Religion news 21 October 2021

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Image credit: CBEW

Faith leaders join forces to oppose assisted dying bill

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi, and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster have joined together to warn of the risk to vulnerable people if parliament backs an attempt to change the law on assisted suicide. The private member’s bill, tabled by Baroness Meacher, which has its second reading in the Lords on Friday, proposes legalising assisted dying for terminally ill people with under six months to live. They say the aim of a compassionate society should be assisted living rather than an acceptance of assisted suicide. The letter is here

Pope Francis’s appeal for a fair and just society goes viral

Pope Francis has called on financial institutions, pharmaceutical companies, media and tech companies to build a fairer society. He was speaking on a video link to the World Meeting of Popular Movements, which he initiated to bring together church leadership and grassroots organizations addressing inequality. Footballer and television presenter Gary Lineker, not usually known for commenting on religious stories, tweeted: “I’m not the slightest bit religious but this Pope is spot on and using his immense influence for good. In the name of humanity all of the below.” The speech went viral on social media and Melanie McDonagh in the Telegraph considers both his popularity and the venom of his detractors.

Rise in antisemitic hate crime proves need for tighter online regulation

Amanda Bowman, a vice-president at the Board of Deputies  of British Jews, says it is working closely with the government over the future Online Safety Bill. In a blog for the Jewish News, she draws attention to the recent Home Office hate crime stats for the year ending March 2021, which show a rise of 7 per cent in antisemitic hate crime in England and Wales. She says the incidents were mainly online in a year when there were several lockdowns, and the response of the main platforms towards combating antisemitism “has generally been apathetic at best”. The board is seeking reassurance that Ofcom, which will take on new powers of regulation for social media, will adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism for its new duties.

Rowan Williams co-chairs commission considering Welsh independence

The Welsh government has set up a commission to consider constitutional reform, including independence, co-chaired by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Professor Laura McAllister, from the University of Cardiff. Lord Williams told Premier Christian Radio that with the United Kingdom in an unstable state, it was timely for Wales to think about “the kind of self-determination, the kind of political freedoms it needs in order to discharge its public life better”. He was born in Swansea, speaks Welsh and has returned to south Wales in his retirement. At the National Eisteddfod in 2002, he became a member of the highest of the three orders of the Gorsedd of Bards, which includes the key cultural figures in Wales.

Hillsong buys Golders Green hippodrome after campaign against turning it into a mosque

The Jewish News reports that the Hippodrome in Golders Green has been bought by Hillsong church, an evangelical megachurch organisation based in Australia with branches worldwide. Reporters understand that contracts have been exchanged between the church and the current owners, a Shia Muslim organisation Markaz al-Tathgeef al-Islami (the Centre for Islamic Enlightening), which had failed to gain planning permission to turn the centre into a mosque after a campaign against the plans. Alan Jacobs, of the Golders Green Residents Environment Group, which led the campaign, told the Jewish News: “The previous owners failed in their attempts to get planning permission to use the Hippodrome as a mosque because of the daily traffic and parking problems that would have resulted. Church use is generally on a Sunday, which Golders Green is better able to cope with.”

Bangladesh minister says country will return to a secular state

In Bangladesh, the minister for information, Murad Hassan, has said Islam is not the state religion and the country will return to its original secular constitution of 1972 offered by the father of the nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He said military dictators had tried to undermine Bangladesh’s core ideal of secularism by declaring Islam as the state religion, but a bill would be passed in parliament to change this. He criticised the BNP-Jamaat party for unleashing violence and creating divisions in the country in the name of religion. The country is experiencing a wave of communal violence after Muslims say the Quran was desecrated by being placed on a Hindu shrine.

Creating Connections: sign up in Manchester, Nottingham, Plymouth and Birmingham

The Religion Media Centre has launched a project this autumn to enhance religious literacy and understanding in a landscape often fraught with misconceptions and assumptions on both sides. Creating Connections, where Religion meets the Media features a series of events to improve links between religious groups and journalists in England. They are an opportunity to explore the way religion and worldviews are interwoven into community life and it is hoped that key stories on religion and belief will be brought to life and lasting contacts for the future will be made. Reserve a place using the links below. All events take place in the afternoon. The Leeds event was last week. Here are the next four:

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