Religion news 20 May 2021

Image credit: @AyalsleemEn

Churches in Britain appeal for Middle East ceasefire as bombing continues

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland is calling for an immediate end to the violence in the Middle East and efforts to find a peaceful solution through dialogue, mutual respect and understanding. It has pulled together statements from all churches sharing this view including the Methodist Church, which says it is horrified by scenes of violence, Quakers in Britain saying that staying silent makes for complicity in the violence, and two development charities, Christian Aid and Cafod. Church of England bishops, who met earlier this week, “noted with sadness the hostilities taking place” and condemned incidents of antisemitism in this country following the violence. There are signs that a ceasefire is imminent following intensive diplomatic activity. President Joe Biden told Benjamin Netanyahu that he expects a “significant de-escalation” in the Gaza conflict.

International court asked to investigate the Magdalene Laundries

The International Criminal Court has been asked to investigate the “violent legacy” of mother and baby homes, Magdalene Laundries, and industrial schools in Ireland and Northern Ireland, the Irish Examiner reports. KRW Law, a legal firm in Belfast, is seeking a preliminary examination into whether the institutional abuse amounted to “crimes against humanity”. It made the request on behalf of 13 mother and baby home survivors.

Leaders in places of worship face new responsibilities to prevent terror attacks 

A government proposal to prevent terror attacks on all publicly accessible buildings and spaces could have implications for places of worship. Under the proposal, which is out for consultation, people in charge of buildings would have to produce risk assessments, train staff and volunteers, monitor suspicious behaviour, create action plans in case of attack and ensure buildings are secure. The story has been picked up by Premier Christian News, which says some church leaders are concerned that this will increase the burden of responsibilities on staff and volunteers.

Police investigate anti-Catholic vandalism after Rangers victory

A number of churches in and around Glasgow were vandalised, windows smashed and anti-Catholic slogans draped over railings after Rangers football supporters rampaged through the city following their team’s victory in the Scottish Premiership, The Guardian reports. The Rangers were founded in the 19th century and its fans are predominantly Protestant. Their rivals, Celtic, are predominantly Catholic, and the teams were formed at a time of sectarian divide. Police are investigating reports of anti-Catholic bigotry, hatred and racism, amid widespread disorder following the match. Rangers Football Club condemned a “small minority” of fans who “besmirched the good name” of their club.

Scottish government faces increased legal bill over wrongful closure of churches

The Scottish government and lord advocate have been ordered to pay additional costs to clergy who successfully argued that churches in Scotland had been unlawfully closed by Covid-19 regulations, The Telegraph reports. In a judicial review, Lord Braid said the restrictions were a disproportionate interference with the freedom of religion secured by the European Convention on Human Rights. Churches were then allowed to open for Easter. Yesterday, Lord Braid ordered that the legal bills faced by the government and lord advocate should be increased by 50 per cent.

Young people’s faith strengthened in pandemic

Seeing faith organisations demonstrate unity, compassion and community in person and online during the pandemic has strengthened and deepened the faith of many young people dealing with lockdown in the UK. That was the consensus of panellists discussing the impact of the pandemic and lockdowns on young people and their faith at this year’s Religion Media Festival — Exploring Belief. Full report here

£9m to get young people into the Church of England

The Church of England is spending £9m on mission projects to attract students and young people into the church. Parishes will create new churches aimed at reaching young adults and students in Leeds and Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, Blackburn in Lancashire, Paignton in Devon and Brighton and Hove in east Sussex. Projects include a Sunday afternoon church in Leeds, social media activity and Sunday evening events for students in Huddersfield, social outreach and mission in Blackburn, a new “Bay church” for young people in Torbay, a mission centre in Hove and four new churches in Brighton. 

CofE working group set up on gender identity and transition

The Church of England bishops have agreed to set up a new working group on gender identity and transition, as part of its Living in Love and Faith project, which is encouraging people within the church to talk to each other to understand their differences on sexuality. Discussions take place this year with decisions on next steps expected in 2022.

15,000 doves with messages of hope to be displayed in Liverpool Cathedral

15,000 paper doves are to be suspended in Liverpool Cathedral in an art sculpture to be unveiled this afternoon. Peace Doves is created by sculptor and artist Peter Walker. Each dove bears a message of peace, hope and love, from school children and community groups who visited the cathedral before lockdown.

Pagans campaign for legal ‘handfasting’ marriage ceremonies

Pagans are petitioning the government to allow “handfasting” ceremonies’ to be recognised as a legal form of marriage in England, in the same way as a Christian ceremony. The petition, which has reached 10,000 signatures, says handfasting, a ceremony where couples clasp their hands together as a sign of love, has been an ancient form of marriage since before Christianity reached Britain. Kent Online reports that the failure to be recognised frustrates pagan couples who have to plan two ceremonies — one civil, one pagan. Scotland legally recognised handfasting ceremonies in 2004.


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