Religion news 14 March 2024

Image credit: No 10 Downing Street CCLicense2.0

Government’s declared definition of extremism “the wrong policy at the wrong time

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, is due to announce a new definition of extremism today. The much-heralded move has provoked criticism that it will affect free speech and disproportionately target Muslim communities, driving society apart. In a Religion Media Centre briefing, community Muslim leaders said this was the wrong time to redefine extremism. What was needed instead, at a time of increased Islamophobic and antisemitic incidents, was dialogue. There was anger at unacceptable language against Muslims by Conservative politicians and bewilderment that the government has not convened its working groups on either Islamophobia or antisemitism for four years. Community leaders said they are left on their own to encourage greater understanding between different faith groups and it was alarming that national government had not engaged in supporting local relationship building to tackle religious hatred. View the briefing again on our YouTube channel here

Byline Times says it has seen the draft proposals which Michael Gove will outline today. The new definition will mean Muslim and far right groups will fall into the category of extremist groups which will be banned from engaging with public authorities. The report lists five Muslim organisations and three far right groups expected to be on the list, but details will be announced in the forthcoming weeks. It’s reported that there will be no appeals process if a group is labelled as extremist, with the only recourse being the courts.

Ukraine Catholic leaders reject calls for white flag surrender

The Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is meeting in the US, has issued a statement following Pope Francis’ comments in a TV interview that Ukraine should have “the courage of the white flag” to negotiate peace.  The synod statement says Ukrainians will continue to defend themselves, adding they cannot surrender because surrender means death. “Notwithstanding the suggestions for need for negotiations coming from representatives of different countries, including the Holy Father himself, Ukrainians will continue to defend freedom and dignity to achieve a peace that is just. They believe in freedom and God-given human dignity. They believe in truth, God’s truth. They are convinced that God’s truth will prevail”.

Theos three-part series on the meaning of work

The Theos think tank is launching a three–part series, Work Shift: How Love Could Change Work, looking at the meaning of work beyond an economic transaction, but as a way of connecting with meaning and community. The first part in the series, The Ties That Bind, focuses on lone working and insecure work, much of which is low paid and finds significant risks to relationships and health. It argues for a new covenant for work, balancing the interests of employers and employees.

Lord Karan Bilimoria launches campaign for high quality Religious Education

Lord Karan Bilimoria, a former president of the CBI and chancellor of Birmingham university, has issued a Call to Action to employers, asking them to join a call for high quality RE in schools. He says the subject provides a “much-needed place in the classroom for young people to engage with the complexity of modern belief, avoid misconceptions, and leave school ready to work with people around the world from all walks of life”. He is concerned at a report saying the teaching of the subject is  generally of a poor quality, and draws attention to the lack of funding and proper support for the subject. Lord Bilimoria is a British Indian businessman, from the Zoroastrian tradition, who founded Cobra Beer. His call to action urges employers and business leaders to stand by students who have expressed an interest in a high quality education in religion and worldviews as preparation for the future workplace.

Christian actress loses discrimination case after being sacked over a social media post

Seyi Omooba, a Christian actress who was sacked from her lead role in a stage show after posting on social media that homosexuality is a sin, has lost her final appeal in a five year religious discrimination case and faces £300k in legal costs. She took the Curve Theatre in Leicester and her former agents to an employment tribunal, saying that she was the victim of religious discrimination. The leading part she was due to play was a lesbian character. But she admitted that she had not read the script before accepting the role and would not have gone through with it if she had. She has been supported by the Christian Legal Centre.

Archaeologists discover Buddhist temple and treasures in China

Archaeologists have uncovered a Buddhist temple in the city of Datong, in the province of Shanxi in central China. Heritage Daily says a temple with a pagoda dating from around 400 AD, has been found, with a square shaped pit containing pearls, brass rings, and coral jewellery. More than 200 well-preserved Buddhist statues, some painted and decorated with gold leaf have also been discovered. It is believed the site is linked to a nearby royal palace.


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