Religion news 24 June 2022

Image credit: Islamic Relief

UK aid agencies unite in appeal for victims of Afghanistan earthquake

The Disasters Emergency Committee says it is deeply concerned about the earthquake that struck Paktika province in Afghanistan, reportedly killing at least 1,000 people and injuring at least 1,500 more. Funds from the existing Afghanistan appeal will be used for this latest tragedy. Islamic Relief, one of DEC’s 15 charity members, says it sending an emergency response team to the province, to provide food aid and cash so that people can buy supplies and emergency shelter for people who have lost their homes. It says the worst-affected areas are remote rural communities, many of which are hard to reach.

Bishop says diplomacy and ease of sanctions might be best route to secure Ukraine’s territory

The Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, has said that the overarching aim of the war in Ukraine must be to end it as soon as possible on terms that reflect Ukraine’s sovereign independent status. In a paper to be presented to the General Synod, the Church of England’s parliament, in July, he said that the long-term goal should be that Ukraine controls all its territory, “but it does not necessarily follow that military force should be used to liberate Crimea or even all of the eastern Donbas region. Some of these goals might be better served through diplomacy and the selective easing of sanctions.” He also said the longer-term objective was “negotiating with Russia a more far reaching security treaty and framework for Europe more broadly” and he warned of negotiating a peace that sows the seeds for a future conflict. Before his ordination, the bishop worked for four years as a Russian linguist at GCHQ. The Telegraph‘s report is here

Russian Orthodox church criticises UK sanctions against Patriarch Kirill

Jonathan Luxmoore, writing in Church Times, reports that the Russian Orthodox church has criticised the UK’s imposition of sanctions on Patriarch Kirill. Its press officer is quoted as saying that attempts to intimidate the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, or force him to give up his views, are pointless and futile. The foreign secretary, Liz Truss, announced last week that a travel ban and asset-freeze was being imposed on several “enablers and perpetrators” of the war, including Kirill, named for his “support and endorsement of Putin’s war”.

Faith minister visits the Pope to promote international conference on freedom of religion or belief

The faith minister, Kemi Badenoch, has written a signed article published in the Jewish Chronicle on her visit to the Vatican at the end of May, when she met Pope Francis to promote the international ministerial conference on freedom of religion or belief. In an Instagram post, she said: “it was the honour of my life.” She also wrote that she had met the Chief Rabbi of Rome and said: “It is widely known that religion bridges cultures and communities. Yet, it is only by visiting these places that we really understand what this means in reality.” She committed to building in the UK a lasting memorial to the Holocaust, including education around antisemitism within the national curriculum, and said she was looking forward to the UK chairing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2024. She expressed the hope that the forthcoming freedom of religion or belief conference in London on 5 and 6 July, would unite world leaders in a common mission to end the injustice of people of faith being targets of terror and hatred.

Pope apologises to abuse survivors from a college in west Yorkshire

Pope Francis has met a group of men who were sexually abused at St Peter Claver College in Mirfield, west Yorkshire, in the 1960s and 1970s, and has asked for forgiveness. The meeting took place at the Vatican this week and The Tablet reports that the Pope was visibly shaken and upset as he listened to their testimony. The college was a training school for priests run by the Verona Fathers, an Italian religious order known as the Comboni Missionaries, which has refused to acknowledge that abuse took place or to meet the survivors. A police investigation found that two suspects had died and the third was in a mental hospital in Italy, unable to answer questions. The Tablet story by Christopher Lamb is here

Itinerary published for Pope’s visit to Canada in July

The Associated Press reports that the Vatican has released the itinerary for Pope Francis’s visit to Canada from 24-30 July. He is due to apologise to indigenous people for horrific abuse at Catholic-run residential schools, where children were forcibly removed from their parents to be assimilated into Canadian society. Hundreds of unmarked graves have been found at sites of former schools. Earlier this month, mobility problems forced the Pope to cancel a six-day visit to Africa.

Vatican publishes online documents of Jewish pleas for help against the Nazis

The Vatican is publishing online a collection of documents from Jews requesting help from Pope Pius XII against the Nazis. There are 170 volumes, or nearly 40,000 files, and 70 per cent will be online in the first wave. The material has been available since March 2020, for reading in the historical archive at the Vatican.

TV drama ‘afraid to take risks’ on Muslim stories

A comment piece in The Guardian argues that people of ethnic minority and Muslim backgrounds face a difficult, painful and often futile experience in creative industries. Sammy Gecsoyler, a recipient of the Scott Trust bursary, reports that comedy has seen ground-breaking shows featuring Muslim stories and talent, but in drama there is a long way to go. He says too often dramas opt for depicting Muslims with an air of criminality, cites examples of script-writers saying they have to shed a character’s “Muslimness”, reports fears that stories about Muslims will be “butchered”, and quotes a view that commissioners are afraid of taking risks on stories about Muslims which they do not recognise. His article is here.


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