Religion news 21 March 2024

James Cleverly signs treaty with Rwanda. Image credit: UK Government CCLicense2.0

Bishops vote against Rwanda bill again in the Lords, delaying its enactment into law

Four Church of England bishops joined opposition peers in voting against the government’s Rwanda bill in the Lords yesterday. The legislation allows for the deportation of failed asylum seekers to Rwanda. The bishops of Chelmsford, Manchester, Southwell and Nottingham and Worcester backed all amendments including measures to ensure due regard for domestic and international law, declare Rwanda safe only after a treaty bringing in safeguards, and to exempt people who have served in British armed forces. It was not the first time CofE bishops had resisted the bill. They voted for amendments when the bill was debated in the Lords a few weeks ago, all of which were then rejected by the Commons. But when the bill came back to the Lords yesterday, they continued their resistance. In a process known as “ping pong”, the bill now has to go back to the Commons until both chambers can agree the wording, but this will not happen until after the Easter recess in mid April. The delay enacting the bill means the government may miss its declared intention of sending off the first flight to Rwanda this spring.

Islamic text on Kings Cross departure board taken down after complaints

A text from the Hadith displayed on the departure board at King’s Cross station has been taken down after complaints from the public. It said: “Hadith of the day. The prophet Muhammed said: ‘All the sons of Adam are sinners but the best of the sinners are those who repent often’.” The BBC reports that Network Rail said the message should not have been displayed on the main train departure board and it was investigating why general Ramadan celebratory messages weren’t used. Humanists UK said it was “obviously inappropriate and profoundly misjudged to broadcast hadiths or any religious scripture at passengers” and it has written to the Transport Secretary to outline its concerns.

Most US adults say religion’s influence in public life is waning

A Pew Research Centre survey finds that 80 per cent of US adults say religion’s role in American life is shrinking and most are not happy about it. The survey of 12,693 adults in February, also finds that 94 per cent say it is very or somewhat important to have a president who personally lives a moral and ethical life. 64 per cent say it’s important to have a president who stands up for people with their religious beliefs. 72 per cent of religiously unaffiliated adults – those who identify, religiously, as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – say conservative Christians have gone too far in trying to control religion in the government and public schools. 42 per cent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say that when the Bible and the will of the people conflict, the Bible should have more influence on US laws than the will of the people. The survey results are here

Catholic bishop calls for end to armed insurrection in Haiti

Catholic Bishop Declan Lang, bishop of Clifton and chair of the church’s International Affairs Department, has expressed his concern at the rapidly deteriorating situation in Haiti.  Around 60 per cent of the country is Catholic and senior clergy there have warned that Haiti is on the brink of civil war, with armed gangs causing chaos on the streets, amidst violence, looting and vital supplies running out. Earlier this month the Prime Minister and government resigned, to be replaced by a transition council. Bishop Lang called for prayers for justice, peace and the end of suffering of people in Haiti.

Icons on ammunition boxes from Ukraine on display in Guildford cathedral

Icons painted on ammunition boxes from war zones across Ukraine have gone on display in Guildford Cathedral. Created by Ukrainian artists, Sofiia Atlantova and Oleksandr Klymenko, it is the third time the exhibition has been on display in the UK and has been on tour in 20 countries and in the EU Parliament. The underlying message is that violence and pain can be transfigured into peace and relief. The icons are for sale and all funds raised will support a new mobile hospital in the Donbas region. Since it was launched in 2014, the project has raised over $300,000. 

Report shows anti-prejudice outcomes in young people after Anne Frank training programme

The “Building Commonality” report by academics at Kent University, has found that young people participating in education programmes delivered by the Anne Frank Trust UK benefit from “significant and long-lasting anti-prejudice outcomes”. The programme tells the story of Anne Frank, who wrote her diaries while hiding from the Nazis, eventually dying in a concentration camp aged 15. It expands to explore prejudice of all kinds – antisemitism, Islamophobia, gender inequality and homophobia. The report found 87.6 per cent of participants aged 11-16 achieved significant progress in their knowledge about prejudice, attitudes towards stereotypes and feelings of empathy towards others. 77.1 per cent of young people showed more positive attitudes and 76.1 per cent had increased feelings of commonality to those different from themselves.

CofE redress scheme for abuse survivors finally in place

The Church of England has appointed Kennedys Law to develop and manage its national redress scheme for victims and survivors of Church-related abuse. The CofE says the appointment followed a process involving survivor representatives at every stage. Jane Chevous, co-founder of Survivors Voices, says she is relieved the announcement has been made: “It’s been a huge amount of work to get here”.

Church inspired Taban charity for Iranian asylum seekers in Manchester plans expansion

A charity to help growing communities of Iranian asylum seekers attending three churches across Manchester and Salford, has expanded throughout north west England and has won Lottery funding to engage additional staff. The Taban charity had initial funding from a Diocese of Manchester grant, matched by private individuals, and helps Farsi-speaking migrants of all and no faiths. It puts asylum seekers in touch with mentors and charities to help with employment, runs weekly drop-ins, and builds trust through regular contact and support. It is intending to expand further after receiving grants from the Benefact Trust and National Lottery Communities Awards for All.

Correction: Yesterday’s story on a report saying 80 per cent of Catholics in one diocese did not attend church, wrongly named the diocese. It is in fact Brentwood diocese. Apologies for this mistake. Here’s a link to the story


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