Religion news 15 April 2024

Image credit: © Mazur/ CCLicense

Pope warns against fuelling a spiral of violence in the Middle East

Pope Francis has called for a stop to any actions that may fuel the “spiral of violence” in the Middle East, risking a wider war in the region. Addressing the faithful in St Peter’s Square on Sunday, he said he was following with “prayer and concern, even sorrow” the news on overnight drone attacks by Iran on Israel. He said nobody should threaten the existence of others, and all nations should “take the side of peace,” helping Israelis and Palestinians to live in two states, side by side, in security. He added, “it is their deep and legitimate desire, and it is their right! Two neighbouring states.” He renewed his call for a ceasefire, humanitarian aid and the release of hostages.  

Community Security Trust tells Jewish organisations to ramp up security measures

The Community Security Trust has told Jewish communal organisations to ensure that “security measures are fully implemented”. In a post on Twitter/X  on Saturday night, moments after Iran launched the attack on Israel, it said: “CST has tonight sent a notice to all communal organisations, requesting that security measures are fully implemented. This is a necessary precaution because of the situation between Iran and Israel. CST has worked tirelessly with our community, police and government since the war began on 7 October, doing everything we can together to support and enable UK Jewish life. This will continue for as long as it is needed.”

West End clergy horrified at proposal to criminalise rough sleepers

Fifteen clergy from many denominations in the West End of London have written a letter to local MPs, Nicke Aiken and Sir Keir Starmer, voicing their concern at the proposed changes to the Vagrancy Act, which risks criminalising and jailing rough sleepers. The measures would mean people who are homeless in England and Wales could be liable for a £2,500 fine or one month in prison for “nuisance” rough sleeping. The clergy say this is “in no way proportionate” and would target some of the most vulnerable people in their parishes. The group includes Fr Dominic Robinson, chair of the diocese of Westminster justice and peace commission, who said the clergy were horrified: “This response needs to see the homeless we serve in our parishes not as people to be punished for begging, but which treats the poorest of our flock with care and respect for their human dignity”. The clergy response has been supported by the Catholic Union, which says the proposal will do more harm than good and the government should think again.

French court says Vatican wrongfully dismissed a nun of 34 years standing

The Holy See has protested to France after a French court ruled that the Vatican had wrongfully dismissed a nun from a religious order. The nun, Sabine de la Valette, known at the time as Mother Marie Ferréol was removed from the Dominicans of the Holy Spirit after 34 years, following an internal investigation. The former nun’s lawyer said the Vatican’s investigation violated her fundamental rights including to a defence and that she was never told what she was accused of, or why she was being removed from the order. The Vatican said that the intervention of the French court was a “grave violation” of the right to religious freedom and raised diplomatic issues since the Holy See is a sovereign state.

Soul Survivor fallout needs more theological reflection and clear discipline

Church of England general synod member Professor Helen King has called for deep questions of theology to be asked about Canon Mike Pilavachi, the founder of Soul Survivor who has been found to have massaged and wrestled young men who became involved in the movement. In a blog, she says there isn’t enough discussion about the theology that made this possible, with a leader saying they are channelling the word of God and accepted regardless. She says the fact that Soul Survivor was a youth movement based on festivals is a key factor where the “ordain first, ask questions later approach came badly unstuck”. Mike Pilavachi was given a written warning, currently has no authority to minister, and will be risk assessed if he wants to return to any ministry in the Church of England. Professor King says he should never be allowed to enter ministry again, his MBE and CofE award for evangelism should be returned, a ‘senior leader’ in London who heard complaints and did not act on them should be open about what happened, the trustees need to apologise and those affected should be encouraged to contact the police or the National Safeguarding Team, rather than simply be prayed with on a phone advice line. Blog is here

Vaisakhi celebrations bring vibrant colour and music to towns and cities in Britain

Sikhs celebrated Vaisakhi in many towns in Britain at the weekend, including Gravesend, Southampton, Swindon, Bradford and Manchester. The festival marks the Spring harvest in India and the creation of The Khalsa, committed and baptised Sikhs. Celebrations involved large processions known as the Nagar Kirtan, led by five members of the Khalsa with flags, a carnival float carrying the sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib, worship in gurdwaras, and shared meals called the langar.  

United Methodist church prepares for crunch conference on same sex relationships

The United Methodist Church is holding its conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, in a week’s time, 23 April – 3 May, with same sex relationships on the agenda. The conference is usually held every four years, but due to Covid, it has not met since 2016 and in the intervening years, tensions over allowing same sex relationships has led to a major split. In the United States, one quarter of the US churches have broken away, some to join the alternative Global Methodist Church opposed to same sex relationships, and others to smaller organisations or to be independent. The UMC is a worldwide church and at the conference 56 per cent are from the United States and 32 per cent from Africa. The Associated Press reports on how the African church will vote and the implications of further splits.  United Methodist News has a backgrounder on the story, “How did we get here?”, setting out all the facts.

Faith and values needed in Washington, but journalism struggles to reflect religion

An obituary for the American senator Joe Lieberman, who died on 27 March aged 82, points to his understanding that religious faith has positive power during times of turmoil and division, quoting him saying: “We need America’s faith and values to be brought to Washington”.  The obit was written by Terry Mattingly, lifelong journalist and founder of the website “Get Religion”, whose goal was to promote religion-news reporting in the mainstream press; ensure that religion is not ignored if it is part of a story but is reported well; and defend professional standards of accuracy, fairness and balance in stories about religion. The website has just closed after 20 years, with Mr Mattingly explaining that the journalism business has changed and it was time for Get Religion to call  it a day. He believes the digital age has replaced inclusive debate with intolerant opinions, and “many of America’s most influential journalists simply do not ‘get’ religion….The reality in today’s America is that many, many readers have simply moved on”.

Leeds businessman starts up halal cat food company

A businessman from Leeds whose main job is building mosques, houses and flats, has started a new venture, selling halal cat food. In a filmed report on the Islam Channel,  Aihtsham Rashid, the founder of Hurayra Halal Pet Foods, tells how he realised soon after being given a kitten as a family pet, that cat food manufactured here has not been made using the rules of halal. He asked 70 companies whether they could manufacture halal pet food in Britain, but was rebuffed. Eventually he travelled to Malaysia to sign a contract with a manufacturer and his company will now offer Hurayra halal cat food “in three enticing flavours – tuna, ocean fish, and chicken … rich in protein and free from artificial additives, colours and preservatives”. It’s the only pet food to be approved by the Halal Monitoring Committee, which ensures halal regulations are adhered to.  He said: “Halal doesn’t just mean you know slaughtering an animal in a specific way it’s the full process from the beginning to the end, everything needs to be halal.” The company is named after Abu Hurayra, a close companion of the Prophet Muhammad who had a profound love of cats.  Mr Rashid is now working on getting the product to the UK for sale to the public.

Justin Welby and the Cheeky Pandas

The Archbishop of Canterbury has found himself in a starring role on Cheeky Pandas TV , giving his full support to a project where celebrities read Bible Stories from The Jesus Storybook Bible Series to an audience of young children tuning into YouTube from home. Instead of just opening the book, looking at the pictures and reading the story, the celebrities including Bear Grylls and Mary Berry, are helped by the cheeky pandas (cartoon characters) as they chat, play and ask questions before the story begins. Here is Justin Welby sitting comfortably in his chair and telling the story of how Jesus loves the little children >>


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