Religion news 15 December

Image credit: Notting Hill Methodist Church

Church report says families struggling to survive poverty need more government support

More families are becoming reliant on the social security system during the coronavirus pandemic and the government should retain and extend the £20 uplift to universal and tax credits to cope, according to a report from the Church of England and the Child Poverty Action Group. The two organisations have been researching the effect of the pandemic for many months and have just published data from September to November. It shows more are unemployed, finding it difficult to manage financially, experiencing health problems and struggling to cover the essential costs of food, utilities, rent, travel or child-related costs. The report authors call for children’s benefits to increase, eligibility for free school meals to be expanded, and the two-child limit and benefit cap to be lifted.

The Bishop of Durham Paul Butler said in response: “We must remember the poor – not only by cooking meals for local families or donating to the nearest food bank, but also by advocating for a more generous social security system and for the deep radical changes needed to tackle the underlying drivers of poverty in the longer-term”

The RMC zoom call today (Tuesday 15 December) at 1200 is on the subject of poverty and the actions of faith groups in alleviating distress. To join email info@religionmediacentre.org.uk

20,000 people respond to government’s faith engagement survey

The government’s faith adviser Colin Bloom says their faith engagement survey attracted more than 20,000 responses. Taking to twitter, he said: “I can already see many have practical suggestions on how we strengthen interfaith relationships, and the relationship between Government and faith groups … The rich diversity of religions, faiths and beliefs makes us the amazing, strong and capable country we are”. There is widespread speculation that the survey will result in a proposal to create a faith department and a strong recommendation that religious literacy is vital in public life.

Church leaders offer training to break county lines abuse of children as drug mules

Courses are being rolled out to train youth workers in how to detect modern day slavery, including using children as drug mules in County Lines. Jackie Mouradian and Bill Crooks of Wokingham Baptist Church are running the sessions on behalf of The Clewer Initiative, which has been set up to help churches identify and tackle the problem.  The Baptist Times reports that the “Breaking County Lines Train the Trainer Course” starts on 26 January and will enable people to engage their communities, forming action groups and encouraging greater awareness. Jackie Mouradian said: “County Lines is a £500m business and is run on a highly sophisticated commercial model which can only be defeated by communities and statutory bodies working together.. the church has a vital role to play in strengthening community relations and emphasising the support and protection of children and young people most at risk.”  

Mosque prayer leader attacker given seven years in jail

A  man who stabbed a 70-year-old Muslim prayer leader at Regents Park mosque, in front of worshippers, has been jailed for seven years. Daniel Horton, aged 30, was homeless and had attended the mosque for several years, so he knew his victim when he launched the attack in February this year. The muezzin (prayer leader) Raafat Maglad, was stabbed in the neck with a knife, causing injuries to his arm and shoulder. Southwark Crown Court was told that he was less confident in his public duties and still scared of being attacked.

Compulsory religious observance in Scottish schools under threat

Four hundred childrens’ charities in Scotland are calling for changes to compulsory religious observance in schools. In a joint report , “Together, the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights” , they say that the current law may contravene the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. At the moment, state-funded schools are under a statutory duty to provide religious observance to pupils with a focus on Christianity. But the report says children are unable to withdraw of their own volition and this may violate their rights. It is one of 30 areas of concern highlighted in the report.

American Catholic bishops approve Covid-19 vaccine

The United States Catholic Bishops’ conference has said that church members can take COVID-19 vaccines. Correcting false accounts from some church leaders, the Bishops say: “Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine involved the use of cell lines that originated in foetal tissue taken from the body of an aborted baby at any level of design, development, or production”.  In a closely worded argument, they urge the faithful to take up the vaccines, which “ought to be understood as an act of charity toward the other members of our community.”