Religion news 21 August

Image credit: Michal Osmenda CCLicensse

Call for more compassion towards cross channel migrants

The Bishop of Dover, Rose Hudson Wilkin, has called on the government to tackle the causes of migrants risking their lives to cross the channel. More than 1200 people have made the crossing in August – a record for one month. The Bishop said the the government should take a lead with other governments around the world to look for long terms solutions to stop the flow.

The Home Secretary Priti Patel said the blame lay with “criminal gangs” and people smugglers.

The Labour peer Lord Dubs, who was rescued from the Nazis on Kindertransport,  repeated his call for the government to be more welcoming and sympathetic towards migrant children, and is proposing an amendment to the immigration bill to allow safe reunion of families.

Both interventions were made after the body of a migrant was found on the beach in Sangatte, having tried to cross the channel in an inflatable dinghy with shovels for oars. He was thought to be aged 16, but documents on him suggest he was 28 and he has been named as Abdulfatah Hamdallah, from Sudan.  

Faith leaders call for government legislation to curb social media

Ten faith leaders are calling on the government to legislate so that social media companies are accountable for abuse and hate crime online. In a joint statement, they say the recent 48-hour boycott of twitter after the rapper Wiley’s antisemitic abuse stayed up for too long, points to a serious issue which demands government response. The leaders say hate speech threatens peace among communities. Social media companies’ rules are not enough to prevent hate and abuse and the government must do more to hold them to account. The leaders include Imam Qari Asim;, Iman Atta, Director Tell MAMA and Faith Matters; Rajnish Kashyap, General Secretary, Hindu Council UK; Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain; and Julie Siddiqi, Co-Founder, Nisa-Nashim.

Covid19 outbreak in another South Korean church

A new covid19 outbreak in Seoul is centred on the Sarang Jeil Church, where thousands of conservative Christians have taken part in large anti-government protests. They believe their leader is taking them into a godless communist hell, but after their protests, the outbreak has now spread throughout the city. The government has accused church leaders of obstructing the work of public health officials and withholding information. At the start of the global pandemic, another church in Seoul, the  Shincheonji Church of Jesus, was the centre of the largest outbreak outside China.

Research suggests meditation can cause depression and anxiety

A research team in the UK has found that one in twelve people who try mindfulness and other types of meditation techniques, experience more depression and anxiety. Dr Miguel Faris, from Coventry University, said: “For most people it works fine but it has undoubtedly been overhyped and it’s not universally benevolent”. The team looked at 55 relevant studies and found  that about 8% of people who try meditation experience an unwanted effect such as an increase in anxiety or  panic attacks. The study was reported in the New Scientist which quoted a chartered psychologist saying people in the studies may have already been on the edge of mental disorder. Sometimes when trying the relax, the mind can ‘rebel’, they said.  

GCSE Religious Studies decline is levelling off

 The Religious Education Council in England and Wales says the number of students taking GCSE Religious Studies has remained relatively stable in this academic year. Entries dropped dramatically after 2011 as the short course was stopped, but the level of decline is levelling off. Around 226,000 students took the GCSE in England and Wales – 50,000 fewer than history. Professor Trevor Cooling, Chair of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC), said: “RS has an important role to play in preparing pupils for life in multicultural Britain and a globalized workplace.”

US government should declare treatment of Rohingya is genocide

Faith leaders in the States have called on the Secretary of State to designate the treatment of Rohingya people in Myanmar as genocide. In an open letter, they say  this acknowledgment would help bring worldwide attention to the plight of the Rohingya and protect victims of genocide elsewhere in the world. The letter came from the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty commission, and was signed by representatives of all major faiths and human rights groups.

The revised history of the sacred island of Iona

The history of Iona, (pictured) the sacred isle on the west coast of Scotland, is being revised after new archaeological finds of copper and gold. It had been thought that monks abandoned the island after the Viking raids of 806AD when 68 monks were massacred, their bodies left on a beach. The Benedictine abbey was built 300 years later. But the Scotsman is reporting that a number of copper alloy pins dating from the 10th and 11th century have been found, indicating that monastery life continued following the massacre, with a centre for metalwork established by the community. The latest theory has been proposed by Dr Ewan Campbell, from Glasgow University, after investigating unpublished reports going back several decades.

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