Religion news 18 October 2021

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Image credit: Richard Townshend Photography CCLicense

Sir David Amess: a man who wore his faith in his heart

Tributes have poured in for the MP Sir David Amess, stabbed to death in a suspected act of terrorism at his constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. A devout Catholic, his friend and local priest, Fr Jeffrey Woolnough, tried to administer the last rites but was prevented by police because the area it was a crime scene, so he prayed the rosary outside the police cordon with a fellow parishioner. He told the Press Association that it was important to respect the police’s decision and that the officer he approached had radioed colleagues inside the church to relay his request. “It would’ve been a great thing to do if I’d have had the chance, but it wasn’t to be,” he said.

Among the hundreds of tributes to Sir David’s life and Christian faith, the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, wrote an emotional piece in the Telegraph in his memory. The archbishop called his friend a “dedicated, zestful, persevering constituency MP” who loved Southend. He spoke of his kindness, building coalitions of goodwill so that people could work together. And he vowed that to honour his friend’s memory, he would “cultivate opponents with persistent kindness”. He said: “David Amess didn’t wear his faith on his sleeve. He wore it in his heart. That’s the best place for it. It means it runs through your very being”.

A joint statement from all Southend mosques said Sir David’s murder was “an indefensible atrocity, committed on the grounds of a place of worship and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms”. It described how he celebrated the achievements of local Muslims, attended the opening of a mosque, weddings and functions and said everyone would miss him dearly. Ruhul Shamsuddin, joint secretary of Essex Jamme Masjid, said: “Sir David was a tremendous force for good and pillar of support for our community. It’s an honour to say I’ve known him my whole life. I’ve lost not just a community leader, but a family friend and mentor ”.

Seventeen US missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Seventeen missionaries from the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries are reported to have been kidnapped by a gang in Haiti. They were on their way home on Saturday from building an orphanage but no further details of the incident are known. The mission’s field director, who stayed back at base, is said to be working with the US Embassy and in touch with authorities in Haiti to try to resolve the case. There has been a spate of gang-related kidnaps with ransom demands reaching $1 million.

Joe Biden prepares to meet Pope Francis again

President Joe Biden and his wife Jill will meet Pope Francis days before the Cop26 environment summit in Glasgow. The White House said they will discuss tackling the climate crisis, ending the Covid-19 pandemic and caring for the poor. President Biden, a committed Catholic, has previously met Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. His first meeting with Pope Francis was in 2016 at the Vatican when they discussed cancer care.

Southern Baptist executive in charge of multimillion-dollar fund resigns

Ronnie Floyd, who oversees Southern Baptist Convention’s $192 million mission and ministries programme, has resigned after he voted to waive attorney-client privilege, a move that paves the way for sex abuse allegations to be heard resulting in possible compensation packages totalling $3 billion. The decision was taken after weeks of consultations and against legal opinion urging the opposite. The church’s legal counsel has also resigned. Floyd said the vote placed Southern Baptists into “uncertain, unknown, unprecedented and uncharted waters” that created potential risks to the its liability. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States and faces hundreds of sex abuse cases uncovered by the Houston Chronicle.

Seven people dead in riots after reports that the Quran was desecrated on a Hindu statue

Seven people have died in Bangladesh after stories spread around social media that a Quran, the Muslim holy book, had been placed on the knee of a statue of the Hindu god Hanuman, in a shrine set up for the Hindu holy festival of Durga Puja. Dozens of Hindu temples were attacked, statues were smashed and police opened fire on crowds, killing four Muslims. Violence flared in several cities after a film of the incident went viral, causing police to use tear gas to break up the crowds.

Tai Chi classed as a religion in Quebec

A court in Quebec has declared Tai Chi to be a religion and therefore exempt from property, municipal and school taxes. The ruling was made after the Institut de taoïsme Fung Loy Kok, which offers Tai Chi classes in return for payment, challenged the city of Montreal in a court case. They said that Tai Chi, taught by a Taoist monk, was not just physical exercise but offered a religious, spiritual and cultural practice based on Taoist religion and philosophy. The court declared it was not its place to judge the depth of the religious conviction of institute members or to become the arbiter of religious dogma. But the evidence justified that Fung Loy Kok met the necessary conditions to be classified as a religious institution.

400 umbrellas displayed in a church as a symbol of miscarriage trauma

St Margaret’s church in Rainham, Kent, is marking Baby Loss Awareness Week by suspending 400 pink and blue umbrellas from the ceiling, alongside a special service and charity appeal. The Rev Nathan Ward says the trauma and grief from miscarriages is invisible and can be difficult to come to terms with, adding that: “Lost babies are never forgotten.”

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. Reserve a place using the links below. All events take place in the afternoon. The Leeds event was last week – here are the next four:

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