Religion news 18 March 2024

Gaza city. Image credit: Wafa (Q2915969) in contract with a local company (APAimages) CCLicense3.0

Archbishop says war in Gaza is causing untold misery and must end

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called for the war in Gaza to end now. In a statement following his meeting with the Reverend Fadi Diab, an Anglican priest from St Andrew’s Ramallah in Palestine, he said: “In listening to him I heard again how the war in Gaza has upended life in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and created untold misery and suffering to thousands of families”. He said the arming of settlers in the illegal settlements of the West Bank has intensified violence and contributed to a level of death and destruction not seen since the Second Intifada. He called for all hostages to be released and immediate and unrestricted aid secured to address the famine-like conditions in Gaza.

International statement on Islamophobia

The Muslim Council of Britain joined Muslim organisations from around the world to sign a joint statement marking the second United Nations International Day to Combat Islamophobia.  It singles out Israel, India, China and France for injustices towards Muslims and says the latest cycle of Middle East violence has led to hate against Muslims in western countries who speak up for Palestinian human rights. The signatories include countries in Europe, the USA and Australia. It calls for governments to respect human rights and the diversity of religion and beliefs through political action.

Antisemitism education programme paused after legal action

The Jewish Chronicle reports that a £7 million programme for antisemitism training in schools and universities has been paused after the Diaspora Alliance launched a High Court judicial review of the scheme. The report says it argued the programme should be scrapped because the Department of Education stipulated that the training should use the International Holocaust Remembrance Association definition of antisemitism. The Alliance says this definition has been used to repress free speech and silence those who campaign against Israel’s government’s actions. The programme was announced last autumn and the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Community Security Trust, Chabad and the Holocaust Educational Trust had formed consortiums which tendered bids to run it.

Charedi Jewish protest at bill requiring register of children not in school system

Charedi Jews protested outside parliament on Friday as the Commons nodded through a bill requiring local authorities to maintain a register of children who are educated outside the school system, at home or in non-registered schools. The Children Not In School bill, proposed by Tory MP Flick Drummond, passed its second reading without debate. Charedi Jews say the bill will bring their Yeshiva schools under state control and alter their way of life, with one describing it as part of a “decade-long onslaught against the strictly orthodox Jewish community”. The Jewish News pictures protesters with yellow stars on their coats, which has provoked an angry response because of the association with the holocaust.

Church of England “volunteering crisis”

The Church Times has conducted a survey among all the Church of England dioceses to assess the problem of recruiting volunteers to be church wardens, treasurers or members of the parochial church council.  It found that among those that replied, 25 to 40 per cent of parishes had only one churchwarden, and between five and 21 per cent had none. In one rural diocese, 50 to 60 per cent of the parishes struggled to fill PCC posts. The article suggests the weight of responsibility for buildings, safeguarding and raising funds from dwindling congregations is proving too high a challenge. It reports on one solution, the creation of larger councils for more than one church, a move which has met resistance. Article is here

CofE’s £1billion reparation fund “doing it for show”

The Times reports that Lord Sewell, former chair of the government commission on race disparity, has described the Church of England’s £1billion slavery reparation fund as a political decision, which the church was doing for show.  Speaking in an interview with The Times, he said the Archbishop of Canterbury and senior clergy should leave the legacy of slavery and instead focus on getting people back into church. Last month a report said the CofE’s £100 million fund to invest in projects to benefit black communities was insufficient to address the harms from slavery and recommended that the church should seek outside contributions to boost the value to £1 billion. Lord Sewell, a Conservative peer, told The Times he is urging a move away from race as the only thing that defines ethnic minorities saying: “We shouldn’t be treated as victims, it kills your confidence.. It’s about agency and self-affirmation. Race is almost a diversion.” 

CofE accused of behaving like a loan shark in mortgage deals with retired vicars

A vicar’s daughter has gone to The Guardian about a £55,000 mortgage her parents negotiated with the Church of England when her father retired, which has become a debt of £313,000. The equity sharing mortgage scheme charged interest payments and guaranteed the church a percentage of the property’s value when sold. Her parents paid in for 30 years. Her father died and her mother was bewildered to find she owed a six-figure sum to repay the mortgage. The daughter, who asked to remain anonymous, said the church was treating her parents “as commodities to make money” and friends have said it is behaving like a loan shark. The Guardian says the church has declined to offer a deal or write off the debt and defended the scheme saying retirees always had the option of re-financing with other providers.

Christian Institute founder and director dies suddenly aged 60

The Christian Institute has announced that its founder and director, Colin Hart, has died suddenly of a suspected heart attack, aged 60. The organisation was founded in 1991 to promote Christianity across denominations, “upholding the truths of the Bible”, believing in the “inerrancy of scripture. The Institute’s chairman, Rev Dr Richard Turnbull, offered thanks and prayers and said the work would continue as Colin would have wished.

Four Catholic religious freed by kidnappers in Haiti

The Pope has expressed his relief that a teacher and four of six religious have been released following their kidnapping in Haiti. Two remain in captivity, and the Pope appealed for their release as soon as possible. The six religious, members of the Congregation of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, were kidnapped last month as Haiti collapsed and fell to armed gangs. Pope Francis called on political and civic leaders to come together and support a peaceful transition, restoring order

St Patrick – the patron saint of migrants?

The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Eamon Martin, issued a message yesterday calling for compassion towards migrants and refugees. He said St Patrick, who came to Ireland as a slave in the fifth century, might well be considered a patron saint of migrants: “He certainly understands the predicament of the trafficked unaccompanied minor; the exploited labourer; the escaping refugee; the immigrant, the emigrant; the expat; the student or missionary abroad. St Patrick wrote about enduring many hardships, hatred and insults in Ireland for being a foreigner.” The archbishop called for an honest and open conversation about migration on both sides of the Irish border, recognising anxieties and “the immense challenges of providing affordable homes and services for all”. An Ireland worthy of St Patrick should be one which does not tolerate hatred or racism and embraces returning citizens and newcomers, he said.

Explainer: Bob Marley film unpacks his Rasta faith interwoven with ideas of social justice

Bob Marley: One Love, the film celebrating the life of the reggae icon is at the top of the box office charts, telling the story of how his revolutionary music is interwoven with messages of justice, ending oppression, standing up for rights and, famously, “One Love”, which is at the heart of his spirituality. He was a devout Rastafarian, a faith and political movement that inspired a generation of reggae musicians and followers. Marley once explained: “Rastafari is not a culture, it’s a reality”, embodying the Rasta philosophy of black liberation, togetherness with Africa, freedom and love. Read our explainer by Nsofwa K. Nwannadi here>>


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