Religion news 11 November 2021

Image credit: Roger Smith flickr CCLicense2.0

Cardinal and police chief discuss guidance over the last rites

Cardinal Vincent Nichols and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick have agreed to discuss guidance on allowing priests to give the last rites at scenes of traumatic violence. It follows the police refusal to allow a priest access to Sir David Amess MP as he lay dying after being stabbed at a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, in Essex.

Board of Deputies calls for action against Israeli ambassador protesters

The Board of Deputies of British Jews is calling for disciplinary action to be taken against people who took part in a protest against the Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, who was speaking in a student debate at the LSE. She was rushed out of the building surrounded by security guards, through chanting protesters. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said she was “disgusted” by the treatment of the Israeli ambassador, and that antisemitism had no place in Britain.

Survey of UK knowledge on the Holocaust

A survey of the UK public’s knowledge of the Holocaust has been published on the 83rd anniversary of “Kristallnacht”, when Nazis in Germany destroyed synagogues, Jewish homes, schools and businesses, resulting in deaths and mass deportations. The survey of 2,000 adults in the UK was commissioned by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and found 89 per cent knew about the Holocaust, but a fifth believed the number killed was 2 million –  a third of the total who lost their lives; 76 per cent did not know what the Kindertransport was and 56 per cent believed that something like the Holocaust could happen again. The Conference said the survey showed the critical importance for all young people to receive high quality and effective Holocaust education.

Ten organisations appeal to the UN for the rights of Christians in Iran

Ten Christian organisations working for the freedom of religion, have written an open letter to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, appealing for him to intervene to protect Persian speaking Christians in Iran, who they say lack a place to gather for worship. The letter says only four churches remain in Iran and the Iranian authorities do not permit converts to attend the churches of the Armenian and Assyrian communities, who worship in their own languages. They say membership of a house-church is regarded as an action against national security, punishable by up to five years in prison. They request people should be able to worship freely, those jailed for practising their religious beliefs should be freed and the crackdown on house churches should end

Plan to turn church land into environmentally friendly habitats

The A Rocha Christian environment charity is launching an initiative to turn 75,000 acres of church owned land in the UK, into meadows, peatlands, native woodland and food forests. A spokesman told Premier Christian radio that nature based solutions can make a significant contribution to lowering carbon dioxide levels

Hindu festival ritual bathing in toxic waters of the river Yamuna

The Associated Press reports that a stretch of the Yamuna river, one of India’s most sacred rivers,  is covered with white toxic foam, caused in part by pollutants discharged from industries ringing New Delhi. Even so, hundreds of Hindu devotees stood knee-deep in its waters in a ritual of holy bathing, sometimes immersing themselves, to mark the festival of Chhath Puja, dedicated to the solar deity. One devotee said they were not afraid: “If we are scared, then how can we pray?”.

Campaign against Australian draft bill allowing discrimination

In Australia, a campaign is underway against a proposed bill which would give legal protection to people asserting a statement of belief, including those that breach anti-discrimination laws. The contentious part of the bill has been named the “Folau clause” after the rugby player who was sacked for saying that hell awaits drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters. Christian lobby groups have claimed credit for the inclusion of the clause. Equality campaigners say the bill has dangerous provisions that would undermine access to healthcare and inclusive workplaces and the draft bill should be subject to a public inquiry.

Methodist minister swaps clerical collar for drag queen outfit

Pastor Craig Duke, of the United Methodist church in Evansville, Indiana, had never heard of HBO, an Emmy-nominated reality show touring America looking for local volunteers to turn into drag queens. But when he was contacted by his town’s Pride board asking if he’d be interested in participating, he said yes. In a US programme broadcast this week, he stood transformed with a tall pink wig and 4 inch heeled boots, announcing “Welcome to  church!”.  In an interview with the Religion News Service, he explained that he wanted to learn to be empathetic, not just sympathetic. He had spoken to his bishop and superintendent minister but said there was nothing to warrant formal charges and “it was an incredibly wonderful, refreshing, deepening, powerful spiritual experience”. 

Creating Connections: sign up in Manchester, Nottingham, Plymouth and Birmingham

The Religion Media Centre has launched a project this autumn to enhance religious literacy and understanding in a landscape often fraught with misconceptions and assumptions on both sides. Creating Connections, where Religion meets the Media features a series of events to improve links between religious groups and journalists in England. They are an opportunity to explore the way religion and worldviews are interwoven into community life and it is hoped that key stories on religion and belief will be brought to life and lasting contacts for the future will be made. Reserve a place using the links below. All events take place in the afternoon. The Leeds event was last week. Here are the next four:


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