Religion news 24 August 2021

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Image credit: Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

Faith groups at centre of US effort to help Afghan evacuees

Faith groups have organised together in America to argue for more vulnerable Afghans to be processed and delivered safely to the USA. The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the Jewish agency HIAS, World Relief, Church World Service and the Episcopal Church have joined other religious and secular refugee aid organizations, calling for President Joe Biden to do more. 13,000 people have been evacuated to the States in the past week and the agencies are awaiting new evacuees, as they settle into temporary accommodation. The faith groups are creating armies of volunteers to provide basic necessities such as food, transportation assistance, clothing, access to healthcare, placing children in schools and finding work for the adults. The Religion News Service correspondent Jack Jenkins reports here

UK faiths and charities mobilise for Afghan refugees

In the UK, 5,000 refugees will arrive this year with a further 20,000 on a special resettlement scheme over the next few years. The charities Welcome Churches and Hospitality Pledge have launched appeals for churches to help Afghan refugees settle here. Dr Krish Kandiah, leader of Hospitality Pledge, said they are working with the Home Office to provide practical support and he is seeking  accommodation at Christian conference centres and retreat centres. The Muslim Council of Britain has held an urgent zoom meeting to clarify the role that Muslim communities must play in supporting those seeking refuge. It has joined more than 90 UK organisations to urge the government to grant immediate asylum to Afghans already waiting in the UK, scrap the resettlement-only plan and expand access to safe routes into the UK for refugees.

Fifty-seven Islamic countries urge that Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for terrorists

Reuters reports that the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has pledged to help achieve peace in Afghanistan and said its future leaders must guard against allowing the country to be used as a backyard for international Islamist militancy. A communique, issued after a special meeting on Afghanistan, said the future Afghan leadership and the international community should work together to ensure that it should never again be a platform or safe haven for terrorists.

Afghan Hindus and Sikhs evacuated to India

The Print, an India based online news site, says three copies of the Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib and 75 people, including 46 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, have been evacuated from Afghanistan on an Indian air force plane. But it says nearly 200 more Afghan Sikhs and Hindus are still stranded at a gudwara, many checkpoints away from the airport.  Among the hundreds taken to safety in India are two Afghan MPs — Narinder Singh Khalsa and Anarkali Kaur Honaryar — and their families.

Hasidic Jewish family face the death of their severely disabled toddler this week

A long legal battle over the care of a two-year-old severely disabled girl in Manchester is drawing to a close. Alta Fixsler was left severely brain damaged at birth and has never been capable of consciousness. She could be taken off life support this week, but her parents Abraham and Chaya Fixsler, both Hasidic Jews, are opposed to its withdrawal, believing euthanasia is a violation of the Jewish faith. They have fought to be able to take their daughter for further treatment to Israel or the States, where Abraham was brought up. But a court has ruled that moving the child would create further pain and discomfort with no medical benefit and noted there was general acceptance that there was no prospect of recovery.

Families in England “forced to send children to faith schools against their wishes”

The National Secular Society says around a third of families in England are left with little choice but to send their child to a faith based primary school, as they live in areas where two or three of their nearest primary schools fall into this category. One in 10 families have the same issue at secondary level.  The NSS research also suggests that this September, for the third year running, more than 20,000 pupils have been assigned faith schools despite their families expressing a preference for a non-faith option. The NSS says: “Amid a rapid and sustained decline in Christian affiliation, it’s time policymakers seriously engaged with this issue. They should take steps to ensure every pupil’s ability to access a secular education”.

CofE sets up network to support UK minority ethnic trainee clergy

The UK Minority Ethnic Ordinands and Curates group has been set up in the Church of England to support trainee clergy and be a critical partner of the CofE, publicising challenges they face together. Last year 8.9% of those ordained to full time ministry were from a UKME background. Of the total number of CofE clergy, 4.1% are UKME. The group has been set up by ordinand and former junior doctor Angela Sheard and former biomedical scientist Tariro Matsveru who was ordained in June, and says: “We are not guests to bewelcomed, we belong. It is our church and we are here to stay.”

Jesse Jackson and his wife Jacqueline in hospital with Covid-19

The American civil rights leader the Rev Jesse Jackson and his wife, Jacqueline, have been hospitalized after testing positive for Covid-19. A statement from their Rainbow / PUSH coalition said the couple, aged 79 and 77, are being monitored. Jesse Jackson is known to have been vaccinated and has campaigned for all African Americans to do the same.

Polish archbishop punished for failures dealing with sex abuse allegations

Marian Golebiewski, the former Archbishop of Wroclaw in Poland, who is now aged 83, has been banned from taking part in any public ceremonies, both religious and secular, following an investigation into negligence over sex abuse allegations. The punishment follows a Vatican investigation into his failure to give sufficient credence to allegations from 1996 to 2013.

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