Religion news 25 May 2022

Image Credit: Baptist Press

Southern Baptist leaders apologise culture after damning report on sex abuse

Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention in the States have apologised to survivors of sexual abuse following a damning report released this weekend which showed the church had allowed abusers to stay as ministers and covered up abuse when reported. The Rev Rolland Slade, chair of the executive committee, said the church should lament, listen and learn and be transparent in the future. “Now is the time to change the culture”, he said. The committee promised to make public a database of offenders  and said engaging with survivors was critical.  

Documents emerge with new evidence of Uyghur persecution

The BBC reports that it has authenticated Xinjiang police files on the fate of the mainly Muslim Uyghur people in the north west of China. It says the documents reveal mass incarceration,  a shoot-to-kill policy for those who try to escape, use of “re-education” camps and detention of Uyghurs on terrorism charges with no evidence. The publication of the documents coincides with the recent arrival in China of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, for a controversial visit to Xinjiang. China has always denied mistreatment of the Uyghur people.

Church must take more action on climate change

The Executive Director of the Catholic climate change Laudato Si’ Movement, Tomás Insua, has praised the Orthodox Church for being “extremely active” in environmental campaigning from the 1980s. But in an interview with Vatican News, he said the majority of churches have been late to the game. Laudato Si’ was yhe title of the Pope’s encyclical released seven years ago, on caring or creation. This is Laudato Si’ week, when all churches are asked to highlight climate change campaigns. Tomás Insua said it must be acknowledged that secular environmentalists had been advocating for decades, but the church had only in the  last couple of years, begun to catch up. “To be true leaders, there is much more action that we need to take within our walls”, he said.

Six convicted for harassing French teenager after “anti Islam” posts

Six people have been sentenced after a French teenager was threatened for publishing videos and posts deemed insulting to Muslims. AFP reports that the girl known as Mila, who is now 18, posted a response to a boy who she says insulted her about her sexuality “in the name of Allah” and months later published again in response to the murder of a French teacher Samuel Paty. She was then harassed on social media and received death threats, for which one man has already been jailed. Two men and four women faced charges of harassment and were ordered to pay damages with sentences ranging from wearing an electronic tag to a three month suspended prison term. The case has been regarded as a test on freedom of speech.

Yes, the machines are starting to think for themselves. But do they have souls?

Machines can perform tasks that until recently had been reserved for humans, such as detecting a disease or driving a car. Artificial Intelligence enables this by identifying patterns in data – technology inspired by the human brain. But in a survey of 5,000 people conducted by the Theos think tank, 75 per cent of the public believe intelligence does not mean the machines have souls. The question of what makes humans human was considered by scientists and theologians in a Religion Media Centre briefing, based on the Theos research. Suggestions were: vulnerability, relationships, imagination, amazement, sentience, consciousness and most basic of all, breathing. Report by Catherine Pepinster here. This briefing was the first in a series of three based on the research. Details here


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