Religion news 2 July 2024

Rabbi Arnold Saunders. Image credit: @NorthWestFOI

Mosque apologises after rabbi standing for parliament is verbally abused

Jewish News reports that a rabbi, who is also a Conservative parliamentary candidate, was targeted with abuse “redolent of the blood libel” and called a “snake” during a visit to a mosque in Greater Manchester, where he had been invited to speak.  Rabbi Arnold Saunders, the Conservative hopeful for the heavily Jewish seat of Bury South, was visiting the Bilal Mosque in Prestwich on 21 June when a worshipper started screaming at him. Footage posted online shows the man shouting: “Don’t come to the house of Allah and try to engage with us when we know that when you’re in your own places you’re saying it is good that they kill the children.” The paper reports that the Muslim man urged the rabbi, who is also a local councillor, to “condemn the IDF” and “the killing of women and children”, a reference to Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza. A spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism said there was no excuse “for the sort of abuse that was directed at Rabbi Saunders, which included accusations redolent of classic antisemitic tropes like the blood libel… These scenes should serve as wake-up call to politicians and civil society as to just how sectarian our politics are becoming”.  Mosque leaders have issued a statement saying the rabbi was treated inappropriately and disrespectfully, they regret what happened and have apologised to him for how he was treated and to others who saw the abuse. They said: “This incident is not reflective of the congregation of the mosque or the Muslim community in Bury”.

Offices of election candidates targeted with antisesmitic abuse

In other election campaign incidents, the Daily Telegraph reports that the campaign office of a Conservative election candidate has been defaced with antisemitic graffiti. Robert Largan, who is seeking re-election in High Peak, Derbyshire, posted a picture on Twitter / X, of the message “Zionist child killer” written on the windows in red paint. And a Metropolitan Police investigation was launched following an attack on the office of Labour politician Stella Creasy last month. Windows were smashed, and graffiti read: “F— your weasel words this is genocide. Labour child bombing Liars. 2001, 2003, 2024.”

Bible Society survey shows active churchgoers more likely to vote centre-left

The results of a poll conducted by the Bible Society and reported by the Church Times,  indicate that churchgoers in England and Wales are more likely to vote for centrist or left-wing parties than the general population in Thursday’s General Election. A survey of 1214 “active” Christians — people who attend church at least once a month — was carried out during the first two weeks of June. Respondents were pooled from the Bible Society’s Resonate panel of about 5000 churchgoing Christians, according to the Church Times. 70 per cent said that they intended to vote for left-wing or centre-left parties –  40 per cent Labour, 23 per cent Liberal Democrat, and seven per cent Green. A YouGov survey of 2144 UK adults, conducted on 3 and 4 June, put the voting intentions for the general population at 57 per cent for these centre left parties –  40 per cent Labour, 10 per cent Liberal Democrat, and seven per cent Green. Older churchgoers were also more likely to vote Labour and Liberal Democrat than the general population. Among churchgoers aged 65-plus, 39 per cent said that they would vote Labour, compared with 22 per cent of the general population of this age group polled by YouGov.

Politicians engage with Sikh Federation over its election manifesto

The Sikh Press Association reports that representatives from some of the parties contesting the UK general election have released letters in response to the Sikh Manifesto, a list of ten concerns and demands compiled by the Sikh Federation, which includes calls for more action on hate crime and greater public awareness of the faith and its customs. SikhPA reports that there have been responses and acceptance of the manifesto from representatives of the Green Party, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru. Labour’s Angela Rayner held a meeting to discuss the manifesto’s demand for a public inquiry into the 1984 Amritsar attack. And Theresa May was pictured receiving the manifesto at her local gurdwara.

RMC briefing 1200 today: how will faith groups work with the new government?

The final RMC election briefing is taking place at lunchtime today (1200) and will be focused on how faith groups will liaise with the next government. Guests include Sir Stephen Timms, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society, representatives from political parties and leaders of community projects. The briefing will look at the existing relationships between faith groups and government, how faith groups seek to have influence over policy, the community projects that have engaged faith organisations, manifesto proposals for future liaison and glimpses of what to expect after the election. Details from [email protected]

Other news

Church accused of trying to sanitise abuse by Soul Survivor founder Mike Pilavachi

A victim of the disgraced Church of England cleric Mike Pilavachi, who resigned after abuse complaints were made against him, says the church’s safeguarding and disciplinary bodies may be “marking their own homework”. The songwriter Matt Redman claims in a statement reported by the Church Times, that the church’s National Safeguarding Team attempted to “sanitise” Mike Pilavachi’s abuse and that “it appeared that the Church of England was unable or unwilling to discipline one of its own.”  The statement was issued in response to a private member’s motion which is due to be debated at the General Synod on Sunday. It suggests that neither the National Safeguarding Team’s completed investigation into Mike Pilavachi’s conduct, nor the independent review commissioned by Soul Survivor, conducted by Fiona Scolding KC and due to be completed later this month, are sufficient, and calls on the Archbishops’ Council to commission its own KC-led report. This should include, according to the motion, scrutiny of charismatic theology and practice.  In response, William Nye the secretary general of the general synod of the Church of England, says the core group looking into the case will consider next steps after the Scolding review is published.  Pilavachi founded the Soul Survivor movement in 1993 and worked there for 30 years until investigations into complaints that he had groomed young men, wrestled them to the ground and massaged them. According to the Soul Survivor website all national events are being ‘paused indefinitely’ but church services are still ongoing at its base in Watford.

15 year old Carlo Acutis one step closer to becoming a saint

A London-born teenager will become the Catholic Church’s first millennial saint, after his cause for canonisation was approved by church authorities. The Catholic Church’s first Gen Z canonization has been given the seal of approval by the College of Cardinals after Pope Francis recognised a second miracle attributed to the English-born Carlo Acutis last month. Born to Italian parents in London in 1991, Carlo was a web designer who died from leukaemia at the age of 15 in 2006 in Italy. He was known for his devotion to Eucharistic miracles and Marian apparitions, which he catalogued on a website he designed. Acutis was beatified and declared “blessed” in 2020 after his first miracle, when he reportedly healed a Brazilian boy who touched one of his tee-shirts, before making a miraculous recovery from a rare pancreatic disorder.  The Catholic News Agency has speculated that that he will likely be proclaimed a saint during the 2025 Jubilee. The College of Cardinals assented to the canonizations of 15 people, including Carlo Acutis. The Pope said that the date for the canonization Mass of the computer-coding teenager will be announced at a later date.

A ton of crucifixes stolen from graves in Spain

A gang of thieves has been arrested after being caught with a ton of crucifixes stolen from graves in Spain, reports the Daily Telegraph.  Six people were detained following reports that cemeteries across Toledo had been targeted with hundreds of figurines of Christ smashed off gravestones and family tombs to be melted down for scrap metal. About 2,000 crosses are believed to have been removed from graves. Police have so far resolved 19 specific cases of theft, having recovered 90 intact crosses stolen from the El Casar de Escalona cemetery when they raided the gang’s centre of operations on an industrial estate in the Madrid region on Sunday. In total, officers found a haul of crucifix pieces weighing one ton as well as a solid silver crucifix, documents related to the scrap bronze sales and €17,440 (£14,800) in cash.

Vatican could suspend staff with tattoos or body piercings

The Vatican has issued new rules saying employees at St. Peter’s Basilica may not have visible tattoos or piercings and could be suspended if they do. Staff must not cohabit outside marriage, have a criminal record, or take part in inappropriate events. They must promise not to leak confidential information, not to give media interviews, not to invite outsiders into the workplace and not to remove documents. The new rules ban the hiring of close blood relatives of current employees without the express consent of the cardinal in charge of the basilica. Finally, the role of Canon will be honorary beyond the age of 80.


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