Religion news 25 November

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Five days of Christmas secured

Families in all parts of the UK will be able to gather in groups including three households of any size over Christmas. The government says people will be allowed to travel freely from Wednesday 23 to Sunday 27 December, irrespective of the tier of Covid-19 restrictions where they live. The groups will form a bubble, but the risk to vulnerable older relatives will be taken by the families themselves. Scientists have warned of the dangers of the relaxation, saying it may yield more cases in January.

Appeal for carol singing to be allowed

Public worship is to be allowed from 2 December, but the government has yet to issue guidance on carol singing. The Telegraph reports that a letter signed by actors, singers, artists and Lord Rowan Williams, is urging the government to allow socially distanced carol singing everywhere.

Faith leaders’ outcry at government plan to reduce international aid budget

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak is widely expected to announce a cut in the international aid budget in his spending review in the Commons today (Wednesday).  The spending target of 0.7 per cent of the country’s gross national income is enshrined in law, so changes will require parliament to pass new legislation. As far back as April, faith leaders who saw this decision coming, united in opposition to the move. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said that helping the world’s poorest is one of the great moral and ethical achievements of our country and cutting back when 150 million are falling into poverty around the world goes against principles and beliefs: “Keeping our aid commitment is a strong signal that the UK is a reliable partner for long-term economic, social, environmental and educational advancement across the globe”.

Cathedrals become charities

The General Synod of the Church of England has approved changes to the way Cathedrals are governed, making them charities regulated by the  Charity Commission and the Church Commissioners. A full report in the Church Times says the measure was introduced after a cash flow crisis at Peterborough Cathedral in 2017. It adds that the measure also incorporates modern safeguarding practice into the structure of cathedrals and their chapters

Pope says Uyghurs are a persecuted community

Pope Francis has referred to Uyghur Muslims in China as a “persecuted” community for the first time. His comments came in a book of interviews with the journalist Austen Ivereigh:  “Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future”. Around one million Uyghurs are believed to have been rounded up in internment camps but the Pope has remained silent on the story until now. China dismissed the criticism as “groundless”, saying the Chinese government had always protected the legal rights of ethnic minorities equally. In other chapters, the Pope voiced support for the protests following the killing of George Floyd; said that economic, social and political changes are needed to address global inequalities after the pandemic; and called on governments to consider establishing universal basic income as part of the recovery.

US Poor People’s Campaign holds memorial service to those who died from Covid-19

In America, the Poor People’s Campaign, which is calling for a moral revival in the country, has organized an interfaith  memorial service in Washington, to the 256,000 Americans who have died of the coronavirus. The campaign sees itself as the successor to Martin Luther King’s movement, to unite the poor and vulnerable communities across the country. The leaders, both Christian ministers, are calling for the righting of wrongs which have led to a disproportionately high number of BAME and poor people suffering in the pandemic. They are most at risk of losing their job, being evicted from their home, lacking healthcare and ultimately, death. The interfaith service included the lighting of 2,500 candles, each one representing 10,000 deaths.

The future of the Church of England is young, diverse and digital

The future of the Church of England should be younger, more diverse, simpler, bolder and more humble, according to the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell. In a debate at the General Synod, outlining a vision for the future, he said the church would look different. There would be a continuing digital presence, chaplaincies reaching people outside the church buildings, and new church ‘plants’ alongside parishes.