Religion news 15 April

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Religious literacy essential for great journalism; Ramadan live local newspaper sites; Templeton money for RE world views ; Harrods withdraws handbag with Hindu god image

Religious literacy: essential for the media to produce great journalism

A parliamentary report has recommended that religious literacy should be embedded in journalism training. The report, Learning to Listen, says a media that is diverse, curious and sensitive to the enormous variety of beliefs in the UK today can play a key role in fostering a more harmonious society. It says religious literacy is essential for anyone who seeks to understand society today and it highlighted our work at the Religion Media Centre, in helping to develop journalistic skills with greater knowledge and understanding of religion. The report was produced by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Religion in the Media, in response to faith groups, academics and journalists who believe the misrepresentation of religious people and beliefs has become widespread in the media. Read our full report here

Ramadan Live local newspaper sites throughout the UK

Local papers in the Reach publishing group are producing live pages for Ramadan, starting with the sighting of the crescent moon and taking in information and advice as it is celebrated online during Covid-19 restrictions. Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan and pray together and eat together in the evening. It is a communal occasion but this is the second year when it has had to be observed online. The Birmingham Live site includes reassurance from a top doctor that having a vaccination during Ramadan does not break the fast, alongside detailed information about times of prayers at various mosques in the city. “We’ll bring you all the latest news on Ramadan in the UK, Saudi Arabia and around the world,” it says.

Low-key Ramadan to process the year peacefully

Muslim families across the UK have spoken of a low-key Ramadan, with communal activities curtailed by Covid-19 restrictions. We spoke to some of those who are spending another Ramadan under lockdown. For one, the isolation is to be cherished as a breath of fresh air, providing a chance for a closer link with the divine. For another, it is a time to make the best of things and look forward to future meals with family and friends. Others witness greater religious observance and one said that after loss and bereavement, this year will be low-key, a peaceful time to process the past year in prayer and reflection. Full report here

Michael Bordeaux, champion of religious freedom behind the Iron Curtain, has died

Canon Michael Bourdeaux, who spent his life campaigning for people enduring religious persecution especially behind the Iron Curtain, has died aged 87. In 1969, he founded Keston College, in Chislehurst, where it became a centre for the study of religion and communism, and remained its president until his death. Dr Bourdeaux was regarded as among the most influential specialists in faith in the former Soviet Union and Russia. In 1984, he was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, in international recognition of his lifetime’s work.

Templeton money to develop RE curriculum around world views

The Templeton World Charity Foundation has awarded the Religious Education Council of England and Wales £150,000 to work with RE Today to create teaching materials for religious education framed by a new worldview vision. This new approach was recommended by the Commission on RE in 2018, and emphasises academic understanding of religious and non-religious worldviews, on all levels. The money will help create materials so that others can build a syllabus and define a curriculum. Stephen Pett, from RE Today, said: “We want pupils to gain a richer understanding of religion and of religious and non-religious worldviews, as part of their understanding of the world and of themselves.”

French president visits Notre Dame restoration on second anniversary of great fire

President Emmanuel Macron will visit Notre Dame Cathedral tomorrow, the second anniversary of the fire that destroyed itsroof and spire. The original plan was to reopen the cathedral in time for the 2024 Olympics, but it has become clear that the building work is taking longer than expected and the cathedral may not have a roof by then. The Times reports that restoration work is being masterminded by a retired general, but there was a need to first secure the site against the risk of collapse and work was slow because of fears of lead poisoning. 

Harrods handbag with sculpture of Hindu god is withdrawn from sale

Harrods has stopped selling a handbag decorated with a sculpture of the Hindu god Ganesha, after a social media backlash. The Judith Leiber bag retailed for £6,430. Hindus complained the image was disrespectful and offensive and the use of leather wrong as the religion believes in nonviolence against animals. The Guardian quotes Rajnish Kashyap, the director of the Hindu Council UK: “It raises a serious question: why doesn’t a world-renowned brand do proper research on religion and faith to find out what [its products] mean to the people who are following that faith? It’s cultural and religious appropriation.”

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