Religion news 13 May 2024

David Campanale.  Image credit: @DavidCampanale

LibDems reported to Equality watchdog after candidate de-selected over Christian same sex views

The Telegraph reports that the Liberal Democrats have been reported to the Equality and Human Rights Commission after a prospective parliamentary candidate was de-selected because of his views on same sex marriage, a decision that is being appealed. A complaint has been brought by party members who say David Campanale, the prospective candidate for Sutton and Cheam, “was driven out from his democratically elected position .. because a vocal group within Sutton Borough Liberal Democrats refused to tolerate his Christian worldview.” A letter to the EHRC, seen by The Telegraph, said the evidence depicts “a supposedly liberal organisation allowing clear religious discrimination and hostility to thrive within its ranks”. The report says Mr Campanale had submitted evidence of religious discrimination to party authorities, but no appropriate action was taken, so the case was taken to the Commission. He is an evangelical Christian, and was accused of not disclosing his faith during the selection process, which he denies, and of joining the Christian People’s Alliance, which he left in 2012. The Telegraph says hustings are being held in Sutton and Cheam to replace Mr Campanale tomorrow, Tuesday, despite the ongoing appeal against his de-selection.

Board of Deputies elects youngest ever president

The new president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews is Philip Rosenberg, aged 38, the former public affairs director of the Board. He is the youngest ever president of the organisation and replaces Marie van der Zyl, who was elected in 2018 and served two terms of three years. Three hundred deputies of the Board cast their votes following hustings around the communities. In his acceptance speech, Mr Rosenberg said the deputies had succeeded in electing the future. In an election video, he said: “We must not be defined by negativity. We need to celebrate Jewish life in Britain, and build bridges across our community, and with different communities, young and old”.

Investigation into claim British man held hostage by Hamas has died

The Foreign Office is investigating a claim by Hamas that British-Israeli hostage Nadav Popplewell has died in Gaza, of wounds from an Israeli airstrike more than a month ago. Mr Popplewell was born in Wakefield but had lived in Israel for more than 20 years. He was seized with his mother Channah Peri from a kibbutz in the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October. Hamas released a video of him on Saturday, with a black eye, but since said he had died. Lawyers acting for his family and other Jewish families of hostages, said if true, he would be one of two British men seized by Hamas on 7 October who have died, and the 16th British citizen to be murdered by them since then.

Muslim doctor returns from Gaza hospital with harrowing stories

Hyphen Online publishes an interview with a Muslim doctor from St Thomas’ hospital in London, on her story of working as a doctor in the Al-Asqa hospital in Gaza in April, where she was in a team with members of the International Rescue Committee and Medical Aid for Palestinians. Dr Mahim Qureshi, a senior registrar in vascular surgery, gives harrowing detail of so many people sheltering there, “you could barely see the tiles”. One toilet served 200 people, one shower served 4,500.  She says she had never seen injuries and illnesses in children as she witnessed in Gaza and medicines and doctors were in short supply. Mattresses were blood soaked, body bags re-used, water limited and infection rates after amputations was 100 per cent. She said that leaving Gaza was exceptionally painful, as she felt she was turning her back and walking away from her own people at their greatest time of need. She hoped to be able to return soon. 

Pope appeals for exchange of Russian and Ukrainian prisoners of war

Pope Francis has appealed for a general exchange of all prisoners between Russia and Ukraine. Speaking on Sunday, the Pope said the Holy See remains ready to facilitate exchanges, especially for those who are seriously wounded and sick.  Vatican News says that so far, Russia and Ukraine have conducted more than 50 prisoner exchanges since the beginning of the war, involving several thousand prisoners whom both sides have released. Last January, President Zelensky said 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been liberated following these agreements. Cardinal Matteo Zuppi has been pursuing these  prisoner releases, as well as the repatriation of Ukrainian children from Russia.

Report calls for international action to help Christians displaced in Manipur, NE India

State action to mitigate the violence and provide relief for Christians displaced in Manipur, north east India, has been woefully inadequate, according to a report  published by members of the Council of Experts advising the US International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance.  The report says 60,000 people have been forced from their homes and 500 church buildings destroyed but there have been  minimal efforts to rebuild communities or protect vulnerable populations from ongoing threats. It is calling for action from the European Parliament, UN special rapporteurs, the US State Department, and the British Foreign Commonwealth and Development office, which it says have all declared a religious dimension to the ethnically driven violence, which has included rape, torture and the burning of hundreds of tribal villages. It quotes the foreign secretary Lord Cameron saying the religious dimensions of the conflict must be recognised and there must be concerted global action to address the injustices.

King Charles becomes patron of the Bible Society and the National Churches Trust

The Bible Society and the National Churches Trust have announced that King Charles is to be their new Patron, succeeding his mother the Queen who was patron of both from 1952 throughout her reign. The Bible Society, founded in 1804, translates, publishes, and distributes the Bible around the world and says the King’s patronage is a sign that the Bible is being taken seriously at the heart of the country’s life. The National Churches Trust says their new patron highlights the significance of UK churches and the important role that the National Churches Trust plays in keeping the buildings open and in good repair.  

Changing times for Mormon missionaries

The New York Times carries a story that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is changing requirements of its young missionaries, so that instead of going out in pairs, knocking on doors and approaching people on the street, they will reach people by social media instead. The report, by Lauren Jackson, says this builds on other changes in recent years including allowing young people to work for communities close to home, and giving permission for them to call home once a week and not just on Christmas Day or Mother’s Day. The traditional image of clean cut Americans in suits spreading the word, is also under threat as suits are considered outdated. The report says that many young church members say the new rules have made missionary service more attractive and realistic.

Medieval doom painting re-created in ancient parish church in Essex

A medieval art expert has painted a  version of an original “Doom painting”, portraying the last judgment, when Jesus sits on a throne in heavenly glory with angels, as the righteous climb to heaven and the sinners go to eternal punishment.  Steve Lawes made a copy of an original Doom painting at St Mary’s church in Woodham Ferrers, near Chelmsford, Essex, which was on the chancel arch. It is thought to have been painted in the 1420s or 1430s, plastered over during the Reformation, partially uncovered in 1884 and now almost faded away. The Telegraph explains that he used traditional techniques – authentic pigments, gold leaf and brushes made from hog and squirrel hair. The report says the name Doom is derived from dom, an old English word for judgment. It is the first parish church Doom painting made with traditional methods since the Reformation. The painting is on display at the church alongside other medieval art and decoration.

Taylor Swift church service attracts thousands

The largest Protestant church in Heidelberg attracted more than a thousand mainly young people for a service based on the story and songs of Taylor Swift. A look-alike played the guitar and sang her songs, there was dancing to the music and reflections on her Christian faith. The Rev Vincenzo Petracca, the minister at the Church of the Holy Spirit, who organised the service and is a DJ on the quiet, told The Times that he hoped that “people who usually can’t relate to church, realised that there is something beyond the music that touches them, comforts them, gives them strength.” It is a way of responding to the decline in church membership, down by three per cent in Germany in 2022.  Later this year the church will hold similar services around Billie Eilish and Beyoncé. Elsewhere in Germany there are other unusual services, “including a church rave, a Harry Potter service in Ludwigshafen and a motorbike service in Hamburg”. The Times story is here


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