Religion news 24 January 2022

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Image credit: Open Government License

Calls for Islamophobia investigation after Conservative MP sacked with “Muslimness raised as an issue”

There are calls for an independent investigation into Islamophobia in the Conservative party, after the Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani, said she was told that her “Muslimness was raised as an issue” when she was sacked from a ministerial job in 2020. The Conservative Chief Whip Mark Spencer said in a tweet, since deleted, that Ms Ghani was referring to him and her claims were completely false and defamatory. Ms Ghani, the MP for Wealden in East Sussex, says she raised the issue with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and was advised to begin a complaints process. Ms Ghani’s story has been supported by many MPs including the Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, who said it had to be investigated properly and racism rooted out. The Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Zara Mohammed, told LBC that there was deeply entrenched Islamophobia in the Conservative  party, referring to their report from 2020 which catalogued 300 cases and asked the Equality and Human Rights Commission to investigate.  A No 10 spokesperson said: “The Conservative party does not tolerate prejudice or discrimination of any kind.”

Church Militant rises up against closures and re-organisation

A Church of England report has detected a “scale of exasperation verging on militancy among the laity” in response to proposed church closures and  re-organisation of parishes. The Review of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 , which will be discussed at the General Synod next month, says the process to deal with church closures should be put back to 2023 as a result. The delay follows powerful expressions of anxiety and anger about the direction of the Church of England, the loss of clergy, changes in parish organisations and the feeling that decisions will be taken solely on financial grounds without taking into account local concerns.  The report says people felt the traditional concepts of the Anglican church were changing and there was a sense of “us and them” between the diocesan teams and the parish.

Obstacles in the way of progress on CofE racial justice reforms

Another report to the General Synod explains the slow progress being made to ensure racial justice in the Church of England.  A Commission on Racial Justice has been set up, chaired by Lord Boateng. But the report says there are significant obstacles to meeting recommendations seeking equal participation in church structures “because it requires a substantially larger budget than is available”.  It adds that some recommendations are also currently progressing more slowly than desired, due to GDPR and exacerbated by Covid.

Pope calls for day of prayer for Ukraine

Pope Francis has called for a day of prayer for peace in Ukraine, encouraging political talks to focus on “human brotherhood instead of partisan interests”. Speaking on Sunday, he expressed his concern over rising tensions in Ukraine that threaten peace and the security in Europe with wider repercussions. He has called for the day of prayer to be held on Wednesday.

Board of Deputies President takes complaint to BBC Director General

Jewish News reports that the President of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, has met BBC director general Tim Davie to discuss the disputed news coverage of an incident in Oxford Street last November, when abuse was shouted at a bus carrying Jewish men celebrating Hanukkah.  The report quotes the President saying that the Board expected to hear back from the BBC this week. Last Wednesday Jewish News revealed that Lord Mann, former Labour MP and now the government’s  antisemitism tsar,  had also met the BBC Director General Tim Davie to discuss the coverage of antisemitism. The BBC has accelerated the complaint to the Executive Complaints Unit, which is editorially independent from news. The Board of Deputies has threatened to take the issue to Ofcom if the BBC fails to apologise.

Christians refused to sell their house to a gay couple, quoting scripture to explain

A couple refused to sell their house to two gay men, sending them a message quoting the Bible:  “We’re sorry if we seem intrusive, but we just want to make clear that we would be unwilling for two men in a partnership to view or buy our house as it is contrary to the gracious teaching in God’s Word, the Holy Bible, e.g. Romans 1:24-28 and Jude 7 (King James Version). With regards.” Purple Bricks, the estate agent dealing with the sale of the £650,000 cottage in Surrey, has apologised and stopped marketing the property, saying the owners’ comments are against its ‘views and values’.

Cushions and rugs in church to save the planet

The Times reports Church of England plans to allow cushions and rugs in churches in order to conserve heat and help fight climate change. A report to be considered by the General Synod in February says the aim to is to simplify the process for permissions to make changes in a church building, encouraging measures likely to reduce carbon.

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