century bronze sculpture of saint Tirumankai Alvar from the Ashmolean Museum. This decision will now be submitted to the Charity Commission for approval.”

Has the Pope got news for you

Reuters reports that the Pope is hosting more than 100 comedians at the Vatican, moments before he heads off for the G7 summit in Puglia, southern Italy. The report says Pope Francis regularly prays “Lord, give me a sense of humour”, and will welcome Whoopi Goldberg, Ian Hislop and Stephen Merchant among 100 entertainers at the Vatican on Friday 14 June. In serious mode, the Vatican said the Pope “recognises the significant impact that the art of comedy has on the world of contemporary culture” and aims to “celebrate the beauty of human diversity and to promote a message of peace, love and solidarity”. Whoopi Goldberg said in an interview last month that she had offered the pope a cameo in “Sister Act 3”, and he said he would see what his time was like. Reuters report here


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