Religion news 18 March

Ely Cathedral (credit: Timothy Selvage)

> Muslim groups boycott Prevent review > $100 million fund for slave descendants > Cathedrals remember Covid-19 victims

450 Muslim organisations will boycott review of Prevent programme

More than 450 Muslim organisations will boycott the government’s review of Prevent, the anti-radicalisation programme, in protest at the appointment of William Shawcross as its chairman, The Guardian reports. He has been criticised for remarks about Islam, but told The Guardian that the threat of Islamist terrorism remained high and he would consider what role Prevent could and should play. Prevent has attracted criticism for fostering discrimination against Muslims, but the Home Office insisted it did not focus on one group.

Bristol University investigates professor for comments about Israel

Professor David Miller, professor of political sociology at Bristol University is being investigated for comments about Israel and Jewish students. The case sparked a Commons written question and a letter to the university from 100 MPs and Lords. The university said it recognised the deep concern the comments had caused, but it was committed to free speech and an inclusive community and had started an investigation.

Jewish head teachers warn of danger of social media after Year 10 pupil dies

Head teachers at all the main Jewish secondary schools in Britain have issued a joint letter after the sudden death of a girl in Year 10 last week. Offering condolences to the family, the letter stressed the dangers young people face on social media and highlighted their work to improve mental wellbeing. Parents were urged to speak openly with their children about their online activities, and ensure parental controls are in place. Full RMC report here

Jesuits set up $100 million fund to help descendants of slaves
The descendants of slaves sold by missionaries in the 19th century will be eligible for help from a $100 million fund set up by the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. It will finance the Descendants Truth and Reconciliation Foundation to give educational grants and scholarships to the 5,000 descendants of 272 men, women and children who were sold by Jesuit priests in Maryland in 1838. The foundation will not give money payments as reparation, but work towards truth and racial healing and transformation.

England’s cathedrals to lead acts of remembrance for Covid-19 victims

As the first anniversary of lockdowns approaches, English cathedrals are planning acts of remembrance for people who have died, were bereaved or suffered in any way through Covid 19. They will take place from noon on Tuesday 23 March, starting with a one-minute silence. The most dramatic is an artistic glass installation representing teardrops, suspended under the tower at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Suffolk, but many other cathedrals are planning to light thousands of candles in remembrance. The Dean of Blackburn, Peter Howell-Jones, will lead the national one-minute silence at noon, followed by the cathedral bells, services and prayers on the hour every hour.

Right-wing evangelicals blamed for conversion ban delay

Jayne Ozanne, a Christian gay rights campaigner, has blamed right-wing evangelicals for the government dragging its heels over banning conversion therapy. In July 2018, the government said the practice should be “stamped out” yet almost 1,000 days have passed without action. Last Friday, Liz Truss, the equalities minister, said that the practice was abhorrent and she planned to introduce a bill “shortly”. This provoked the Evangelical Alliance to warn that a ban could end religious freedom and criminalise church leaders who are asked to pray with conflicted people. Full story here

Polish figurine candles withdrawn for disgusting antisemitic association

Two Polish companies have removed from sale hand-cast beeswax candle figurines of Haredi Jews holding a gold coin, after protests that they were antisemitic and disgusting. Marketing material said that the figure of the Jew is believed to be lucky for financial success. The Never Again anti-racism organisation, said the image is rooted in negative stereotypes and the idea of burning a figure of a stereotypical Jew in a country where millions of Holocaust victims were burned by the Nazis was particularly disturbing. The number of Jews in Poland decreased from 3.3 million to 20,000 following the Holocaust.


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