Religion news 17 May 2024

Image credits: Oasis Trust

“Oasis Restore” UK’s first secure school a place of healing and relentless love

“Oasis Restore”, a secure school for young people who have committed serious offences, has been officially opened in Rochester, with an ethos of relentless love. The school is pioneered by the Rev Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis Trust, and its aim is to provide healing not retribution, dealing with the origin of destructive behaviour which has its roots in childhood. Oasis runs 54 schools across the country and was appointed by the Ministry of Justice to take on this project. A radical overhaul of the system was considered necessary because 69 per cent of children in youth custody re-offend within a year of release. Steve Chalke explains that the aim is to provide a homely environment for the 49 young people, with staff and education services offering not a place of punishment but restoration, so that the teenagers leave able to make positive choices for their future. He says: “The punishment of children is obviously wounding but has persisted in our culture, that we can hurt someone to heal them. But we all know that doesn’t work”. There is nothing overtly religious, but the foundations are clear: “Every child that comes here, in my language, is sacred and that’s what they need to discover, because only that ever sets anyone free”. Lianne Kolirin’s report with pics and an interview is on our website here.

Pope: Greed preventing action on climate change

Pope Francis has criticised greed, industry which pollutes and disinformation for obstructing efforts to deal with climate change. Addressing participants at a Vatican summit, he said an orderly process “is being held back by the greedy pursuit of short-term gains by polluting industries and by the spread of disinformation, which generates confusion and obstructs collective efforts for a change in course.”  He said the wealthier nations, around 1 billion people, produce more than half the heat trapping pollutants, while 3 billion poorer people contribute less than 10 per cent of pollutants, yet suffer 75 per cent of the resulting damage. He called for  urgent action to protect people and nature.

Bishop and Archbishop call for immediate ceasefire in the Middle East

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Bishop of Chelmsford, Guli Francis-Dehqani, have repeated their calls for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel Gaza war.  In an interview for the Church Times podcast, Bishop Guli said church leaders in the West needed to be more forthright in being part of the solution. Speaking soon after her three-day visit to Jerusalem and the West Bank, she said there had to be a way of distinguishing between antisemitism, which is abhorrent and wrong, and criticising the state of Israel. She suggested that the fear of being considered antisemitic was stopping people from speaking out and there was a danger people became paralysed “for fear of saying the wrong thing, so we say nothing.” She said the war needs to stop now, all the hostages need to be released and there needs to be unrestricted aid allowed into Gaza in order for talks to progress. Church Times article here

Nigerian Humanist’s jail term for insulting Islam reduced from 24 to 5 years

 An appeal court in Kano State, Nigeria, has significantly reduced the sentence of the imprisoned president of the Nigerian Humanist Association, Mubarak Bala, from 24 years to five. He was arrested on 28 April 2020, accused of insulting Islam in Facebook posts, and was convicted on 5 April 2022. On Monday, the court of appeal found his sentence excessive. As he has been in custody since arrest, he has one more year to serve and his team are reviewing a further appeal.

Speaker’s chaplain to become Bishop on the Isle of Man

The chaplain to the speaker of the House of Commons, Patricia Hillas, has been appointed as the next bishop of Sodor and Man, leading the Church of England on the Isle of Man. She has been a parish priest in the diocese of London since ordination in 2002, but is known to be a frequent visitor to the island. Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, paid tribute to her calm approach and wisdom duringsome of the most turbulent and challenging times” which included Covid, the murder of Sir David Amess MP, the deaths of the Queen and Prince Philip and the death of his own father.

All male leadership team for the Board of Deputies

The new President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Phil Rosenberg, has appointed an all male leadership team. As from 1 June, senior vice president Adrian Cohen will chair the Board’s international division; vice president Andrew Gilbert will chair the board’s defence and group relations division, which will be known as the security, resilience and cohesion division  incorporating health and resilience work; vice president Jeremy Michelson will chair the board’s community and education division; and the new treasurer, Ben Crowne,  will chair the finance and organisation division, which is proposed to be re-named as the finance, fundraising and organisation division.

Theo Hobson: Will evangelicals split the C of E?

Author Theo Hobson, writing in The Tablet, considers the threat of a deep and fundamental structural division in the Church of England, with evangelicals wanting a separate province with their own bishops, if same sex reforms go through. Bishop Jill Duff told him the decision to allow blessings for same sex couples was “in error” but it can be purged away, meanwhile a new church missional eco-system is needed where evangelicals and Catholics can thrive. Canon John Dunnett, director of the Church of England Evangelical Council, suggests there could be a new province for liberals, leaving evangelicals as the default CofE.  Theo Hobson concludes that if the conservatives get their own separate structure, there should be a vote in 10 years time enabling the church to re-unite. Article is here

French Muslim pilgrim walks 8,000 km from Paris to Makkah

French Muslim pilgrim, Mohamed Boulabiar, has just completed an eight month journey walking from Paris to Madina and then Makkah, to perform Umrah, where Muslims pray while circling the Kaaba seven times in the centre of the Grand Mosque. He told the Saudi News Agency that the most difficult part of his 8,000 kilometre journey was the weather, dealing with storms, thunder, high temperatures and a snowstorm. He carried a tent but was given hospitality in mosques and with families along the route. He told reporters: “I am overjoyed to be here. It has been my dream since childhood to visit Madinah after Makkah. Upon arriving here yesterday, my eyes filled with tears”.  The journey on foot has also been achieved by a British man Farid Feyadi in 2020, and on a bike, by a young Indonesian, Muhammad Fauzan, in 2022.

100 year old recording of a Cathedral choir discovered

A recording of Rochester Cathedral choir from 1926 has been found on a 12 inch shellac record, by Michael Curling from the City of London Phonograph and Gramophone Society. It is believed to be the earliest recording of a choir outside a studio and has been transferred onto a CD and given to the Cathedral, which will play it out on Sunday evening in choral evensong. The choir is singing Magnificat in B flat and the hymn All People that on Earth do Dwell conducted by Charles Hylton Stewart, then director of music. The Telegraph quotes Adrian Bawtree, the present day director of music at Rochester Cathedral, saying it is fantastic to hear the choir in good heart, accompanied by Percy Whitlock, a renowned composer, playing the organ.

Methodist solar power project to make cups of tea reaches competition final

A Methodist campaign using solar panel energy to make cups of tea has made  it into the finals of a national sustainable energy competition. Churches in the Yorkshire North and East Methodist District are the only religious entry in the final 16 of the Ashden Awards for Climate Solutions. The “Tea & PV project” involved assessing the needs of local churches to reduce energy usage and installing PV solar panels. To date, 28 churches around the district have had solar panels installed, many with battery storage. Ten churches are being monitored for energy use and it’s calculated they’ve generated enough solar energy to brew the equivalent of 1,629,340 cups of tea, one for every resident in the two counties. There are 16 finalists and the winner will be announced on 27 June.


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