Religion news 2 December

Image credit: Chester Cathedral

Clergy on the front line of raw poverty in Burnley

The BBC reporter Ed Thomas has uncovered the hunger, stress and raw need of poverty-stricken people in Burnley, in a vivid report that showed two clergymen reduced at times to breaking point. The Rev Mick Fleming, of Church on the Street, and Father Alex Frost, of St Matthew’s Church, are helping on the front line, delivering food, visiting the needy and counselling people in extreme distress. Mick Fleming said children were so hungry in one family he visited, that they tore open the food bags he was carrying into the house. Alex Frost had visited one family with no settee, carpet, heating or food and no one was caring for them: “They fell through the cracks”. The film report is here.

Archbishop says build a better world after Covid-19

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, says the UK should focus on building a better version of the world after Covid-19. In an interview with Premier Christian Radio, he said the virus had hit poor communities disproportionately. He said it was scandalous that food banks were needed and he praised churches for supporting them. He wants to see cross-party consensus to build a society where everybody has equal opportunity.

Global recognition for Yorkshire police hijab invention

Two North Yorkshire police officers who designed a hijab for female Muslim officers to wear on duty, have gone global with their story. PC Uzma Amireddy said a new design was necessary because the old version was uncomfortable and had safety issues as it could be pulled round the neck. She teamed up with PC Arfan Rahouf to work with a local company to produce the hijabs, which it is hoped will encourage more Muslim women to join the force. They have toured television studios and been featured around the world as their story went viral.

Appeal to UN to stop violence against Punjabi farmers’ protest

The Sikh Federation UK is calling on the United Nations to stop the use of force against farmers from the Punjab who are protesting in Delhi against new farming regulations. They joined other Sikh diaspora groups to write an open letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, appealing for protesters’ rights to be protected. Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the protesters but they have vowed to stay until the laws are repealed. They fear they will lose out to big corporations as the laws encourage private sector investment in infrastructure and supply chains.

UK ambassador to the Holy See

 The next UK Ambassador to the Holy See has been named as Christopher Trott, now Ambassador to South Sudan. He has worked with the Vatican on its African agenda over recent years and says he looks forward to working with the Holy See on everything from poverty to conflict, from justice to climate change. Christopher Lamb commented that choosing a diplomat serving in South Sudan for the UK Holy See ambassador role is significant: Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury have for some time talked about making an historic joint trip to the country.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas …

Cathedrals in England reopen today after lockdown, with Christmas trees, sparking lights, filmed nativity plays,, online advent calendars and giant advent wreaths. In Durham, the Christmas tree lights will be switched on by a doctor and nurse; and seven cathedrals are offering online advent calendars with music, reflections and activities as each door is opened. Chester Cathedral hosts Starry Starry Night (pictured), a constellation of hundreds of stars surrounding one large bright star, suspended on gold and silver ribbons.

Tequila bar applies to be “the Church of 400 Rabbits”

A Nottingham tequila bar has applied to become a place of worship in a bid to stay open. The city is in tier 3 under Covid-19 restrictions, which means bars can only offer takeaway and delivery services, while places of worship are open. Owner James Aspell says this is unfair so his bar will be renamed “The Church of 400 Rabbits” and people will be asked to sign up as “Bunny Believers”. In a Facebook post, the bar reveals: “We’ve had an absolutely overwhelming response, with hundreds of sign ups to the congregation from all over the world, from Kazakhstan to New Zealand, Russia and the USA and of course right here at home.” The church has 4,000 Facebook followers who are suggesting innovative rituals including downing shots as a penance.