Religion news 21 May 2021

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BBC former religion editor Martin Bashir deceived Diana

A judge-led inquiry has found that Martin Bashir, the BBC’s former religious affairs editor, acted in a deceitful way to gain access to Princess Diana, to get the explosive interview with her in 1995. She spoke frankly: “There were three people in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded” – one month later, the Queen suggested Prince Charles and Princess Diana should divorce. Bashir has once more apologised for faking bank documents suggesting she was sunder surveillance, but insisted it had no bearing on Diana’s decision to be interviewed. The inquiry published a handwritten letter from Diana saying she had no regrets about the interview and that Bashir had not shown her any documents nor given her any information that she was not previously aware of. Martin Bashir resigned from his position last week on health grounds, after five years in the role and having suffered serious health issues in recent years. In an article in the Telegraph last year, he revealed that he attended the evangelical Emmanuel Church in Wimbledon.

Ceasefire in the Middle East

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire after an 11 day conflict which has claimed at least 240 deaths. The truce was proposed by Egypt after intensive diplomatic activity. In its wake, the Episcopalian News Service says the health system in Gaza, already overwhelmed by the COVID pandemic, is in crisis, surviving on generators. An appeal has been launched.

Archbishop apologises to survivors abused by John Smyth

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a “full personal apology”  to survivors of abuse by John Smyth, a QC who worked in evangelical boys Christian summer camps in the 1970s and 80s, known as ‘Bash Camps’. Justin Welby also worked in the camps run by Smyth but denies any knowledge of the abuse at the time.  In a statement issued after meeting survivors of the abuse he said the abuse was perpetrated by a perverted version of spirituality and evangelicalism. He has pledged that the National Safeguarding Team will investigate every clergy person or others within their scope who knew and failed to disclose the abuse

One year after George Floyd murder: plea to master original sin of racism

One year after George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, faith leaders considered the lasting impact of the shock and revulsion felt by people round the world when they saw his murder play out on their screens. His friend, Pastor Patrick Ngonwolo, told a Religion Media Centre briefing that the world would have to master the original sin of racism, or it would master us. See the briefing on our Youtube channel here  

Winchester diocese in turmoil as Bishop steps aside

The Church Times reports trouble in the diocese of Winchester, where the Bishop, Tim Dakin, the former general secretary of the Church Mission Society,  has “stepped back” from work for six weeks after he was threatened with a vote of no confidence at the next diocesan synod. The report suggests several points of friction including the appointment of a person to ‘plant’ – create – 30 new churches by 2030; and a Church Growth Missioner to develop capacity for growth in the diocese.

Sikhs meet Australian education minister over kirpan ban

The Australian network ABC reports that members  of Australia’s Sikh community met the Education Minister to discuss concerns about a ban on religious knives (kirpan) at schools in New South Wales.  The ban came into effect this week after a 14-year-old boy allegedly used a kirpan to stab a 16-year-old boy. Both sides agreed to work together to find an appropriate solution. A Sikh leader suggested allowing the kirpan in schools under the condition that they remain locked in a case. He said Australia is a multicultural country and must support all cultures and religions.

World renowned Chimpanzee expert awarded Templeton prize

The conservationist Dr Jane Goodall, who has spent her life researching chimpanzees, has been awarded the £1.1 million Templeton Prize. It is awarded annually to people who use science to explore “deep questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it”. Raised in Bournemouth, she left for Tanzania at the age of 26 and immersed herself in the world of wild chimpanzees, eventually founding a foundation to provide safe habitats. Now aged 87, she describes her interactions with chimpanzees as reflecting divine intelligence: “all living things and the natural world they inhabit are connected and the connective energy is a divine force transcending good and evil”.

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