Religion news 19 May 2022

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Media project to change negative narrative around Christianity

The Church of England is creating a new website to help “change the narrative about Christianity in the English speaking world”.  For the initial four year project costing more than £1 million, the Centre is seeking a staff of four and the recruitment process is underway for the first Senior Editor role at £60-75k. The Centre for Cultural Witness is the idea of the Bishop of Kensington, Graham Tomlin, who told the RMC that the initiative seeks to address the negative public profile of the Christian faith and the idea that the church is dying. The website will be created in partnership with theology departments. It might look like a Christian version of “Unherd”, the Bishop said, not necessarily taking the same political view, but this was “an example of a website that has given voice to a particular perspective and gained quite a bit of following for that”. Full story here

Report on “the state of RE” in schools reveals increase in exam entries and shortfall in funding

The number of students taking a Religious Studies GCSE in England has risen by nearly a third in the last decade, and there has been a 50 per cent increase in A level entries since 2003, despite the subject being underfunded and poorly taught in many schools across England. A report on “The State of RE”, from the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education, and RE Today Services, reviews data into exam entries, provision of teaching and government funding. It says despite the increase in students taking the subject, no government money has been spent on it in the last five years. Church Times report here

Muslim women’s rights campaigner appointed to the Lords

Shaista Gohir, CEO of the Muslim Women’s Network UK, has been appointed to the House of Lords. She was selected by the House of Lords Appointments Commission and will sit as a cross bencher. Of Pakistani heritage, she has worked in the charity sector for nearly twenty years and is a leading women’s rights campaigner. In a statement following her appointment, she said: “I see this role as an extension of my activism and will use my voice to fly the flag for women’s rights, inequalities experienced by the most vulnerable in society, the charity sector, women’s health, the NHS and of course for the West Midlands region”.

French government challenging decision to allow burkinis

The French government is to challenge the decision by Grenoble municipal council, to allow bathers to wear the burkini – a full-body swimsuit – in its pools. The Guardian reports that the interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, announced plans to block the move, saying it was an “unacceptable provocation” that was against the values of the secular republic. The debate over attempts to curtail the wearing of religious symbols and clothing in France has caused anger among Muslim communities.

Vatican foreign minister to visit Ukraine

The Associated Press reports that the Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, is arriving in Kyiv this week to see the destruction for himself and to hold talks with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. The trip was scheduled before Easter but postponed after Gallagher came down with Covid-19. Pope Francis has drawn criticism for refusing to condemn Russia or President Vladimir Putin by name, in line with the Vatican’s diplomatic tradition,  “Ostpolitik”, of not calling out aggressors by name in an effort to keep open paths of dialogue with both sides in a conflict.

Chief Rabbi and Labour leader meet in person

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, met the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis for their first in person meeting. Keir Starmer said it was warm and forward looking, the Chief Rabbi said it was a  “warm and constructive discussion”. They discussed Labour’s action to combat antisemitism, the need for cross-party support for a Holocaust Memorial, the importance of Jewish schools and the Middle East

Jewish prayer book which survived the holocaust restored by TV show “The Repair Shop”

BBC One’s “The Repair Shop”, where people bring in family heirlooms for restoration, included one of the most emotional episodes last night. Gary Fisher brought his grandparents’ Jewish prayer book, which they had taken with them into Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. Emanuel and Gisela Fisher had been unable to flee Austria in 1938, but they were eventually liberated. Their son was brought to England by kindertransport and reunited after the war. Their grandson, Gary, was overwhelmed with emotion when the cover was repaired, the pages secured and the worst damage made good. He said “My grandparents never knew when their time was going to be up, but they had their religion, they had their faith and that must have been a real comfort to them to never give up”.


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