Religion news 21 April 2022

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Image credit: ParliamentTV

Prime minister’s comments on Archbishop of Canterbury a ‘disgraceful slur’

A huge row has developed between the prime minister and the archbishops of Canterbury and York, the two most senior clerics in England, after they condemned the government’s plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. Boris Johnson told a private group of MPs that senior clergy had criticised these plans more than they had condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Church of England’s head of news, John Bingham, said if the reports of Johnson’s comments were true, it was a “disgraceful slur” as both archbishops had strongly condemned Russia over the war on Ukraine as an act of great evil. Lambeth Palace said Justin Welby would continue to speak out about the policy on moral and ethical grounds. The Rev Richard Coles said those who questioned the archbishops’ right to criticise the scheme “need to acquaint themselves with the most basic rudiments of Christianity”.

Bishops condemn Johnson’s failure to resign after the partygate fine

Over the Easter weekend, bishops came out vocally against Boris Johnson for his refusal to resign after being found to have broken the law on Covid restrictions. He said it did not occur to him that a gathering in the Cabinet room when he was given a birthday cake was against the rules and he apologised. Church Times reports that the Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, said: “If breaking the laws you have made, and then lying about it, does not require resignation, then what does? Our public life and discourse are being corrupted. Integrity is essential to public life.”

Seventeen senior church leaders attack Nationalities and Borders Bill

Seventeen senior Christian leaders have written to every MP urging them to vote against the Nationality and Borders Bill, which they say discriminates against asylum seekers and provokes hostility. The signatories to the letter, including the Methodist president the Rev Sonia Hicks, asked MPs to back House of Lords amendments to protect family reunion rights, enable asylum seekers to work after waiting six months for their application outcome, establish a target for resettlement and amend the two-tier system proposed for asylum seekers, which would criminalise those arriving without permission. But their pleas were in vain. The bill was passed yesterday with only 11 Conservative MPs voting against the government.

‘We need more religion in politics, not less

David Aaronovitch, writing in The Times today, finds the intervention of clergy into politics refreshing. He says we need more religion, not less. He says moral seriousness has been out of fashion for some time. Questions once asked as to whether something was morally right have been replaced by how the policy would go down with voters. He says: “The re-entry at last of moral debate into the fields of politics and government in Britain would be to find water in a desert.”

Mothers in Mariupol write to the Pope appealing for help to get out

Vatican News reports that a group of women in the besieged Ukrainian city, Mariupol, have sent a letter to the Pope appealing for help to evacuate civilians and wounded soldiers. The letter was handed over by a journalist to Cardinal Michael Czerny in Rome. It says the city, once home to 400,000 people, has been reduced to ashes since the invasion on 24 February and there is an unprecedented human catastrophe unfolding. Up to 1,000 civilians are said to be sheltering in the besieged Azovstal steel plant, but transporting supplies of food and water is increasingly difficult. A humanitarian corridor was opened yesterday, but it is reported that few people got out.

French presidential candidate wants to ban Muslim women from wearing headscarves

With days to go before the French presidential election, the French President Emmanuel Macron took on his far-right challenger Marine Le Pen over her views that Muslim women should be stripped of their right to cover their heads in public. In a television debate he said Le Pen was unsuitable to lead the ethnically diverse nation and the headscarves ban would trigger “civil war” in the country that has the largest Muslim population in western Europe. The vote is on Sunday.

Muzmatch loses court case over its trading name

Muzmatch, the British dating app for Muslims, has lost a legal battle over its trading name, which could lead to a complete rebrand. It was taken to court by Match Group, a large American dating app company, which accused it of copying its product. The UK intellectual property and enterprise court ruled that Muzmatch had infringed the trademark of Match Group, which would have led some consumers to assume that the goods and services offered were associated with Match. Muzmatch is the world’s largest Muslim dating app, with six million users. The Guardian reports that the chief executive, Shahzad Younas, said he would appeal against the judgment but vowed to continue the platform, even if it meant rebranding.

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