Religion news 15 February 2024

Image credit: Barking and Dagenham Council

Petition to save the Inter Faith Network

A petition has been launched appealing to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, to continue to fund the Inter Faith Network. Its staff have been issued redundancy notices and it is in danger of folding next week, because the government “is minded” to cut its funding. The petition, proposed by John Woodhouse, says the Interfaith Network has been a beacon of unity, promoting understanding and cooperation among different faith communities across the UK, especially through the National Inter Faith Week. It says: “Cutting funds to a network that works towards mitigating these issues, at a time of a rise in hate crimes against religious groups, risks exacerbating divisions in society”.

The Religion Media Centre is holding a briefing on the Inter Faith Network, reflecting on its legacy and why funding is in question, today at 1200. Email [email protected] for the link

Petition urges government to amend Media Bill and protect religious broadcasting

Another petition has been launched by the Sandford St Martin Trust urging the government to protect media content exploring religion and belief. It expresses concern at the Media Bill currently going through parliament, which removes the obligation on public service broadcasters to provide audiences with a range of programming which includes “education, sport, science, religion and other beliefs, social issues and matters of international significance or interest”. Instead they will only need to provide “an appropriate range of genres”. Sandford St Martin says it is raising the alarm about how proposed changes to existing broadcasting legislation threaten the future of religious broadcasting and will negatively affect religious literacy in the UK: “To ignore religion is to leave a gaping hole at the heart of public service broadcasting”. The bill starts it passage through the Lords on 28 February. The petition is here

Ten day Christian prayer vigil in Westminster against fossil fuels

Christian climate activists have begun a ten-day prayer vigil outside parliament to declare “no faith in fossil fuels.” They represent Christian Aid, Arocha, Cafod, the Methodist Church, Christian Climate Action, Green Christian, JPIT, Operation Noah, the Salvation Army, and Tearfund.  They hope to highlight the negative impact of plundering fossil fuels naming Britain as one of the largest historical emitters of carbon. They want the UK’s biggest polluters to pay for climate action; the UK government to pay into the UN’s Loss and Damage Fund, compensating poorer countries; and a ban on new UK-based fossil fuel projects. The vigil began with a service and procession to parliament, led by several CofE bishops and other church leaders.

Thousands watch film of street preacher challenged by police in Uxbridge

A film of Met police officers challenging a street preacher in Uxbridge, west London, after complaints of homophobia, a hate crime, in a public place, has amassed thousands of views on YouTube. It followed days after a gospel singer was stopped in Oxford Street for an alleged busking offence. This time the officers asked for the preacher’s name and address and warned if this was not given, there were grounds for arrest.

Soho Theatre bans comedian after Jewish audience members were “hounded out”

The Soho Theatre in London has banned the comedian Paul Currie, after Jewish audience members said they were subjected to verbal abuse and made to feel unsafe. The comedian is said to have ordered audience members to stand and applaud the Ukrainian and Palestinian flags. It is reported that one man stayed sitting and he was barracked from the stage, with the audience shouting “Free Palestine” as he and several other audience members were “hounded out”. The Soho Theatre in Dean Street, which used to be a synagogue, has apologised for the hurt caused.   

Leeds University increases security after death threats against Jewish chaplain

The University of Leeds has increased patrols by campus security staff and West Yorkshire police after the Jewish chaplain was threatened and went into hiding, and the Hillel House building for Jewish students was daubed with graffiti “Free Palestine”.  Rabbi Zecharia Deutsch received death threats and abuse after he returned from a period of duty with the Israeli Defence Force. He and his wife and small children have moved into a safe house. A spokesperson for the university said: “We totally condemn the antisemitic abuse and threats directed towards the chaplain and his family. Such attacks on any individual are unacceptable and will not be tolerated from members of the public or our university community”. 

New grand Hindu temple opened by Modi in United Arab Emirates

The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is inaugurating a grand Hindu temple in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during his two-day visit to the country. The BBC reports that the temple is run by BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, which has its headquarters in Mr Modi’s home state Gujarat, and is built on a 27 acre plot given by the UAE government, in the Al Rahba area outside Abu Dhabi. It is not the first Hindu temple in UAE but it is the first to be used using traditional methods in a lavish construction with pink sandstone and white marble. Indians are the largest expat group in the country with hundreds of thousands of Indian Hindus in Abu Dhabi.

Charity Commission inquiry into Al Tawheed Charitable Trust

The Charity Commission is investigating the Al-Tawheed Charitable Trust after reviewing video footage of a remembrance event for the Iranian Major General, Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, who was killed in a US drone strike. Both he and the TRGC were subject to UK terrorism sanctions at the time. The event in question was held in January 2020 and there were complaints that antisemitic chanting could be heard. The trustees, who were not in place at that time, said the event was organised by a third party at its building, the Kanoon Towhid, also known as the Centre for Monotheism, a former Methodist church in Hammersmith. Third Sector reports that at first, a compliance case was opened but this has escalated to a statutory inquiry to examine the controls the charity had in place for events and external speakers. The charity’s objectives are to promote the Islamic faith in the UK, relieve poverty and sickness and advance education.

Notre Dame’s new spire on view for the first time

Notre Dame’s new spire has been seen for the first time as scaffolding started to come down after extensive renovation work following the fire of 2019. The spire could be seen with a golden cross and golden cockere. Notre Dame is expected to re-open on 8 December . President  Emmanuel Macron celebrated the development, writing on social media, “She appears once again in the sky! French pride.”


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