Religion news 15 June 2022

European Court of Human Rights. Image credit: Guilhem Vellut CCLicense2.0

Deportation flight to Rwanda stopped as bishops’ protest dismissed

The flight to Rwanda carrying asylum seekers deported from the UK, was stopped at the last moment after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that there was a real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment. The policy had been slammed as a moral failure bringing shame on the nation by 23 bishops and two archbishops who signed a letter of protest to the Times. But Boris Johnson was determined to go ahead despite the bishops’ protests, telling the cabinet that the government would not be “deterred or abashed by some of the criticism that is being directed upon this policy, some of it from slightly unexpected quarters”. He has since suggested that the UK could pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights.  

Sacking of Qari Asim means government has “virtually no formal relationships” with Muslim organisations

The government’s sacking of Muslim adviser Imam Qari Asim, after he posted his views on the controversial film The Lady of Heaven, has brought it to a point where it has virtually no formal relationship with any Muslim organisation, according to an academic who researches government Muslim relations. Dr Stephen Jones, from the University of Birmingham, told a Religion Media Centre briefing that relations had “thinned down” since the days of the Coalition, as the government sought to distance itself from organisations over particular issues or those it defined as “on a pathway to extremism”. He said Tell Mama is funded to monitor anti Muslim attacks, but he believed it didn’t have a policy or advisory role. Qari Asim was not at the briefing, but his friend, Dr Musharraf Hussain said Asim was very saddened and distressed that he was sacked, though Muslim organisations were not surprised and the incident confirmed their view that the government had no space for Muslims. The RMC has approached the Department of Levelling Up for comment.  In a discussion on the protests outside cinemas which led to Cineworld banning the film, Frank Cranmer who co- authors a website on law and religion, said that the law of blasphemy was withdrawn in 2008 and replaced with a law on religious hatred. He said people do not have a right not to be offended, but the point at which offence becomes hate speech and a criminal act, is a very difficult line to draw. The briefing will be up soon our YouTube site here

Former refugee from south Sudan becomes leader of worldwide Anglican communion

The next secretary-general of the Anglican Communion will be the Rt Rev Anthony Poggo, a former refugee from South Sudan. At a news conference announcing the appointment, Bishop Poggo, who is now the Archbishop of Canterbury’s adviser on Anglican Communion affairs, said working with refugees must be a high priority for the worldwide church. The Anglican Communion has 42 autonomous churches in more than 165 countries. The Bishop was less than a year old when he and his family fled what is now South Sudan during the first Sudanese civil war in 1964. He was ordained in 1996, elected Bishop of Kajo-Keji in South Sudan in 2007, moved to Lambeth in 2016 and takes up his new post in September. Full story by Rosie Dawson here

Grenfell Tower memorial service hears there is no resolution or peace

In an address at the Grenfell Tower memorial service, the Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin said there was still no resolution or peace following the fire which engulfed the 24 storey tower block and claimed 72 lives. The uncomfortable reality was that what happened at Grenfell five years ago was wrong, he said. It was not an unfortunate accident, but a result of careless decisions, regulations ignored and times when it seemed there was more interest in making profit than keeping people safe in their own home.  Yet there was still hope for justice. In the service at Westminster Abbey, interfaith leaders read out the names of those who died and white flowers were placed in their memory.

Bid for inclusive RE and assemblies fails in House of Lords

 Moves to replace school collective worship with inclusive assemblies, include humanism in religious education and end religious discrimination in teacher recruitment, have failed in the House of Lords.  Baroness Meacher, known as a prominent humanist, said the changes were appropriate in a country where 62 per cent do not identify as Christian, according to the most recent British Social Attitudes survey, and more than 50 per cent say they are of no religion. Baroness Whitaker also spoke to the changes, which Humanists UK have long called for, saying that in a diverse society, inclusive assemblies were important to establish shared values. But Baroness Penn explained that the government was not going to support the amendments, believing them to be unnecessary and suggesting compulsory collective worship was a way to further the spiritual, moral, social and cultural education of children. Hansard debate here

 English cricket board partnership to improve Muslim relations

The England and Wales Cricket Board is partnering with a consultancy, Nujum Sports, to improve the inclusion of Muslims in the game. The BBC reports that this follows the story of Azeem Rafiq, a Yorkshire cricketer who said English cricket was institutionally racist and gave an emotional testimony to MPs of his experiences at the club. Nujum Sports will offer advice on how clubs can include Muslims in their facilities and practice, developed from its ten point Muslim athlete charter. ECB’s chief diversity and communications officer Kate Miller told the BBC:  “Ensuring that cricket is open, inclusive and accessible for people of all faiths is critical to us.”

Factory worker wins £22k in dispute over wearing necklace with a cross

Jevgenijs Kovalkovs  has won more than £22,000 for religious discrimination after being fired for refusing to take off a necklace with a cross. The Telegraph reports that he said the jewellery was a commitment to his belief – he is a member of the Russian Orthodox church. But the 2 Sisters Food company near Perth in Scotland,  had a rule that no jewellery should be worn and he was dismissed when he refused to remove it. An employment tribunal found the application of the policy was “indirectly discriminatory”.


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