Religion news 17 June 2024

Rishi Sunak visits the Vedic Society Hindu Temple, Southampton. Image credit: Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street CCLicense2.0

Rishi Sunak says his Hindu faith gives him strength to carry on

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose party is languishing in the polls,  has given an interview to The Sunday Times explaining that he finds the strength to carry on from his Hindu faith. He told the reporter: “In Hinduism, there’s a concept of duty called dharma, which is roughly translated as being about doing your duty and not having a focus on the outcomes of it. And you do it because it’s the right thing to do, and you have to detach yourself from the outcome of it”. He said he gets fulfilment from doing what he believes is right: “Work as hard as you can, do what you believe is right, and try, and what will be will be.”

Palestinians invited to Mecca for the Hajj

Al Jazeera reports that 4,200 people from the occupied West Bank arrived in Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage at the weekend. Palestinians in Gaza were unable to travel to Mecca, prevented from leaving because of the war, but King Salman of Saudi Arabia invited one thousand more pilgrims, from the families of Palestinians killed or wounded in the war, who had left Gaza before the Rafah crossing was closed. The Saudi minister in charge of religious pilgrimages, Tawfiq al-Rabiah, had warned that “no political activity” would be tolerated during the event. The report says Syrian pilgrims also came to Mecca on direct flights from Damascus for the first time in more than a decade, part of an ongoing thaw in relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria.

Call for 30 per cent pay rise for CofE clergy

The Bishop of Blackburn, Philip North, is appealing for a 30 per cent pay rise for clergy, more time off and better housing, saying that a gradual erosion of pay and conditions begs the question “Are we at risk of exploiting our clergy?”. In an article in the Church Times, he says the culture of low pay and overwork has affected wellbeing, recruitment and retention. Clergy pay has decreased by 28 per cent against the Retail Price Index since 2009 and he argues that a new deal for clergy is needed to restore the stipend to pre-2009 levels, which could be as much as 30 per cent. In addition, there should be a new clergy covenant setting out standards for housing and priests should take two days off a week. He says stipends are agreed by each diocesan board of finance and there are disparities between wealthy and poorer dioceses.  “We are a wealthy Church. But, while the Church Commissioners (along with some DBFs and PCCs) sit on billions of pounds, and at a time when it is possible to raise significant funds for new projects, we seem unwilling to invest in our priests. How can we be both a wealthy Church and one that exploits the precious asset that is our stipendiary clergy?”  

Church of Scotland sells more than 100 churches as membership plummets

The Church of Scotland is listing more than 100 churches and manses for sale, after membership and the number of ministers plummeted. Some churches date back 400 years in rural communities, while others are large structures in city centres which are expensive to maintain and impossible for small congregations. The Telegraph reports that the Church of Scotland said financial pressures forced these difficult decisions and recognised people felt  anger, guilt, sorrow and relief that the burden of trying to keep a building going, has gone: “Although buildings are cherished, they must not hinder progress.” The membership of the Church of Scotland has halved in a decade now standing at just over one million; 40 per cent of its ministers have left active service since 2000 and the recent census showed 51 per cent in Scotland say they have no religion.

King’s Birthday honours across religious communities

for many involved in Jasvinder Sanghera, one of the two members of the Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board who was sacked by the Archbishop’s Council last summer when it disbanded the Board, has been made a Dame in the King’s birthday honours list. She was honoured for her work in founding the charity against honour abuse, “Karma Nirvana”, and thanked her supporters. The Church Times lists other awards including to composer Jon Rutter, who is knighted; and Stephen Hicks, chair of the Trussell Trust, who is now a CBE.  The Muslim Council of Britain lists the many honours awarded to British Muslims, including Monica Ali, who receives a CBE for services to literature. Among the Sikhs honoured is Harvinder Singh Rai , President of the National Police Sikh Association UK, who receives the MBE. More than 40 Indian-origin medics, business leaders and community champions are honoured.  And in the Jewish community, one of the top awards went to Dame Jenny Abramsky, the former BBC director of radio, who receives the Knights Grand Cross Order of the British Empire.

Sikhs mark 40th anniversary of Amritsar Golen Temple attack

Sikhs marched through central London yesterday to mark the 40th anniversary of the Indian army’s attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June 1984.  The number killed is disputed but some reports indicate 3,000 died, including many innocent pilgrims. In 2014, documents from the UK National Archives in Kew revealed a British special forces officer had gone to India to advise the Indian army before the attack on the temple. An inquiry by cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood soon after, concluded that this was “purely advisory, limited and provided to the Indian government at an early stage in their planning”. Despite these findings, some groups suggested the review was a cover-up. Two weeks ago, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “Today we mark the 40th anniversary of the raid on the Golden Temple. Labour stands with the Sikh community in calling for an inquiry into the historic role Britain played. A Labour government will work to determine the best way to find out the truth.”

Franklin Graham says Trump “has got some problems”

American evangelist Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and a one-time Trump supporter,  has told Premier Christian News that Trump “has got some problems”, after he was convicted for falsifying business records over a hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels..  He said he didn’t campaign for Trump in 2020, but he has supported many of his policies which benefitted the church. This time the evangelist is not endorsing any candidate for President.  He urged people to pray for the United States because politically “it is a mess”. He is due to speak at events in Birmingham and Glasgow this month.

Pope warns G7 leaders to beware the dangers of artificial intelligence

Pope Francis addressed leaders at the G7 Summit in southern Italy, the first time a Pope has taken part. He warned about the misuse of artificial intelligence, urging world leaders to “keep human dignity foremost” in its development and use. He said powerful technology risks turning human relations into algorithms and human beings must always be in control of decision making. Further, the development of robot weapons of war, known as “lethal autonomous weapons” should be banned. “No machine should ever choose to take the life of a human being”, he said. The G7 final statement reflected his concerns, calling for better coordination of the frameworks surrounding AI to keep it “human-centred.”

Pope tells comedians they unite people, making God smile

The Pope arrived at the G7 hours after meeting more than 100 comedians from more than 15 countries, at the Vatican.  It got off to a showbiz start as the Pope was greeted with cheers and applause. He told them they unite people, because laughter is contagious and they have the power to spread peace and smiles: “When you manage to bring intelligent smiles to the lips of even a single spectator, you also make God smile.” Fr Jim Martin said the comedians were in awe of the Pope, emotional when they saw him and moved by the experience of meeting him. He shook the hands of each person in the room.


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