Religion news 17 September 2021

Image credit: Culham StGabriel

17 September 2021

Call for new Education Secretary to safeguard the future of RE

A campaign group is calling on the new Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, to safeguard the future of RE after a survey suggested that a majority believe religious education is an important part of the school curriculum in a diverse society. The Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, says RE is neglected despite being relevant and important and the change of leadership at the top may make a difference. The call comes after a survey for Culham St Gabriel’s Trust found broad support for the importance of understanding beliefs and worldviews to foster mutual understanding. The Trust’s CEO, Dr Kathryn Wright, said religious belief and affiliation had changed dramatically over the past 50 years with a rise in “non-religious” spiritual traditions. Their survey showed appreciation of the role of RE in equipping young people to interact with those who hold different perspectives.

Four arrested in foiled Yom Kippur synagogue attack

A 16-year-old  boy and three other people have been detained in connection with a suspected plan for an Islamic extremist attack on a synagogue in the German city of Hagen. The Associated Press reports that police cordoned off the Hagen synagogue on Wednesday and the Yom Kippur service planned for the evening was called off after a tip-off which pointed to an Islamist-motivated threat, the possible timing and the suspect. Police with sniffer dogs found no dangerous objects in or around the synagogue. Yesterday morning, the 16-year-old, a Syrian national who lives in Hagen, was detained. Three other people were detained in a raid on an apartment, and authorities are investigating whether they were involved in the suspected plan. The case revived memories of an attack two years ago outside a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle, when a neo-Nazi gunman tried to storm the building while worshippers were inside marking Yom Kippur.

US-backed Uyghur exhibit opens in Geneva

A United States-backed Uyghur photo exhibit of dozens of people who are missing or alleged to be held in Chinese-run camps in Xinjiang, China, has opened outside the United Nations in Geneva, to coincide with a month-long session of the Human Rights Council.  The “Wall of the Disappeared”, which also features interviews with camp survivors about alleged forced sterilisation, comes amid high tensions over human rights between Beijing and Washington.  The World Uyghur Congress told Reuters that the USA had provided a grant for the exhibit which will later travel to Brussels and Berlin. Human rights groups estimate one million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have been interned in camps that China describes as vocational training centres to combat religious extremism.

Queensland passes assisted dying law 

Queensland has become the fifth Australian state to agree to voluntary assisted dying. The Tablet reports that the state Parliament voted 61-30 for a Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill allowing people suffering a disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and terminal to access voluntary-assisted dying. During a three-day debate, MPs fought back tears as they told personal stories and revealed the difficulty of weighing up opposing views on euthanasia and assisted dying. Catholic Health Australia has run a concerted campaign to protect Catholic-run hospitals and aged care facilities that provide about 20 per cent of hospital and aged care beds in Queensland. Jesuit academic, Fr Frank Brennan, said Queensland’s law would force a doctor who views it morally unacceptable to provide the patient with information about another provider “who, in the practitioner’s belief, is likely to be able to assist the person with the person’s request”. Queensland’s Deputy Premier, Steven Miles said the laws won’t make people’s deaths less tragic, but they will ease their pain and suffering.

Choirs could be better than Sunday School

Choirs and church music groups can provide an unthreatening, inclusive and long-lasting route into the life of the Church, particularly for children and young people. Speaking at a seminar, “Harnessing the power of music for mission”, the Royal Society of Church Music (RSCM) deputy director, Canon Sally-Anne McDougall, warned against the assumption that children and young people “will only be interested in a particular kind of church, and that won’t be one that has a choir in it.” The Seminar was organised by the Church of England’s national evangelism and discipleship team in collaboration with the RSCM.  See Madeleine Davies’ full report in Church Times

Bishop from Cornwall announced as the bishop to the Armed Forces

Lambeth Palace has announced that the Bishop of St Germans (in Cornwall), Hugh Nelson, will take over the role of Bishop to the Armed Forces. He will be formally licensed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during a meeting of the College of Bishops in Oxford on 20 September. This role will be in addition to his work as Bishop of St Germans in the Diocese of Truro. Speaking to Premier Christian News, Bishop Hugh said he was committed to praying for two things every single day whilst in the post: for peace to break out and, in the meantime, for those who are “on the frontline trying to keep peace and justice in the name of this country”.

Queen asked to pardon martyred Abbot of Glastonbury

The Queen is to be asked to grant a royal pardon to a Catholic abbot martyred during the Reformation. Residents in Glastonbury, Somerset, want her to exonerate Blessed Richard Whiting from treason almost 500 years after he was hanged, drawn and quartered on Glastonbury Tor. He was one of three mitred Benedictine abbots who resisted Henry VIII’s seizure and dissolution of the monasteries.  The Catholic Herald reports that so far around 400 people have signed a petition in support of the pardon – including Michael Eavis, the founder of the Glastonbury Festival, and historian, Alison Weir. They say the move would bring much peace and healing to the town.

Melanesia islands, threatened by rising sea levels, spotlighted in Devon pilgrimage

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is to open a new pilgrimage route  in Devon tomorrow (Saturday 18 September) in honour of John Coleridge Patteson, the first Bishop of Melanesia. The eight mile circular Patteson’s Way begins and ends at St Andrew’s Church in Feniton, east Devon, and is a joint initiative between the Melanesian Mission (MMUK) of which the Archbishop is President, local school children and the Diocese of Exeter.  This year marks 150 years since Patteson, who grew up in Feniton, was killed for his faith in 1871, after travelling from Devon to Melanesia in the South Pacific as a Christian missionary. MMUK, which is based in Devon, also works to highlight the effects of climate change in Melanesia, where some islands are already succumbing to rising sea levels. Mark Rylands, an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Exeter and Chair of MMUK, said the Melanesia link was an opportunity for Christians in the UK to make a difference in the fight against climate change. “We, in MMUK, do all we can to help the people of Melanesia with disaster relief funding, resourcing vital research and facing the impact of global warming. We are a family 10,000 miles apart – brothers and sisters in Christ supporting one another.” 


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