Religion news 10 September

Image credit: Catholic News Service

Priests told to ignore secrecy of confessional in child sex abuse cases or face jail

Roman Catholic priests in Queensland are being forced by law to break the seal of confession and report child sexual abuse cases or face three years in jail.  New laws were passed by Queensland’s Parliament this week, despite protests from the church. Brisbane’s Roman Catholic Archbishop, Mark Coleridge, said in a submission that the laws would fail to make children safer: “Clergy have died because they have refused to submit to the claims of the state and preferred to defend the rights of the penitent before God and the rights of God before the penitent. This legislation is bound to fail in this regard.” The bill was brought before the parliament after a recommendation from the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

Church of England condemns destruction of aboriginal site by Rio Tinto Zinc

The Church of England has joined the condemnation of the mining company Rio Tinto Zinc, for destroying a 46,000 year old aboriginal site in Australia in pursuit of iron ore. The company’s board meets today (Thursday) and there are calls for the CEO to resign. The church’s pension fund has a stake in the company and its director of ethics and engagement, Adam Matthews, told the BBC that the board’s response would be a test of growing outrage among investors. He said the action displayed an attitude which had led to indigenous communities being blighted throughout the world. Rio Tinto Zinc has said the destruction should not have happened. It “deeply regrets the events at Juukan Gorge” and has apologised to the Aboriginal communities.

Call for China to be held accountable for human rights abuses

A coalition of 321 civil society organisations from 60 countries is calling on the UN Human Rights Council to take tougher action against China for violations including the incarceration of Uyghur Muslims in the north west of the country. The council is due to meet next week. In an open letter, they called for China to be held accountable for “rampant human rights violations” in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang.

European rabbis welcome TikTok’s commitment to tackle hate speech

The Conference of European Rabbis has welcomed the decision by the owners of the social media platform TikTok, to join the European Union’s Code of Conduct against illegal online hate speech. The Jewish News reports that Conference president said the platform had allowed discriminatory and bigoted views without any consequences, and a collaborative approach from all tech giants, including Facebook and Twitter, was needed to stem the promotion of hate speech. The Jerusalem Post said Israeli government officials met senior TikTok representatives this week to explore more effective ways to combat hate speech, antisemitism and incitement, including an educational programme for young people.

Faith and Belief Forum launches another “ParliaMentors” scheme

The Faith and Belief Forum, which works to build good relations between people of all faiths and beliefs, has launched this year’s “ParliaMentors” programme to develop young leaders. Teams of university students of different faiths and non-religious beliefs, gather together to create social change projects. They gain insight into the political process through being mentored by MPs and peers; and they develop leadership skills through training workshops and events. More than 500 people have gone through the programme since 2007. This year’s mentors include MPs William Wragg and Preet Kaur Gill.

Greek text shows surprisingly open minded approach of early Christians

The oldest known manuscript of the Greek New Testament, with commentary and Biblical text, has been revealed using multi spectral imaging. It shows that “heretical” and orthodox thinkers had their commentaries running side by side, which scholars suggest shows that the early church was, at least, open minded.  The Telegraph reports that the technique involved uncovering the original script from the 8th century, which had been superimposed with new words 400 years later. The researchers found 38 extracts from an early church father who questioned whether Jesus Christ could be both God and man.  The project was led by Professors David Parker and Hugh Houghton at the University of Birmingham, who have produced a full digital edition of the manuscript.