Religion news 19 November

Image credit: New Zealand police

Dean Martyn Percy steps aside in a saga which  ‘has more bizarre twists than The Crown’

The Very Rev Martyn Percy, the embattled Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, has temporarily stepped aside from his post while a fresh allegation against him is investigated. Dean Percy, who has been embroiled in a protracted row with his employer for several years, is reported to have “voluntarily withdrawn” from his role with immediate effect after a new complaint was made against him. Jonathan Aitken, the former cabinet minister turned vicar, said he is aware of the allegation: “This saga of the Dean of Christ Church .. has more bizarre twists and turns than The Crown in terms of numerous episodes, plot lines and so on… I don’t believe that there’s any threat to the dean’s position except in the imagination of his enemies.” Full story here

Starmer bans Corbyn after Jewish community’s outrage over his readmission to party

The Jewish community has welcomed the decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn, in a dispute over his comments on antisemitism. The decisive action by Keir Starmer means that Corbyn, the former Labour leader, can only sit as an independent not a Labour MP. It followed angry reaction to Corbyn’s reinstatement to the Labour party after only 19 days suspension, caused by his comment that the scale of antisemitism in the party had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons” by opponents. His subsequent clarification did not contain an apology. Full story here

Now Labour face Islamophobia claims

A report from the Labour Muslim Network says 29% of  Muslim members and supporters have directly experienced Islamophobia in the Labour Party. Nearly half of Muslim members (44%) and supporters do not believe the Labour Party takes the issue of Islamophobia seriously. More than half (55%) of Muslim members and supporters do not “trust the leadership of the Labour Party to tackle Islamophobia effectively.” The network is calling for urgent action to tackle Islamophobia. It estimates there are between 10,000 to 20,000 Muslim Labour members in the UK and the survey collates responses from 422 people in July and August this year.

Government survey to help engagement with faith groups

The government has embarked on an ambitious initiative to review the way it engages with faith organisations in England. It has launched an online survey asking whether places of worship and people of faith are a force for good in society, and going on to question the partnership between faith groups and the state, faith literacy in government, and how harmful faith based activities are tackled. The government says the review will strengthen how it engages with faith groups during the COVID-19 recovery phase and beyond. It has provoked widespread opposition to its decision to ban public worship during the lockdown.

Russia wresting back ownership of historic churches in France

The Guardian reports that Russia is claiming back ownership of churches in the south of France, which were built before the Bolshevik revolution but have been used since by Russian emigres for worship. Nine years ago, Saint Nicolas cathedral was returned and now there is a court case around ownership of Saint-Nicolas-and-Saint-Alexandra’s in Nice, with fears that the Russian cemetery in the town is next.  The Guardian says that the Russian Federation is also seeking the return from the church of  a bloodied white linen shirt and a blue uniform jacket said to have been worn by Tsar Alexander II when he was assassinated.  His family holidayed in the south of France. Feelings run high because many exiles lost their property in the revolution and feel a sense of ownership of these buildings.

Police uniform in New Zealand includes a hijab

New Zealand police have introduced a hijab as part of their uniform to encourage more Muslim women to join. Zeena Ali, aged 30, helped to design the head covering which the force hopes will reflect it is inclusive and represents the country’s “diverse community” . She joined the police after an Australian neo-Nazi killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March last year.

Ireland church buildings finally sold off in exchange for indemnity deal

In Ireland, the state is about to conclude the sale from the Catholic church of Mounthawk Post Primary School in Tralee and the Sacred Heart Centre in Waterford. This brings to an end an 18 year process to sell properties to the state in return for indemnity against abuse cases. Compensation has cost the state more than €1.4 billion and critics say the deal was a blank cheque.

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