Religion news 22 July 2021

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Image credit: NTD report

Bishop says government must be more robust against China over treatment of Uyghurs

The Bishop of St Albans Dr Alan Smith says the government must be “far more robust” in its actions against China over the treatment of the majority Muslim Uyghurs in the north-west of the country. In a House of Lords debate, he said that he had found the Government’s response to the situation disappointing over recent months. He was particularly concerned about the harvesting of organs in China from minorities including Uyghurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong and Chinese Christians.  And he appealed for a change in the law which allows British citizens to receive organs from unknown and possibly non-consenting people, saying that all organ donors around the world require protection. He was speaking during the second reading of the Organ Tourism and Cadavers on Display bill.

Pegasus spyware targeted Muslim activists in Britain

The Muslim Association of Britain says it is appalled that several phones belonging to its members were hacked by the Israeli technology company NSO Group, using “Pegasus” spyware. In the past, the Association was regarded as Islamist and having links to The Muslim Brotherhood.  The extent of the spying on world leaders, activists and journalists, has been investigated by 17 publications in various countries, with hacking found across the globe. The Guardian explains that Pegasus is a malware that infects iPhones and Android devices to enable the extraction of messages, photos and emails, the recording of calls and the ability to secretly activate microphones.

Religious freedom award for Benedict Rogers

Benedict Rogers, who has campaigned on religious freedom for the past 27 years, has received an International Religious Freedom Champion award for advocacy leadership at the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington DC.  He is senior East Asia analyst at Christian Solidarity Worldwide , specialising in  in Myanmar, Indonesia, North Korea and China. Expressing gratitude for the award, Mr. Rogers said it was  religious leaders, human rights defenders, lawyers, civil society activists, journalists and others working to document freedom of religion or belief  in dangerous and difficult circumstances, who were the real champions.

Coroner criticises churches over suicide of priest falsely accused of abuse

The coroner who investigated the suicide of the Rev Alan Griffin in London,  while he was being investigated over false allegations of child abuse, has warned of the church’s failings in dealing with him. He was an Anglican who became a Roman Catholic and both churches were criticised. The coroner, Mary Hassell, said that the allegations were not supported and her report noted “the breadth of the systemic and individual failings that have come to light during the course of this inquest”. Her report said Fr Griffin was never told the detail of and the source for the complaint against him.

Clergy join campaign to overturn Texas abortion law

In Texas, clergy have joined doctors and clinics to fight a proposed law which would allow citizens to sue people believed to have helped procure abortions. The Religion News Service says that Interfaith minister, the Rev Erika Forbes, who offers pastoral help to women contemplating abortion, said she believed the bill would impede her work. Legal action is being taken by a coalition of organisations to overturn the law.

Six spired Temple open to the public after almost 50 years

In Washington DC, a dramatic temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, with six white marble spires,  is to be opened to the public for the first time in nearly 50 years. The Washington Post reports that usually, only church members in good standing can enter temples. But tens of thousands of visitors are expected when it re-opens following renovation work and Covid-19 lockdowns. The last time it was open, in 1974, it attracted more than 750,000 visitors.  

Dissolved Canadian parish gives way to a church plant and circus shows

The downtown Montreal Anglican church St Jax is the backdrop to summer circus shows, music concerts, comedy and picnics with “good time bars” attracting 10,000 people a week who pass its doors. The church’s central place in community life followed the closure of the parish, after numbers dwindled and financial problems set in. The 19th century Gothic structure is now a partner of the Trinity Centres Foundation, whose goal is to see 100 historic church buildings transformed into community centres “as incubators and accelerators for the community and the charitable sector”. St Jax (full name St. James the Apostle Anglican Church) has a new worshipping community – a church plant associated with Holy Trinity Brompton in London. Led by an ordained “church planter”, the new Christian group began with the Alpha course and now has a congregation of up to 150.  

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