Religion news 24 May 2021

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Image credit: @AlonLeeGreen

Three demonstrations on Israel-Palestine with glimmer of light

In Israel, Jews and Arabs protested together against the threatened eviction of Palestinian people from their homes in east Jerusalem. And in Tel Aviv, thousands of people demonstrated, calling for Jewish and Arab coexistence and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Times of Israel reports that Sally Abed, from the campaign group We Stand Together, said Arabs and Jews should work together to create a more equal society. Ayman Odeh, chairman of the predominantly Arab Joint List Party in the Knesset, said the rally gave him hope: “I see a strong light. Jews and Arabs together will dispel the darkness. You are the light.”

On Saturday, an estimated 180,000 protesters gathered in Hyde Park for a pro-Palestine demonstration, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. It took place the day after a ceasefire was declared, but Labour MP John McDonnell who addressed the crowd, said the campaign to boycott, disinvest and sanction the Israeli apartheid state” would continue. The campaign against antisemitism complained that some posters compared Israel to Nazis and an Israeli flag was burnt.

On Sunday, 1,500 people gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in London to express support for Israel. It was organised by the Zionist Federation of UK and Ireland. Speakers, including Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s ambassador to the UK, called on the international community to support Israel and lambasted Hamas.

Martin Bashir repentant and apologetic

The former BBC religious affairs editor, Martin Bashir, has told The Sunday Times that he is “properly repentant” of what happened when he gained the interview with Princess Diana in 1995, at a time when he was a reporter on Panorama. He has also apologised to princes William and Harry, and said he was Diana’s friend and never wanted to harm her. He regretted forging the bank statements suggesting she was being spied upon, but they had no bearing on the interview. Bashir was rehired by the BBC in 2016 as its religious affairs correspondent, then editor, but he resigned a week ago on health grounds.

Mixed motives and clashing values’

In an article on our website, Andrew Brown considers some of the ethical dilemmas posed by the Diana interview. “The turmoil over Martin Bashir at the BBC matters because it goes to the heart of an interesting question: why should people talk to journalists at all? This is especially acute, I think, in religious journalism, because of the general perception among believers that secular journalists are biased against all forms of religious belief. At the same time, secular journalists tend to believe that religious organisations are biased against truth and interested only in propaganda. There is plenty of evidence for both sides of this argument.” Full article here

Speculation mounts that the Pope will visit Cop26 in Glasgow

Roman Catholic bishops in England, Wales and Scotland have urged a new commitment to combating climate change, launched yesterday on Pentecost Sunday. Their enthusiastic support comes as speculation mounts that Pope Francis will attend the Cop26 conference in Glasgow.  They are also making efforts for the Catholic Church in this country to “go green” by both investing and divesting according to ecological criteria and becoming the biggest user of sustainable energy in the country: more than three-quarters of their gas derives from a Scottish gin distillery. Full story by Catherine Pepinster here

Global Anglican science commission

A science commission is to be set up by the worldwide Anglican Communion, to promote greater understanding about the “gift of science” to human beings. In a film launching the project, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby points to the creation of vaccines, the unveiling of the danger of climate change and the advance of technology as bringing benefits of mankind. “But the reaction of the church has, for many years — and many centuries, one might say — been very cautious about science and remains so today. Or there is fear.” He said questions and knowledge of science should be encouraged. Science is to be a big theme of the Lambeth conference of bishops in 2022.

Southern Baptist Convention mired in acrimony as membership expected to halve

Bob Smetiana, from the Religion News Service in the United States, has outlined how the resignation of Russell Moore from the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention has revealed its disunity and infighting, which has left some commentators believing it will be half the size in 2025. Russell Moore was president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, but caused controversy by his opposition to Donald Trump over sex abuse claims and immigration policy. The church has an estimated 14.5 million members and is the largest Protestant denomination in the States. Smetiana’s report says its annual meeting next month will surface conflicts over race, critical race theory, the role of women in the church and the unsettled question of how to deal with sexual abuse.

Carvings of notable women to be installed in medieval church

Carvings of women will be installed at St Mary’s Church in Beverley, East Yorkshire, to replace original carvings that are so eroded they have lost all shape and identity, The Guardian reports. Last year the church, which dates from 1120, installed carvings from The Chronicles of Narnia, the books by CS Lewis. Now the sculptors are fashioning carvings of women who played a significant role in the advancement of science or human knowledge. They include:

  • Mary Wollstonecraft, 18th-century feminist
  • Amy Johnson, 20th-century flying pioneer
  • Mary Seacole, 19th-century British-Jamaican nurse;
  • Marie Curie, physicist who won the Nobel prize twice
  • Rosalind Franklin, chemist and X-ray crystallographer known as the “dark lady of DNA”
  • Helen Sharman, first British astronaut
  • Ada Lovelace, mathematician and writer, known for her work on Babbage’s computer
  • Hilda Lyon, engineer who invented a streamlined design for airships and submarines
  • And if she gives permission, the Queen


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