Religion news 16 January 2024

Image credit: jasleen_kaur. CCLicense2.0

UK Sikhs warned lives in danger over support for Khalistan

The Times reports that Sikhs living in Britain have been warned by police that their lives are in danger amid increased tension over the separatist movement in India.  The warning follows the killing of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia last year, in which the Canadian PM said India was implicated. Three days earlier, another Sikh separatist Avtar Singh Khanda, died in Birmingham from a sudden illness which his family are contesting as suspicious. The report says West Midlands police have handed out “Osman notices” warning of a threat to life, fearing further links to these deaths. Sikh community leaders have warned that protesters calling for Khalistan independence have been placed on lists by the Indian government, labelling them enemies of the state, with one Sikh spokesman saying leaders have been warned not to travel alone. Full story by Amardeep Bassey and Fiona Hamilton here

Government moves to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir

The government is proscribing the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation, accusing it of praising the Hamas attacks.  The BBC explains that Hizb ut-Tahrir was founded in 1953 as an international political movement calling for a single Islamic government across the Muslim world. The ban under UK terrorism laws comes after followers were accused of chanting “jihad” at a pro-Gaza rally. The Home Secretary James Cleverly said the group was antisemitic and actively promoted and encouraged terrorism, which it denies. The ban means that people belonging to it, inviting or showing public support will be breaking the law and could be jailed. Guardian explainer here

Pope doubles down on decision to allow same sex blessings

Pope Francis has spoken of the opposition to his decision to allow blessings of same sex couples, so long as it did not form part of a liturgy.  In an interview on Italian TV, he confirmed his decision saying “the Lord blesses everyone”. He said the resistance, including from African bishops who have refused to conduct blessings, was because bishops didn’t understand the issue and refused to open a dialogue about it.

Former Queen’s chaplain calls on Justin Welby to quit

The Telegraph has seen a social media post from the Rev Canon Jeremy Haselock, the Queen’s former chaplain, where he says Justin Welby should quit over claims he backed Paula Vennells to be Bishop of London. Canon Haselock, now an associate priest at Great St Bartholomew’s in the City of London, is quoted saying: “Surely this is the point at which Welby must go. Another demonstration of his complete lack of sound judgment. His backing for this woman for episcopal office shows how completely he fails to understand the nature of that office”. The Telegraph said Lambeth Palace declined to comment. Full story here

The “Africa six” women bishops meet in Kenya to discuss the future

Six African Anglican female bishops, known as the “Africa Six”, have gathered at St Paul’s University in Nairobi, Kenya, to share their views on “Christian Leadership for the 21st Century”, in a meeting attended by more than 500 people. The church in Africa is known for conservative views, but women are elected bishops in Eswatini, South Africa, Lesotho, Kenya, South Sudan, Mozambique and Angola.  Addressing the meeting, they said they carried the flag for women and leadership was about “going through the fire to purify for those who come next.”  Hosting the meeting, Prof. Esther Mombo, senior lecturer at the university, said: “For a long time, women have been in the pews and men have been at the altar. Now, the “Africa Six” and others in the ecumenical family are creating room for many more female leaders who rise from the pews and take on leadership roles”.

New church district in Scotland covers almost half the landmass

A newly formed Presbytery, district, of The Church of Scotland, covering almost half Scotland’s landmass, has been formed from the Mull of Kintyre to John O’Groats and the Western Isles to West Moray. It includes more than 100 congregations together known as Clèir Eilean, the Island Presbytery,  Members will meet in local hubs as well as online, local preachers and worship leaders are being trained up and communion is held online. Re-organisation was made necessary by falling numbers and the cost of maintaining buildings and clergy.


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