Religion news 12 June 2024

Image credit: Sally Barton & Diocese of Europe

Tory claims ‘election engineering’ by CofE

Jonathan Gullis, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, has accused the Diocese of Salisbury of “political electioneering”. A 17-page General Election briefing note commissioned by Karen Gorham, the Bishop of Sherborne, tells worshippers to pray for “justice in the asylum system” and “courage to re-think the current sentencing guidelines”. The briefing, which the diocese insists is not party political, tells readers about “current issues” including education and prisons, and suggests questions for politicians and guidance on what to pray for. Mr Gullis told The Telegraph: “This political electioneering by the Diocese of Salisbury is a shameful indictment of the current state of the Church of England under the leadership of the woke Justin Welby, who not only wants to flood our streets with illegal migrants but also with dangerous criminals endangering the lives of the church’s parishioners.” Lambeth Palace declined to comment.

Galloway candidate sacked over ‘anti-Islamic’ tweets

A former rugby league player who was standing as parliamentary candidate for the Workers Party of Britain, led by George Galloway, has been sacked by his party for “anti-Islamic” tweets. Keith Mason was due to stand in in Wakefield and Rothwell, West Yorkshire. Mr Mason, a Roman Catholic who played for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, among other teams, is reported to have insulted the religion on Twitter/X. He apologised, saying: “I absolutely 100 per cent respect all my Muslim brothers and sisters.” Mr Galloway said “he was indeed guilty of anti-Islamic bigotry”. BBC report here

Secularists reject plea for ‘Hinduphobia’ law

Calls for a change in UK law to create a crime of “Hinduphobia” have been criticised by the National Secular Society (NSS) as threatening to endanger the work of human rights campaigners. A manifesto issued by 13 organisations, including the Hindu Council UK and the National Council of Hindu Temples, asks general election candidates to recognise anti-Hindu comments as a hate crime. The group said inequality in Indian society, including discrimination over caste and claims of misogyny, was “inextricably bound up with” Hinduism. However, the NSS says: “Our laws must protect people from harm, not ideas from criticism. The manifesto is an example of the sectarianism the next government needs to reject if the country is to avoid becoming more fragmented and increasingly fraught with ethnic and religious tensions.”

Religion and the General Election 2024

The Religion Media Centre is publishing a series of articles on Religion and the General Election 2024, looking at the main religious traditions in the UK, their historic voting patterns, issues that concern them in this election, and the candidates from those traditions who are standing as candidates on 4 July. We start with Christianity, a report by Tim Wyatt and Catherine Pepinster on different voting preferences among denominations and the common understanding that faith is tied to social justice, though there are different conclusions as to how this is achieved. Another report on the Sikh tradition, by Hardeep Singh, notes that Sikhs in Britain historically vote Labour and their common issues of concern include how hate crime is reported, representation in public life and justice over the Amritsar killings of 1984. Next week we start a series of election briefings discussing the key issues which religious traditions are identifying and speaking about during the campaign. More details from [email protected].

Other news

Two million pilgrims expected in Mecca

Up to two million pilgrims are expected to arrive in Mecca by the end of this week for the Hajj pilgrimage, which Muslims must observe at least once in a lifetime. Thousands have flown from Manchester Airport on a trip that costs an average of £10,000. The Foreign Office has advised pilgrims that they must have made proper application via the Saudi official Nusuk Hajj platform, otherwise they stand the risk of being turned away or fined. Once there, pilgrims face temperatures of 48C and densely crowded tourist areas.  Under Saudi’s “Vision 2030”, tourism will increase, the holy cities of Mecca and Medina will expand and the number of pilgrims will rise still further to three million every year during the season. The rapid surge is concerning environmentalists who say the increase in flights, internal transport, waste and disposable plastics is at odds with the government’s green ambitions. One novel way round this is a “green Hajj” by virtual reality, which can be experienced from anywhere in the world. The story is told in Greening the Hajj, a BBC podcast available here

UK Christians ‘treated with contempt’

Christians in Britain are suffering harassment and discrimination in every part of society according to a report by the group “Voice For Justice UK”. The survey, which received 1,562 responses, found that people with conservative Christian views were being marginalised and treated with contempt and this marginalisation was even more acute among younger generations. A total of 56 per cent said they experienced hostility and ridicule if they discussed their religious beliefs. This rose to 61 per cent in the younger age group. Voice for Justice UK campaigns for freedom to “practise freely the Christian faith as enshrined in the Bible”, against the “imposition of an increasingly totalitarian worldview”.

Baptists vote on banning female pastors

Representatives of the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis are voting today on banning churches with female pastors. More than 10,000 messengers, as delegates are known, are to debate whether to amend their constitution to ban churches with any women pastors from lead to associate roles. The measure received preliminary approval last year. They will also discuss again how to respond to sexual abuse within churches. The convention’s “statement of faith” says that while women and men are both “gifted for service”, the office of pastor is reserved for men alone. AP report here

1,700-year-old biblical texts sell for £3 million

A religious book created in fourth-century Egypt has been sold at auction in London for more than £3 million. The Crosby-Schøyen Codex, owned by a Norwegian collector, contains the earliest complete copies of two biblical texts, the Book of Jonah and the first epistle of Peter. It sold to an anonymous phone bidder. The Coptic text was written by a monk on double-sized papyrus and found by Egyptian farmers in the 1950s. However, it is by no means a record-breaking price: a Hebrew Bible believed to be more than 1,000 years old sold for $38.1 million at Sotheby’s in New York last year.

Hollywood movie museum asked to rethink Jewish tribute

The exhibition Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital is to be revised after criticism from a group of Jewish activists. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles was criticised when it opened in 2021, for excluding Jews from the story of the founding of the movie industry. In response, it created a permanent exhibition, which opened last month, highlighting the importance of Jewish film-makers such as the Warner brothers, Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer and Adolph Zukor. However, more than 300 Jewish professionals in the United Jewish Writers’ Coalition condemned it for the museum’s negative portrayal of the founders, including provocative words such as “tyrant”, “oppressive”, and “predator”. They called on the museum to rethink the exhibition “so that it celebrates the Jewish founders of Hollywood with the same respect and enthusiasm granted to those celebrated throughout the rest of the museum”. The Jewish Chronicle report is here

Archbishop cautious over Marian ‘apparition’

An archbishop in Cameroon, Central Africa, has cautioned Christians about an alleged apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at a parishioner’s home in his archdiocese. Thousands gathered at a woman’s home in Ngomgham parish this month after reports of a Marian apparition. Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya said whatever was happening there needed “thorough discernment and due process by the competent ecclesiastical authorities … to be sure of this phenomenon”, the Catholic Herald reports.  

From nightclub to church

A “well-established international Pentecostal church” has applied for permission to open in a former nightclub called Fanny & Bacardi. The Redeemed Christian Church of God, which has a congregation of about 200, says the building, in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, has limited architectural or conservation value. The club shut five years ago and plans to convert it into a homeless hostel were rejected in 2021.

Sally, 67, breaks a cricketing record

The Dean of Gibraltar’s wife is claiming a sporting record as the world’s oldest international cricketer. Sally Barton, 67, will strap on her leg pads to keep wicket at the match between Gibraltar and Croatia and Czechia in Prague on Friday. Ms Barton, a reader in the Church of England, is married to the Very Rev Ian Tarrant. She has been an avid cricketer since school and said the sport offered a unique opportunity for fellowship and inclusivity between players of all ages, genders and abilities. She told the Church Times the game could be seen to mimic life, adding: “Sometimes, it can seem like it’s just plodding along, but there’s actually a lot going on beneath the surface, and the game can switch in an instant.”



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