Religion news 11 January 2022

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Pope Francis warns against cancel culture

Pope Francis has warned that the rise of cancel culture is a form of “ideological colonisation”, leaving no room for freedom of expression. In his annual address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See from 183 countries, he said cultural roots were being undermined by re-writing history against today’s standards, whereas events must be interpreted according to their context. Under the guise of defending diversity, this risked cancelling all sense of identity with “one track thinking”, which silenced positions that respected and understood sensibilities, he said. In a wide-ranging speech, he spoke of healthcare as a moral obligation and urged the international community to develop a coordinated response to Covid-19 vaccine distribution, ensuring that the world population had equal access. Baseless information, poorly documented facts and ideological divides had prevented people from getting the vaccine, he warned. Much remained to be done on climate change, he said, declaring that the steps made at Cop26 were “rather weak in light of the gravity of the problem faced.” Mentioning all countries experiencing war and conflict, he also said there was profound inequality and injustice, endemic corruption and poverty on the American continent, with growing polarization between rich and poor.

Archbishop: Social care is a community obligation not just about cash

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called for a new “covenant” on social care between the state and the people, similar to the NHS and education. In an interview with The Guardian, he said social care should be regarded as a community obligation, with value and dignity the top priorities: “There isn’t a clear vision for care. We know the vision for the NHS: ‘free care at the point of use’. You can sum it up in a sentence … We keep putting the cart before the horse. We keep talking about how we are going to pay for it when we don’t really know what we want to pay for.” The government is proposing a cap on care costs to prevent most people from having to sell their homes, but critics say this will adversely affect poorer people.

Love your neighbour during the Covid pandemic

In an interview with Radio 4’s Today programme, Archbishop Welby called for everyone in society to look after, comfort and love their neighbour as people grieve the deaths of loved ones from Covid-19. As the number of deaths passed 150,000, the archbishop said every loss was a profound tragedy. There was a need for some kind of national symbol for those who have died, such as one that developed spontaneously on the south of the River Thames, where names have been placed on a long stretch of a wall. He also revealed he is against compulsory vaccinations, saying he favoured encouraging people to get the vaccine.

Bishop welcomes moves to remove dangerous cladding from flats

The Bishop of Kensington, Graham Tomlin, whose area includes Grenfell Tower, has welcomed the government’s move to get property developers to remove dangerous cladding which still surrounds blocks of flats. The Bishop has campaigned for safer housing since the tragedy of the Grenfell fire which cost 72 lives. He told Premier Christian radio that the move was a step in the right direction, but there had been a long history of cutting corners within the construction industry and problems remained with fire doors that didn’t work, combustible insulation and missing cavity fire breaks.

Religious opposition to nationality and borders bill gathers pace

Three Anglican bishops — London, Chelmsford and Durham — have expressed deep concern over the Nationality and Borders Bill which is progressing through parliament. In a debate in the Lords, the Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, said there was no evidence it would succeed in limiting the number of refugees wanting to settle in the UK. They join more than 100 religious and civic groups protesting against the bill, and the campaign group JPIT, which represents the three largest Protestant denominations in the UK — Baptists, Methodists and the URC. Campaigners say the bill would make it possible to withdraw British citizenship without a person knowing, which they fear will make ethnic minorities second class citizens. The bill would make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission, and JPIT says this may associate asylum seekers with criminality which will heighten suspicion against them.

HSBC linked to company implicated in Uyghur Muslim atrocities

The Sunday Times has revealed that the HSBC bank holds more than £2m shares in Xinjiang Tianye, a chemicals and plastics company and subsidiary of a Chinese state company connected with human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims. The report says HSBC received money while acting as a custodian for the shares. HSBC is quoted saying it had complied with all relevant rules and sanctions legislation.

A third of the British public distrust clergy

An annual “veracity poll” conducted by Ipsos MORI indicates that 58 per cent of the public trust clergy, this is 2 per cent up on the previous year, with 32 per cent distrusting them. They rank 15th out of 30 in the poll. Nurses, librarians and doctors take the top three places. Trust in journalists has risen from last year, although they remain in Britain’s five least-trusted professions with 28 per cent saying they trust them to tell the truth and almost two-thirds (63 per cent) saying they do not. The trust score is, however, a five percentage-point increase from 2020 and is nine points above the level in 1983. Ipsos MORI interviewed 2,000 British adults in October and November. This is the 24th such annual survey and is analysed by British Religion in Numbers.

Robotic skeleton aids Buddhist pilgrims in Japan

The Times reports that a robotic exoskeleton is being used by Buddhist pilgrims on a month long 750-mile pilgrimage to 88 Buddhist temples on the Japanese island of Shikoku. The route mirrors the travels of the 8th-century Buddhist saint, Kobo Daishi, also known as Kukai. Pilgrims say it has eased an ascent up a steep hill between two temples.


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