Religion news 21 June 2022

Image credit: Free public domain CC0 photo.

Cost of living crisis bringing people “to the edge”

Christians Against Poverty is warning that the cost-of-living crisis is causing mental health problems, bringing people “to the edge”. The charity, which helps people out of debt and supports their journey out of poverty, has just published its annual survey of clients in the report “On the Edge”. It says mental health, low income and relationship breakdown are the top reasons for falling into debt. More than one third (36 per cent) had considered or attempted suicide and there was a higher proportion of people reporting destitution and feelings of isolation “suggesting a “concerning connection”. But when people were supported, they felt more hopeful and were less likely to be driven to this point.
Gareth McNab, external affairs director of Christians against Poverty, will explain the report’s findings in a RMC media briefing at 1300 today (Tuesday 21 June). Zoom link from [email protected]

Faith leaders sign open letter denouncing “shameful” Rwanda deportation scheme

Faith  leaders joined more than 170 organisations in writing an open letter to the Independent, on World Refugee Day, condemning the government’s “shameful” Rwanda deportation scheme. The letter said the scheme was in contrast to the vision of a  Commonwealth that is mutually respectful and peaceful, cherishing equality, diversity and shared values. The letter said the government must instead open safe routes for asylum seekers and refugees to find protection in the UK.  Signatories included leaders of major Christian denominations in the UK, alongside Jewish and Muslim representatives.  

Minister for Refugees says his Jewish background is a natural fit for his role

The Minister for refugees, Lord Richard Harrington, has spoken of the role of faith groups in the government’s work with refugees.  In a summer afternoon tea event in parliament, he told a gathering of the Jewish Leadership Council that Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Christian communities in the UK were part of the government’s “second phase” in attempting to settle refugees into this country. The Jewish News reports that he spoke of how his Jewish background made him naturally drawn to the job overseeing the work with Ukrainian refugees.

World Council of Churches condemns war in Ukraine and calls on Patriarch Kirill to engage in dialogue

The World Council of Churches is continuing to appeal to the leader of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Kirill, to take part in discussions on the war in Ukraine. The Patriarch is a supporter of Putin and has never condemned the war, leading to calls for him to be thrown out of the WCC. But at its general assembly in Geneva, the WCC said division and exclusion were the antithesis of its purpose and acknowledged the commitment of the Russian Orthodox church to engage in dialogue, “though circumstances prevented them from taking part in either of the two ecumenical roundtable meetings so far convened”. In a public statement, the WCC said the war was incompatible with God’s will and against fundamental Christian and ecumenical principles.

Bishop appeals for urgent action to train and retain nurses

 The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullaly, has appealed to the government to ensure there are sufficient nurses in the NHS. In a Lords debate she explained the strain they were under, with a shortage of trained nurses and numbers leaving because of the pressure. During the pandemic, the bishop, who was formerly Chief Nursing Officer for the Department of Health, said nurses had “coped with staffing levels that were well below what was required and worked longer hours than they should have done” and now they were asking the government to step up. Urgent action was needed to retain nurses with attention to pay, travel expenses and training and she appealed for an early report into systems for assessing the number of nurses needed. Church Times report here

Change to Hajj booking causes bitter disappointment for western pilgrims

Muslims in western countries who have applied to make the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca this July, are said to have been left disappointed by a last-minute change of the booking process. It is reported that the traditional system of going through Hajj tour operators was changed three weeks ago, despite people having paid deposits. The new online system, run by the Saudi ministry of Hajj and Umrah, required people to apply again and enter a draw for limited places available. There were widespread complaints over the site crashing,  difficulty uploading documents and rising prices.  The resulting confusion is said to have had a devastating impact on Hajj tour businesses.   

Gallup poll puts Americans’ belief in God at 81 per cent – surprisingly, a new low

The polling organisation Gallup has issued latest figures showing that 81 per cent of American adults believe in God, a 6-point drop since 2017. This is the lowest figure recorded  since Gallup started asking the question 75 years ago. It has shifted from 98 per cent in the 60’s to 92 per cent 2011 and now the new low. Belief has fallen most among young adults and people on the political left, with 72 per cent of Democrats compared to 92 per cent of Republicans.

Report into church which spent £457,665 on outreach including luxury living

The Charity Commission has concluded an investigation into the Everlasting Arms Ministries church in Peckham, which spent almost half a million pounds on “international outreach” over a three year period, including luxury travel and five-star hotel stays. The Commission said the previous trustee board was responsible for serious management and/or misconduct in the administration of the charity, which fell well below the standard that the commission expects. But it said there had been significant efforts to tighten up polices and procedures under new management.

Premier Gospel awards celebrates thriving gospel music industry

One thousand people attended the annual Premier Gospel Awards at the London Hilton Hotel at the weekend. Premier Christian radio presenters Ibe Giantkiller and Cassandra Maria hosted the ceremony, with guest performances from Choir of the Year Volney Morgan and New Ye; and Best Newcomer, Annatoria, “The Voice UK” s youngest ever winner in 2020. Full list of award winners on Premier Christian News here

The most northern mosque in Britain?

A disused food shop in Lerwick, on Shetland, could be turned into a community centre and place of worship for the island’s Muslim community. The Shetland Times reports that its main use would be for Muslims to participate in congregational prayer every Friday and during festivals and holy days. Five years ago, a mosque was created on the island of Lewis, in the outer Hebrides, which serves a small community of Muslims, expanded by recently arrived Syrian refugees.


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