Religion news 23 June 2022

Image credit: George Hodan CCO Public Domain

Offences against race or religion up by 15 per cent in England and Wales last year

Racially and religiously aggravated offences recorded by police have risen by 15 per cent in a year in England and Wales. The Press Association came up with the figure after analysing Home Office data. 76,884 racially and religiously aggravated offences were recorded in 2021, up from 66,742 in 2020. Police suggest the rise is due to coming out of lockdown and reaction to national or global events, for example the Euro 2020 football championships. London had the highest number of cases, but Gloucestershire had the highest rise of 45 per cent on the previous year. Racially or religiously aggravated offences include assault, harassment, criminal damage and causing public fear, alarm or distress.

Sandford awards for programmes on religion, ethics and spirituality

The Sandford St Martin Trust held its annual awards ceremony in Spitalfields last night, honouring programmes exploring religion, ethics or spirituality. It was the first in person event since 2019 and the Trust chair Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley said she was thrilled people were able to meet  together again. There were seven awards including “Is the Church Racist” by BBC Panorama in the Journalism category; A programme about beer making monks “Brotherhood: The Inner Life of Monks” by Intrepid Media Ltd for Channel 4; “Time”, the Jimmy McGovern drama series on BBC1, won the Radio Times’ Readers award; and the RMC’s journalist Rosie Dawson, won in the radio/audio category for “A Uyghur Ramadan” by CTVC for Things Unseen. Two trustees awards for outstanding contributions were made to Sir Lenny Henry for work on diversity and inclusion in the industry; and to Zahra Joya, founder of the Afghan women’s news organisation Rukhshana Media, which continues to make women’s stories heard. The awards ceremony will move to Manchester next year.

Lambeth conference of Anglican bishops should look out not in

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said that the aim of this summer’s Lambeth conference of bishops from all over the world, is to look outwards to issues such as climate change, war, migration, persecution and political instability. He was speaking at a press briefing, curtain raising the conference which takes place in Canterbury from 26 July – 8 August. The gathering is usually held every ten years, though there was a 14 year gap this time due to Covid. At previous Lambeth conferences, internal divisions over sexuality have been played out in acrimony, leading to the conservative breakaway group GAFCON. Its members from Uganda, Rwanda and Nigeria are boycotting the conference, but 658 bishops and 480 spouses, excluding same sex partners who are not recognised, are attending. The conference will issue “calls” rather than agree resolutions, so that local churches can continue discussions on areas of disagreement. Justin Welby told the press conference that Anglicans argue loudly, honestly and openly, but while they disagree on many things, they agree on one important thing “that Jesus is Lord”. He hoped the conference would continue the practice of disagreeing well.

Sikhs in Afghanistan face extinction after sustained attacks

The bombing of Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul on Saturday, killing at least two people and injuring several others, appears to be the final chapter in the history of Sikhs in Afghanistan, who now face extinction. Gurmeet Singh, chairman and trustee of Guru Nanak Darbar gurdwara in Southall, west London said the attack was devastating. Although 140 or so Sikhs are believed to remain in Kabul, it is not known how many are left in other prominent Afghan cities, such as Kandahar. It was vital, he said, that some Sikhs stayed behind to look after the historic gurdwaras, which would otherwise be desecrated or reduced to rubble. Read Hardeep Singh’s article on our website here

Changing role of black led churches in Britain since 1948

A comment piece in The Voice, published to coincide with Windrush Day, charts the changing role of black led churches in British society. It says the founders of the black churches created a hub and community, offering support and education to young people. But now churches are criticised for passivity over racial injustice and the article suggests the vision of the founding church members must be remembered and renewed. Windrush Day commemorates the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks on 22 June 1948.

New liturgy to safeguard the planet

The Guardian reports that the Diocese of Oxford is adding a line in the liturgy for baptisms and confirmations asking people to commit to “strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the Earth”. It quotes the Bishop of Oxford Steven Croft saying the church had a key moral and spiritual role to play in addressing the climate and ecological emergency. In a blog, the bishop said he had already introduced the line in two services, is writing clergy to ask them to do the same and working with the liturgical commission to encourage other dioceses to follow their lead.

7th century mosque found in desert south of Jerusalem

Archaeologists from the Israel Antiques Authority have discovered a 7th century mosque in the Negev desert near the city of Rahat south west of Jerusalem. It would be one of the earliest mosques in the religion, founded in the 7th century. The building foundations contain a square prayer room and a wall facing towards Mecca, with a half-circle niche that points south and a “proliferation” of 7th century ceramics. The site was uncovered during excavations ahead of the construction of new neighbourhoods in Rahat. It is two kilometers away from another 7th-century rural mosque excavated in 2019.


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