Religion news 17 November 2021

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Roundabout statue at Liverpool Women's Hospital. Image credit: Rodhullandemu CCLicense4.0

Liverpool bomber was Christian convert

The man who set off a bomb in a taxi outside Liverpool Women’s hospital on Remembrance Sunday has been named as Emad al-Swealmeen, 32, reportedly a Jordanian national who converted to Christianity and was confirmed at Liverpool Cathedral four years ago. A Christian couple took him in for eight months in 2017 after his asylum application failed. In 2017, The Guardian reports, an immigration tribunal said the number of people converting to Christianity at the cathedral was “improbably large”, amid fears that not all conversions were genuine, but instead used to help asylum claims.

CofE General Synod opened by Prince Edward instead of the Queen

Prince Edward took the Queen’s place at the opening of the Church of England’s parliament — the General Synod — in London yesterday, after she was advised to rest on medical grounds. In the speech read by her son, the Queen warned that “none of us can slow the passage of time” and while much had changed in 50 years, “the gospel of Christ and his teachings remains unchanged”. Referring to difficult decisions in the synod’s new five-year term, the Queen hoped members would draw on the church’s tradition of unity in fellowship for the tasks ahead.

The archbishops of Canterbury and York have sought to calm the anger and partisanship on display in the recent elections to the synod. Factions defending the parish from new church plants or lobbying for change on LGBTQ+ policy fought for every place. But in opening addresses, Justin Welby said the church should seek to model “disagreeing well”, saying that seeking to destroy and reject each other and exclude each other is less than human. Next, facing plummeting church attendance figures, Stephen Cottrell said the strategy was growth, not managing decline: “We want the Church of England to grow and even if it doesn’t — then let our death be a grand operatic death, let it be fantastic and let’s not crawl in a corner”.

The General Synod voted to lift a restriction on allowing wealthier dioceses to share their historic wealth with poorer dioceses. Almost 400 ordinands will complete training next year and become curates after extra funds were allocated.

Northern Ireland public inquiry into mother and baby homes

A public inquiry is to be set up in Northern Ireland into eight mother and baby homes run by Catholic and Protestant religious organisations in Londonderry, Belfast, and Newry. It follows a report that found women said they were detained against their will, used as unpaid labour and had to give up babies for adoption. It recommended further investigation into levels of infant mortality among children born to mothers in the homes. Deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill told the Northern Ireland assembly that the inquiry would be set up immediately and there would be redress payments to survivors.

Franklin Graham’s UK tour back on for 2022

The American evangelist Franklin Graham — son of Billy Graham — has announced he will be preaching at large rallies in Liverpool, South Wales, Sheffield and London in May and July 2022. These venues were among those cancelled when he last tried to tour the UK in 2020, but the plans crashed after a campaign against his views on homosexuality and Islam. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association took legal action against forced cancellations and now says the dispute has been settled, and so the tour is back on.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baha’is most banned religious groups

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baha’is are the two religious groups banned most frequently around the world, according to latest stats from Pew Research. Of the 198 countries evaluated, 41 banned at least one religion-related group in 2019, with most in the Middle East and North Africa. The report says authorities often cite security concerns, such as a group’s alleged links to violence, for imposing a ban, but some target groups or people because they pose a political threat, or are labelled as “deviant” or a “cult” when they deviate from accepted practices.

Toolkit to determine impact of interfaith work

The Woolf Institute has launched a toolkit to help charities to identify their impact in interfaith work. It seeks to show changes in three areas: psychological, such as attitudes and beliefs; community, such as local integration and community responses; and societal, such as large-scale change. The toolkit has been produced after two years of research and is designed to be used by people involved in interfaith work at the community and grassroots level, especially those who are evaluating impact for the first time or who do not have the resources available to use an external company.

Australian religious discrimination bill watered down

In Australia, the proposed controversial religious discrimination bill has been amended to remove the “Folau clause”, which would have allowed health providers to refuse treatment on the basis of “conscientious objection”. But it still contains a “statement of belief” clause allowing faith-based institutions, such as religious schools, to positively discriminate against people who do not share their faith. The clause is named after the rugby player Israel Folau, who was sacked after tweeting that hell awaits homosexuals unless they repent. He is now reported to be considering running for the Senate under billionaire Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.

Creating Connections: sign up in Manchester, Nottingham, Plymouth and Birmingham

The Religion Media Centre has launched a project this autumn to enhance religious literacy and understanding in a landscape often fraught with misconceptions and assumptions on both sides. Creating Connections, where Religion meets the Media features a series of events to improve links between religious groups and journalists in England. They are an opportunity to explore the way religion and worldviews are interwoven into community life and it is hoped that key stories on religion and belief will be brought to life and lasting contacts for the future will be made. Events in Leeds and Plymouth have happened – three more to go. Reserve a place using the links below.

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