Religion news 12 November

Image credit: Knock shrine, Youtube

Irish priests receiving hate comments for online services

Many priests in Ireland are becoming increasingly anxious during the pandemic because of hurtful and hostile comments when they broadcast services online. Father Tim Hazelwood, a member of the leadership team of the Association of Catholic Priests, told the annual meeting there are “mass-hoppers” who try out different churches online. Priests, who are not performers, have felt obliged to offer online services, but some have been so hurt by social media comments that they have stopped. He went on to say that isolation was the most damaging thing for clergy, especially in rural parishes. They are anxious about finances plummeting by sometimes as much as 60 per cent, while there are still bills to pay, and face a future where people have got out of the habit of attending church.

Macron urges international response against Islamist terrorism

President Emmanuel Macron of France has condemned the murder of 50 people who were beheaded in Mozambique by Islamist terrorists said to be linked to Isis. In a tweet, he said: “Barbarians hijack a religion of peace to sow terror: Islamist terrorism is an international threat that calls for an international response.” The United Nations secretary-general António Guterres also condemned the atrocity. President Macron’s comments came one month after a history teacher was beheaded on a street in Paris for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a classroom. Then, Macron defended France’s right to freedom of speech, which produced an international backlash from Islamic countries.

RE teachers tackle racism and prejudice with new teaching materials

RE Today and the National Association of Teachers of RE have produced a suite of anti-racist resources, including films and workbooks, for children aged seven to14. They include units of work on what can be done to reduce racism; whether religion can help and what can be done to reduce its harmful impact. Content includes teaching the concept of respect, the nature of racism and British values. A guide for teachers suggests they should address concepts such as community cohesion, the dominant culture and a decolonised curriculum. The project was initiated by the Free Churches Group and Methodist Schools and funded by the Westhill Endowment. Resources were developed with partners including BAME teachers, pupils, academics and faith representatives.

Conference on the future of mosques says digital engagement is here to stay

The annual Our Mosques Our Future conference, taking place from 27 to 29 November, is considering how mosques reimagine their post-Covid role. The organisers, the Muslim Council of Britain, say adaptations caused by the virus have shown that the role of the mosque in community life is not limited to the four walls of the building and the mosque is more than a prayer space. Lockdowns have taught that a few things are here to stay, such as engaging congregations digitally and online fundraising.

Court orders blood transfusion for 15-year-old Jehovah’s Witness

The High court has ordered that a 15-year-old girl who is a recently baptised Jehovah’s Witness must have a blood transfusion to save her life despite her religious objections. She suffers from sickle cell disease, which affects red blood cells, and is at risk of a stroke or death, but the court ruled she should not be allowed to die. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not allow blood transfusions because of an interpretation of a Bible text that commands people to abstain from blood.

Protestants in the Netherlands admit guilt over antisemitism in the Second World War

The chairman of the Protestant Church of the Netherlands has acknowledged that the church “laid the ground under which antisemitism and hatred could flourish”. In a statement, René de Reuver recognised the church’s failure to do more for Jews during the Second World War: “Antisemitism is a sin against God and against people. The Protestant Church is also part of this sinful history”. He promised to do everything possible to fight antisemitism and develop Jewish-Christian relations.