Religion news 14 June 2024

Hajj pilgrims in Mecca. Image credit: public domain CC0 photo

Two million Muslims gather for the Hajj in Mecca

Around two million Muslims are gatheriing in Mecca for the start of the Hajj today. Observing the Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is a time of spiritual renewal, involving encircling in prayer, the Kaaba, a holy site made of stone in the  Sacred Mosque or the Great Mosque of Mecca. Pilgims then move to the desert plain of Mina outside the city, then go to the Mountain of Arafat for a day of worship, moving to Muzdalifah where pebbles are thrown in a ceremony to symbolise the stoning of pillars representing the devil. Pilgrims from 180 countries will take part amid concerns for public safety with temperatures reaching 48C. Al Jazeera’s Alma Milisic explains the ritual here

Yorkshire and England T20 world cup cricketer, Adil Rashid, took leave to take part in the first Hajj after Covid. He  gave an interview to the Islam Channel on how cricket and the Hajj can combine.

Dr Luke Bretherton appointed to top role in moral and pastoral theology at Oxford

Dr Luke Bretherton is to become Canon and Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Christ Church Oxford, in succession to Rev Canon Nigel Biggar. This is a Crown appointment announced by Downing Street. He was Reader in Theology and Politics at King’s College London, before moving to Duke Divinity School, North Carolina, as Professor of Moral and Political Theology.  He helped to set up the St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in Bishopsgate, city of London, was a leader in London Citizens and worked with Maurice Glasman on “Blue Labour”. He is known for his work on democracy and Christianity, and his latest book is on environmental justice.

Theos research on top election issues finds differences in religious vote

The Theos think tank has published another set of research from its analysis of the British Election Study, looking at how religious people respond to questions on the key issues of the NHS, cost of living and immigration. In the population as a whole, only 8 per cent thought the government was doing a good job responding to the cost of living crisis; 6 per cent felt it handled the NHS well; and 5 per cent thought the same of immigration. But among Christians, the figures were slightly higher with 12 per cent on cost of living, 8 per cent on the NHS and 7 per cent on immigration.  More than three quarters of Catholics and Anglicans thought the difference in wealth between rich and poor was too high. And Christians who do not practice their faith tended to be more hostile towards asylum seekers than the average population. Full results with charts here

£64 million to expand the Church of England

The Church of England is spending £64 million on mission projects in the dioceses of Blackburn, Southwark and London. The Church Times has a detailed report on how the money will be spent. In Blackburn, £25.5 million will go towards a nine year parish renewal programme in parishes identified as “struggling” but with potential for growth; ten curates each year; and  a training programme for lay people working in urban areas with an ambition for 250 new congregations by 2030. In Southwark, £29 million will go towards parish renewal, an apprentice scheme for youth workers, fresh expressions churches, bilingual congregations and estates churches. A further £9.4 million will go to Hackney and Islington for work with young people and growing churches in a distinctively Catholic tradition.

Norwich Cathedral recognised as a place of sanctuary for refugees

Norwich Cathedral has been recognised as a Cathedral of Sanctuary for its work in helping refugees in the city. The awards are given by the City of Sanctuary charity, founded by Methodist minister Rev Dr Inderjit Singh Bhogal. The Cathedral has partnered with “English+”, a Christian charity which meets every Wednesday providing English lessons and other means of support to around 50 people each week, including refugees, asylum seekers and others starting new lives in Norwich. Their stories are being highlighted in the exhibition “City of Strangers…City of Stories” at the Cathedral this month. The Cathedral also supports the Hope into Action project for the homeless and an interfaith programme for school visits.

National Secular Society protests at Labour’s pledge to work with faith groups  

The National Secular Society has come out against a Labour pledge to “ensure strong partnerships with faith communities” in pursuit of its policies. The pledge was made in a letter from Sir Keir Starmer to faith leaders, which was sent out this week. In its manifesto launched yesterday, Labour said  it would work with “the voluntary sector, faith organisations, trade unions, business, devolved and local government, and communities to bring about change”. The NSS warns the faith plans could “undermine the inclusivity of public services and policies” and are counter to secularist principles “more likely to exacerbate community divisions and tensions rather than heal them”. They are appealing to their members to ask their candidates to “stand up for secularism”.

Freud’s Last Session on an encounter between CS Lewis and Sigmund Freud

The film Freud’s Last Session opens to the public today, telling the fictional story of a meeting between C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud, two days after the start of the Second World War. They debate the existence of God, the trauma of war, Freud’s relationship with his dependent daughter Anna, and CS Lewis’ mocking of Freud’s atheism. The Guardian’s review say the film is an “interesting reminder of the dusty old debates on the point of being swept away by the great horror of the second world war”. Starring Matthew Goode and Anthony Hopkins, based on the book “The Question of God, by Armand Nicholi.


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