Religion news 20 April 2022

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Image credit: © Jess Hurd/Global Justice Now CCLicense2.0

Protests continue at government plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

The government’s proposal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda continues to cause protest. Cardinal Vincent Nichols said in an address at Westminster Cathedral, that the proposal lacks compassion and dignity.  He said there were challenges finding responses within limited resources: “We pray that those who seek solutions do so with compassion, and with regard for the dignity which is innate to every human being. This week’s policy announcement simply lacks these qualities.” Tablet report here

Two CofE bishops have protested. The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, urged further talks with France and told the Church Times that alternative plans to deal with traffickers had all been dismissed by the government. And the Bishop of Chelmsford, Guli Francis-Dehquani, who came to the UK as an asylum seeker from Iran, wrote to the Home Secretary saying the Rwanda proposal treated the most vulnerable in a cruel and inhumane way.

Four rabbis representing major denominations in the UK — Orthodox, Masorti, Reform and Liberal — signed a letter to the Guardian saying they were “utterly appalled” at the Rwanda plan. They said it flew in the  the face of Jewish values, and “would be a cruel, moral failure to those in urgent need of protections”.

In a debate in the Commons, Andrea Leadsom, MP, a committed Christian, backed the proposal and criticised faith leaders’ responses. “What I find abhorrent and inexplicable is the way in which many opposition members, and even those in the top echelons in the Church of England and in other faiths, seem to have completely forgotten the images of children lying drowned on our beaches. How can they not seek to try to remedy that appalling situation? These people are not refugees and asylum seekers—they are coming from France”.

Appeal for pause in Ukraine war during Orthodox Easter week

The Associated Press reports that the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for a four day halt in fighting in Ukraine during Orthodox Christians’ Holy Week, from Thursday to Easter Sunday, which is observed on 24 April in the Orthodox calendar. He said horror lies ahead and urged Russians and Ukrainians “to silence the guns and forge a path to safety”.  

The World Council of Churches acting general secretary, Ioan Sauca, has written to the Russia Orthodox leader  Patriarch Kirill, asking him to “intervene and ask publicly for a ceasefire for at least few hours during the Resurrection service” .

Unintended consequences of removing the Russian Orthodox Church from the WCC

An analysis of the current moves to remove the Russian Orthodox Church from the World Council of Churches because of their failure to condemn the war in Ukraine, could have unintended consequences. Dr Katie Kelaidis, writing for Religion Dispatches, suggests it could bolster Putin’s claim that the war in Ukraine is against a decadent West, it could push ultra conservatives in the church towards Moscow, and it could inflame intra Orthodox conflict, where the idea of ecumenism is disputed. Dr Kelaidis’ analysis is here.

Muslim Council of Britain launches campaign to protect Muslims in India

The Muslim Council of Britain is demanding a Commons debate to protest at the “persecution” of Muslims in India. It is urging Muslims to write to their MP and appeal to them to call for a debate and urge the Prime Minister to raise the issue when he travels to India for talks later this week. The MCB says Muslims suffer human rights abuses, threats of violence and desecration of mosques and homes. There are 200 million Muslims in India, in a population of 1.38 billion.

Leeds Holocaust survivor dies aged 98

Holocaust survivor, Iby Knill, has died aged 98. She was in the  resistance in Hungary and survived Auschwitz, where she escaped being tattooed because her captors ran out of ink. She wrote a two-volume autobiography, The Woman Without a Number and The Woman With Nine Lives. Living in Leeds, she was awarded the British Empire Medal for her work in Holocaust education.

Rev Richard Coles retires from parish duties despairing at CofE future

The vicar and broadcaster, the Rev Richard Coles, has told the Telegraph that he is retiring from parish duties as the Church of England slips away from the tradition he loves – “liberal sympathies, of broad inclusion, beautiful worship, wise preaching”. The least viable churches financially are the ones he likes the most. “The churches that are viable – by that, I mean growing in numbers and income – tend to be conservative, punchy, fundamentalist in matters of scripture, rigorous in matters of doctrine… if the future Church of England looks exclusively like that, I cannot see myself in it .. because they are places where gay people are not welcome, and that rules me out.” The article is here


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