Religion news 20 January 2022

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Image credit: Open Doors UK

Afghanistan: ‘The most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian

An annual report on Christian persecution has judged that Afghanistan is the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. The World Watch List, published by the charity Open Doors, says 360 million Christians suffered persecution and discrimination worldwide in the year to October 2021, a rise of 20 million on the previous year. The research is based on information from churches, non-governmental organisations, charities and partner organisations. For the past 20 years, North Korea has been ranked as the worst country, but Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at Open Doors UK and Ireland, said harsh punishments by the Taliban and the large number of incidents of violence and discrimination had made Afghanistan the worst. The report also said jihadists globally had a sense of invulnerability, especially in parts of Africa, and persecution of Christians was rife in rural areas where villages were encircled. For the first time, Israel entered the list of countries where strong persecution of Christians was identified and was given a ranking of 76 out of 100.

MP who defected to Labour is co-chair of APPG on British Jews

The MP for Bury South, Christian Wakeford, who defected from the Conservatives to Labour in dramatic scenes yesterday, co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews, which promotes understanding of the UK’s Jewish community. The Jewish Chronicle reports that his constituency includes Prestwich and Whitefield, with some of the largest Jewish communities outside London. Mr Wakeford said he resigned because the government should have the highest standards of integrity and probity but the prime minister and the Conservative Party “have shown themselves incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves”. Sir Keir Starmer, he said, had shown integrity “not least in the vital challenge of combatting antisemitism”.

Christians Against Poverty deeply concerned at rocketing debt

Christians Against Poverty is marketing a campaign encouraging people in debt to contact them now for advice and help, and not wait for the problem to become worse. It says a rise in inflation has seen the price of the average weekly food shop increase alongside significantly higher fuel, gas and electricity costs. Scotland’s national director, Emma Jackson, said the cost of living increase had hit low income families hard and many people were choosing between heating their home or feeding their children. Christians Against Poverty told the Daily Record it was deeply concerned that many low-income families would see their debts rocket as they struggled to afford the basics. It is appealing for people to seek help now.

Warning against giving global church more say in appointing the next archbishop

The Times reports disquiet in the Church of England about a proposal to include more bishops from the global church in the appointment of the next Archbishop of Canterbury. The idea was put forward by the Canterbury diocese which says it has too many people on the selection panel, and the process should reflect the archbishop’s global work. But there is a fear that the conservative traditionalists against same-sex marriage and women priests will have undue influence in the appointment. The article by Kaya Burgess quotes Andrew Foreshew-Cain, chaplain of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, who married his husband in 2014, saying this made life for the LGBTQ+ community in this country more difficult and progress towards change more tortuous. And Canon Dr Emma Percy, chairwoman of the Women and the Church group, warns that pressure from traditionalists may make the panel nervous about appointing a woman.

Mosque shut in France in continuing crackdown against extremism

The Al-Madina Al-Mounawara mosque in Cannes has been shut by the French Interior Ministry for alleged promotion of antisemitic remarks, incitement of hatred and support of two groups already banned for spreading Islamist propaganda. The municipal government said if the mosque were to reopen it would need new leaders respectful of the French Republic. Twenty-three mosques have been shut since the crackdown in France that followed the murder of teacher Samuel Paty, after he showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. 

Man guilty of calling for jihad by sword at Brighton mosque meeting

A 53-year-old man has been found guilty of encouraging terrorism after he addressed a meeting at a mosque in Brighton calling for jihad by sword. Abubaker Deghayes was speaking to about 50 people at the Brighton mosque and community centre after evening prayers in November 2020. He was bailed with conditions but the judge said he was considering a custodial sentence.

Dean becomes new chair of LGBTQ+ campaign group

The new chair of the Ozanne Foundation, which campaigns for LGBTQ+ rights in the Church of England, has been named as Joe Hawes, Dean of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and the most senior out LGBTQ+ cleric on the General Synod. He has pledged to bring greater inclusion and acceptance for LGBTQ+ people, many of whom he says “live in real danger of physical and mental harm”, and to end conversion therapy. He takes over from Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool, who helped to set up the foundation and is now retiring.

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