Religion news 25 February

Image credit: Museum of homelessness

Failure to tackle online hate fuels extremism and terrorist recruitment

The head of counter-terrorism has warned that online extremism has increased during the pandemic with children as young as 13 discussing committing terrorist attacks. Neil Basu, an assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard, told the Commons home affairs committee that while Islamist extremism still accounted for the majority of cases, 10 per cent of his caseload was right-wing terrorism. The Commission for Countering Extremism has warned that Britain’s failure to tackle online hate is fuelling terrorist recruitment and “hateful extremism” is exploited by radical Islamists to neo-Nazis.

976 candles at St Martin-in-the-Fields mark London’s homeless deaths

The steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields, in Trafalgar Square London, were filled with 976 candles in tribute to the people who died while homeless in 2020. The numbers of deaths has been charted since 2017 in a project begun by  the Dying Homeless Project and now the Museum of Homelessness, which says that last year saw a 37 per cent increase in the deaths recorded and many people who died were unknown. Most were in emergency or temporary accommodation when they died.

US evangelicals come out against white nationalism

More than 100 prominent evangelical Christian pastors and church leaders have spoken out against Christian nationalism and its role in the insurrection on Capitol Hill. First reported by NPR, the leaders signed an open letter calling on Christians to state that Christianity is incompatible with “calls to violence, support of white Christian nationalism, conspiracy theories, and all religious and racial prejudice”. They say US evangelicals have been susceptible to the “heresy” of Christian nationalism and church leaders have accommodated white supremacy over many years.

Purim celebrated under lockdown

The Jewish Festival of Purim is observed today, although lockdown is preventing the usual parties and social gatherings.  Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi,  has urged a responsible celebration, recalling that last year’s festival was just before lockdown and celebrations had led to a spike in coronavirus cases. Instead, this year gifts could be left at doorsteps, recitals could be joined online and meals celebrated within one household. Read our Purim factsheet here

Proposals to reform clergy discipline process

A report from the Ecclesiastical Law Society on reforms to the way Church of England clergy are disciplined, has come up with a proposal which could save £250,000 and still provide more in legal aid to those accused. The current disciplinary system has been criticised for being slow and causing more distress. Under this proposal, there would be an initial online assessment, with minor matters dealt with through mediation and misconduct referred to a bishop. Matters of serious misconduct would be dealt with in tribunals within six months. Church Times report here

Bishop with ecological science degree takes lead in environment programme

The Bishop of Norwich, Graham Usher, is to lead the Church of England’s environment programme, which is committed to net-zero carbon impacts across the church by 2030.  His first degree was in ecological science from Edinburgh University and he has written two books on spirituality and the environment. He will succeed the Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, who retires this year.

First woman leader for German Catholic Bishops’ Conference

The German Catholic Bishops’ Conference has elected a woman for the first time as the conference’s general secretary. Theologian Beate Gilles takes on the role amid demands for more leadership roles for women.  There are 22 million German Catholics, but membership is falling.

London Catholic school’s cleaners strike for 40 days of Lent

Cleaners at La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls’ School in south London are going on strike for the 40 days and nights of Lent in protest at pay and conditions. The cleaners are outsourced to Ecocleen, and are demanding full sick pay, a London living wage and a reduction in their hours of work.



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