Religion News 17 July

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Church app to tackle modern slavery in England

An app to help tackle labour exploitation and modern slavery in the farming, horticulture and food production industries has been launched by the Church of England’s modern slavery project, the “Clewer Initiative”. It will provide information on employment rights in eight languages and give guidance to farmers and growers on how to prevent labour exploitation. The Initiative suggests there are 136,000 potential victims in the UK alone. Its chair, Bishop Alastair Redfern said: “The app will help farmers and growers avoid unwittingly using unlicensed and criminal labour providers. For pickers who may not be familiar with UK worker rights, it will provide vital information on what they can expect.”

New race commission chair “believes racism is not the problem”

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has criticised the government for appointing Tony Sewell, a former teacher and now head of an education charity, as the chair of the new Racial Disparity Commission. It was set up by the Prime Minister following anti-racism protests after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. A controversial, figure, Mr Sewell worked with the PM in 2013 when he was Mayor of London and has attracted criticism for past comments on race and education. The MCB accuses Mr Sewell of hating the term “racial injustice” and believing racism is not the problem. In a statement, the MCB says: “Our view is that institutional racism and racial injustice are real, evidenced in numerous reports and should be tackled. This has clearly been demonstrated by the disproportionate deaths in BAME communities during the pandemic. The composition of this commission tells us that the Government intends to row back on work done by previous governments to tackle racial disparities.” Mr Sewell said: “I have spent my entire career in education striving to help all students achieve their full potential. I know however that inequality exists, and I am committed to working with my fellow commissioners to understand why.”

Priests must alert police to sex abuse allegations

The Vatican has issued a manual to help bishops and dioceses follow Church procedure in accusations of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric. It makes clear that clergy should involve the police: “Even in cases where there is no explicit legal obligation to do so, the ecclesiastical authorities should make a report to the competent civil authorities if this is considered necessary to protect the person involved or other minors from the danger of further criminal acts.” The Catholic News Agency reports that the 20 page manual explains procedures from the allegation, through the preliminary investigation to the conclusion of the case. It says the guidance must work in conjunction with the law to establish truth and justice.

Majority want conversion therapy banned
A survey commissioned by the Ozanne Foundation suggests two thirds of the british public believe conversion therapy, turning someone away from their sexual orientation, should be banned. The practice, which can include psychotherapy and spiritual counselling, has been banned in many countries after medical experts said it denied a person’s identity and led to serious mental  health problems. But it has not been banned in the UK, despite a government promise to do so. The survey of 1600 people in July, showed  more support for a ban among people with no religion, than those with a religious affiliation (68% v 57%). Only 16% of Christians supported conversion therapy and would not like it banned. The Ozanne Foundation was set up by Jayne Ozanne, a leading member of the Church of England who is gay and evangelical. She said: “We know that this is currently still being practiced by religious groups across the UK and we urgently ask the government to act in order to safeguard young people’s lives.  A ban will ensure a clear signal is given that this abhorrent practice will not be tolerated in the UK.”

Methodists remember Tolpuddle martyrs

The Tolpuddle Martyrs – Methodists, farm workers and early trade union activists – will be remembered this weekend in a 4 day virtual Tolpuddle Festival. In 1834, farm workers in west Dorset formed a trade union but six were arrested and sentenced to seven years’ transportation for taking an oath of secrecy, a punishment which provoked protests

throughout the country. Villagers and family descendants will pay tribute to them on Sunday at the grave site of James Hammett, who was the only one of the group to return to the village. The festival of musicians and other performers will be live streamed on YouTube and Facebook.


Lourdes virtual global pilgrimage

The shrine of Lourdes, where healing miracles are said to occur, hosted a virtual pilgrimage yesterday (16 July). The day marks the anniversary of the 18th and last apparition of the Virgin Mary. The broadcast started at 7am, lasted 15 hours, included 10 languages and featured a TV programme where personalities spoke of the importance of Lourdes in their lives. Lourdes usually hosts 3 million pilgrims and visitors from all over the world each year, including more than 50,000 sick and disabled people. The website says that in this unprecedented economic and social crisis, “the fraternity, generosity and hope that the Shrine has been carrying for 162 years has never been so essential. At Lourdes, the poor, the frail, the sick and the handicapped have first place.”

Sex abuse charges against American bishop dropped

The Associated Press reports that prosecutors in Wyoming have decided not to pursue sexual abuse charges against the retired Roman Catholic bishop Bishop Joseph Hart, who is accused of abusing boys over decades. Lawyers said they couldn’t successfully prosecute him, after reviewing a police investigation. This ends a two-year criminal investigation.

Scientology TV series pulled

The Australian television cancel Seven has pulled a 10-part series on Scientology on the day it was due to air, because of legal concerns. Scientology: Black Ops, was an investigation by reporter Bryan Seymour, scheduled to start on 14 July, but the trailer and information about the series has been removed from social media accounts. The Church of Scientology opened its Australia headquarters in Sydney in September 2016.


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