Religion news 10 March 2022

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Femi Badenoch and London church leaders. Image credit: DLCH Gov UK

Ukraine headlines:

A maternity ward and children’s ward destroyed in a Russian airstrike on a hospital in Mariupol, with reports of many dead and injured; The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky says this is a war crime; 12-hour ceasefire allows civilians to leave six cities, but the humanitarian route out of Mariupol is shelled again and people are stuck; Ukraine says former nuclear plant at Chernobyl has lost its power supply to cool spent fuel, raising fears of radiation leaks

Faith leaders urge government to change visa rules

The Independent reports that the London Christian leaders, including Cardinal Vincent Nichols, have written an open letter to the prime minister urging him to extend the visa programme to all Ukrainian refugees as a matter of urgency. The letter criticised the visa forms process as a bureaucratic obstacle, impossible for mothers with young children and vulnerable adults to complete in a language foreign to them. It called for the family sponsorship scheme to be extended to all Ukrainian refugees on humanitarian grounds

Faith minister meets London church leaders supporting Ukraine

Faith leaders in London met the faith minister Kemi Badenoch at the Ukrainian Catholic church in Mayfair, to show support for Ukraine. The minister praised the church and other faith communities for their role at the heart of humanitarian efforts for refugees, saying: “I stand together with faith leaders in calling for peace and offering our full support.”

Prince Charles praises church refugee response

Prince Charles visited the refugee response programme at St Luke’s church in Earls Court, telling refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iran and Iraq that the UK was “lucky to have you”. The church, part of Holy Trinity Brompton, hosts groups for women and children, language classes and employability clinics. The prince said this country had enormous skills shortages and they could bring enormous benefit.

Bishop: asylum bill changes may prevent Russian dissidents finding refuge in UK

The Bishop of Chelmsford, Guli Francis-Dehqani, has warned that the government’s proposed changes to asylum laws must protect Russian dissidents in fear of their lives. Speaking in a Lords debate on the Borders and Nationality Bill, she warned that proposed additional costs and barriers to obtaining a visa may inadvertently hurt people seeking to escape authoritarian regimes. She said that in her childhood, she was a refugee from Iran, but was quickly accepted as a refugee warmly welcomed in the UK. She could not help wonder if such an opportunity would be possible under the proposed changes.

The Refugee Council says that when the bill goes back to the Commons, it hopes that the plight of Ukrainian refugees may force a change of heart on contentious clauses, such as treating people differently if they come to the UK on small boats; using offshore detention centres and allowing refugees to work while awaiting the outcome of their application.

UK communities in solidarity with Ukraine

A candlelit vigil will be held in Douglas on the Isle of Man this evening (Thursday) against a backdrop of lights in blue and yellow, to support the people of Ukraine.

A single bell at St Andrew’s Church in Yardley Hastings, near Northampton, is being rung 30 times each night, one for each year of Ukraine’s independence since the break-up of the USSR.

Other news

Rising fuel costs will have monumental impact on churches

Premier Christian News reports that a Christian bank, “Kingdom Bank”, predicts that rising energy bills could have a “monumental effect on churches”. The Bank calculates that churches may face a greater financial challenge than in the covid pandemic, as churchgoers have less spare cash to give and the cost of heating church buildings soars.

Jewish and Muslim school students meet for first interfaith workshop

Jewish News reports that pupils from five Jewish and Muslim faith schools came together for a one-day interfaith workshop, believed to be the first event of its kind in the UK. It was organised and hosted by the Office of the Chief Rabbi in partnership with the Naz Legacy Foundation, aiming to promote engagement and understanding between young British Jews and Muslims. There were sessions on antisemitism, Islamophobia and the rise in online prejudice.

LGBTQ+ author banned from Catholic school

Simon James Green, the author of books for children and young adults often featuring LGBTQ+ characters, has been banned from visiting the Roman Catholic John Fisher boys’ school in Purley, south London. It followed complaints from the school’s chaplain and a campaign by the conservative group Catholic Truth. The Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark backed the ban, saying the visit was outside the scope of what was permissible in a Catholic school, then it removed a number of governors who wanted the visit to go ahead. Simon James Green told The Guardian that he did not think this sort of thing could happen in the UK today.

Scottish first minister apologises over women persecuted as witches

Nicola Sturgeon has issued a formal apology to 4,000 women accused of being witches in Scotland 250 years ago. She said there was injustice on a colossal scale for women who, from from 1563 to 1736, were accused, convicted, vilified or executed under the Scottish Witchcraft Act.

Female spiritual beings exhibition at the British Museum

The British Museum will open an exhibition exploring female spiritual beings later this year, with the title “Feminine Power: The Divine To The Demonic”. The Independent reports that it will include a contemporary icon of the Hindu goddess Kali, ancient sculptures, sacred artefacts and contemporary art.

Vicar sacked for conducting baptism in boxer shorts

A vicar in Herefordshire who stripped to his boxer shorts for a baptism of full immersion has been sacked from his job and banned from holding office for six months. The Rev Clive Evans, of St Peter’s Church Bromyard and St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Stoke Lacy, a former barrister, was found by a church tribunal to have acted inappropriately.

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