Religion news 15 September

Image credit: ACN

Freedom of religion envoy resigns over bill allowing UK to break international law

Rehman Chishti, the Prime Minister’s envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, has resigned over the Internal Market bill, which allows the UK government to break international law. In his resignation letter, he said he could not support the bill on a matter of principle, as it would break legal agreements under the Brexit withdrawal agreement. “If we give our word then we must honour it”. The bill passed by 77 votes. He said it had been a real honour to serve in his role, which included an appointment as vice chair of the International Religious Freedom Alliance. Chishti, a barrister and MP for Gillingham and Rainham in north Kent, was widely supported on Twitter and praised for his work in the freedom of religion brief.

Israel lockdown has devastating effect on three major festivals

Israel has announced plans to reimpose a nationwide lockdown, due to the coronavirus, which will coincide with the Jewish New Year. Schools, shops, restaurants and other businesses will close for three weeks from Friday, the eve of Rosh Hashanah. The timing means that Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, which follows 10 days later and the week-long festival of Sukkot, or Tabernacles, all fall within the new lockdown period, when Israelis traditionally take their holidays. The move comes after Israel experienced a sharp escalation in new infections in recent weeks, with 4,000 new cases recorded in a single day last week among the population of nine million. But it has caused deep distress, with Yaakov Litzman, an ultra-orthodox minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, resigning in protest. Full story here

Liberal Democrat candidate suspended for anti Semitic coments

The Liberal Democrats have suspended Geeta Sidhu-Rob, who was shortlisted as a possible London Mayoral candidate, after TV footage emerged of her telling voters  “Don’t vote for a Jew” . It was filmed in Blackburn when she ran for parliament in 1997, against Labour MP Jack Straw.  In a statement on Twitter, she said: “I am deeply ashamed of the ignorant and abusive language I used on one occasion in the 1997 general election campaign. As shown in the footage, I instantly regretted my appalling behaviour, which I continue to do. And I am actively reaching out to the Jewish community to listen and learn.”

British Muslim medics face routine Islamophobia

Huffington Post has published results of a survey of 100 Muslim medics, suggesting 80 per cent have faced Islamophobic abuse and racism from colleagues and patients. Stories include patients refusing to be treated by Muslim doctors, others starting conversations about terrorism, or accusing Muslims of killing people.The survey was commissioned with the British Islamic Medical Association, whose general secretary Salman Waqar was quoted as saying that such behaviour was fuelled by the media.

Christian based UK charity warns of increase in hunger among vulnerable families

The Trussell Trust, whose food banks were started by Christians and is supported by hundreds of churches, is predicting a sharp rise in demand for food parcels as furlough ends. It says that demand has already spiked by 89 per cent since lockdown but even more numbers are expected as unemployment rises because of the pandemic. Its report ‘Lockdown, Lifelines and the Long Haul Ahead’ says  volunteers have shouldered the task of keeping people afloat in the lockdown, but the government should announce plans to help the vulnerable in the Spending Review.

China’s deal on Roman Catholic bishop appointments set to be extended

Reuters is quoting an unnamed Vatican source, as saying that Pope Francis will extend a deal with China on the appointment of bishops, but that the deal will not include Hong Kong. The Pope has the final say on the appointment of bishops, but critics say the deal is a sell out to the communist government. Reuters reports that the Vatican believed it prudent to extend for two years and this was better than no accord.  Last week, Beijing indicated that China was eager to renew.