Religion news 15 December 2021

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Image credit: DEC

CAFOD joins DEC Appeal for Afghanistan

The Catholic aid agency CAFOD says more than eight million people are on the brink of famine in Afghanistan, with a million children under the age of five at risk of dying over the next three months. It is joining forces with the Disasters Emergency Committee in appealing for emergency help so that people survive the winter with temperatures falling to minus 12 degrees centigrade. The government has pledged to match up to £10 million of public donations. The appeal says people cannot afford food, fuel for heating or other essential supplies and thousands are living in makeshift shelters at high altitude. The BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky will broadcast appeals today.

Dean of Christ Church Oxford accused of being mad and unfit to govern

The Daily Telegraph reports that Martyn Percy, the Dean of Christ Church college in Oxford, is being accused of being “mad and unfit to govern”. It says this is the latest attempt to oust him in a dispute with the college governing body which has lasted four years. He has so far been through an independent tribunal, police and church investigations, all of which have cleared him. He now faces a meeting on Friday to determine whether he should be removed on medical grounds. The Telegraph quotes an anonymous supporter who said: “I can assure you that Martyn Percy is not mad. Anyone who has been to one of his recent lectures or read his recent book will know that he has one of the sharpest minds in academia.”

Humanists UK say Human Rights proposals will have devastating impact

Humanists UK is leading a coalition of more than 230 charities, trade unions, and human rights organisations calling for a judicial review into the government’s intentions to reform the Human Rights Act. The proposals, launched yesterday with a consultation period, recognise the right to trial by jury; freedom of speech, “which sometimes means the freedom to say things which others may not wish to hear”; and staying within the European Convention on Human Rights, while changing how it is interpreted by courts. Humanists UK say the proposals will have a devastating impact on them, affecting the ability of courts to interpret legislation in line with the European Convention on Human Rights, which establishes equal treatment to them as well as religious groups, for example in healthcare, marriage and education.

Americans are becoming less religious

A Pew Research Centre survey of 4,000 US adults has found that the number of religiously unaffiliated people has gone up 6 per centage points since the last survey five years ago, with 29 per cent saying they have no religion. Christians number 63 per cent of the population . Only 41 per cent say religion is important in their lives, indicating Pew says, that  Americans are growing less religious.   

French crackdown on mosques continues apace

 The French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has said that at least 21 mosques have been closed in France in recent months, as the government pursues its plan to tackle “Islamist separatism”. Speaking on the TV channel LCI, he said 99 mosques were investigated, 21 had been shut down and  another six will be shut down soon. Another 36 mosques have agreed to cut ties with Imams France considers “dangerous”, or to no longer accept foreign funding. He said the majority of Muslims in France “pose no problems”.

Poor decisions in “tragedy” of the former Bishop of Monmouth’s departure

A report into the retirement of the former Bishop of Monmouth, Richard Pain, has described the events leading up to his departure as “a tragedy”.  The Bishop stepped aside in July 2018 and retired on grounds of ill health in April 2019. The report outlines in detail the steps taken by the church to deal with a complaint from a person who was not identified in the account, and fractured relations within the senior management team.  The Bishop declined to talk to the report authors, but they conclude that there was not “a single malign figure” to be blamed, rather people who tried to do the right thing but failed to revisit poor decisions.  Two previous Church of Wales reviews into the Bishop’s behaviour concluded no further action should be taken.

Romuva on verge of becoming Lithuania’s state religion

The neo-pagan Romuva faith is on the verge of being classified a state religion in Lithuania. A report in Euronews says Lithuania was the last pagan nation in Europe before mass Christian conversions 500 years ago. But in the 19th century there were attempts to restore the nation’s cultural past and faith, a movement which the Soviet Union attempted to crush. When the USSR collapsed and Lithuania was free, there was a resurgence of interest in the faith and in 2011 there were around 5,000 followers. On 7 December, the Lithuanian parliament voted to take forward Romuva’s claim to state recognition after a European Human Rights Court decision confirmed its right to do so.

Christmas at cathedrals in England

English Cathedrals are “at the heart of Christmas” with events and installations attracting visitors. Bury St Edmunds Cathedral will hold a Longest Night service this Sunday for all those who find Christmas a difficult time of year; Guildford Cathedral is housing a Schools’ Christmas Art Exhibition entitled “Everyone is Welcome”; and Norwich Cathedral has installed a Tree of Remembrance where people hang stars in memory of loved ones, plus – of course – Christmas Eve crib services where children dress as characters from the Nativity story .

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