Religion news 25 October 2021

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Image credit: Lambeth Palace

Archbishop says world leaders should be bolder in tackling climate change

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has urged world leaders assembling for Cop26 in Glasgow to be bolder and more generous as they seek to curb climate change. In an interview with the Press Association, he said a failure to tackle the environmental crisis risked driving conflict around the world. The transition away from fossil rules had to be fair to the poor. Earlier he met activists from the Young Christian Climate network at Lambeth Palace (pictured) and heard their appeal for funding to help vulnerable countries tackle climate change without going into further debt. They have organised a relay pilgrimage from Truro to Glasgow with young Christians taking part in each leg of the journey, supported by churches on the way.

Lords’ impassioned debate on assisted dying bill

The House of Lords held a one-day debate on a bill to allow patients with less than six months to live, the right to take life-ending medication. Bishops spoke against the bill, saying it would prey on the vulnerable who would feel under pressure to end their lives. The measure gathered support from across the chamber including from Lord Field of Birkenhead, who asked Baroness Meacher to read out his views, revealing that he was terminally ill and unable to attend in person. He said he became a supporter after an MP friend, dying of cancer, wanted to die early before the full horrific effects set in, but was denied this opportunity. The bill was unopposed at this second reading and will go on to further debate in the committee stage. Commentators suggest it is not expected to become law because of parliamentary time constraints.

Campaign to remove bishops from the House of Lords

The National Secular Society is campaigning to scrap the “archaic, unfair, undemocratic” bishops’ bench in the House of Lords. The campaign was launched in the same week as the debate on the assisted dying bill, which was opposed by the bishops. On Twitter, the society said: “Outrageous that CofE bishops are given such a privileged position in our democracy entirely on the basis that they are CofE bishops,” adding that: “In a secular state no religion or its leaders should have a privileged role in the legislature.” Two archbishops and 24 bishops of the Church of England have seats in the Lords, but the society says this representation is not proportionate to church attendance.

Salvation Army joins coalition to stop modern slavery

The Salvation Army has joined forces with more than 17 other UK charities to form the Coalition to Stop Slavery, calling on the government to take action. The Salvation Army is the prime contractor for the government’s modern slavery victim care contract. In its annual report, published last week, the Salvation Army says the number of people rescued from modern slavery after being forced to commit crimes rose by 62 per cent in the year to June 2021. Survivors were of 96 different nationalities, the largest number were Albanians, and the number of Sudanese people increased 87 per cent on the previous year. People brought here found work on farms, factories, building sites, and restaurants, as well as domestic help and sex workers, for little or no pay.

Daughter of disgraced evangelist Ravi Zacharias starts new ministry

Sarah Davis, the daughter of the disgraced apologist Ravi Zacharias and the chief executive of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), is leaving to form a similar organisation of her own. It follows an independent investigation into the abuse and misconduct of her father, who died in 2020, allegations that rocked the organisation. Christianity Today reported that her new company, Encounter, will probably be housed at RZIM’s headquarters near Atlanta and will be led by Ms Davis and other long-time RZIM staff. The report suggests there have been divisions at RZIM over the process of the investigations.

Digital memory map shows history of Jewish community in Manchester

A map showing significant places in the lives of the Jewish community in Manchester has been created by an academic from Manchester Metropolitan University. The Memory Map of Jewish Manchester shows shops, synagogues, schools, cinemas, cafes, streets and youth clubs of the community in the Cheetham Hill, Strangeways and Hightown areas of north Manchester, which settled from the 1880s. The digital project includes a map, photographs and audio stories collected by a historian in liaison with the Manchester Jewish Museum.

Gang leader threatens to kill 17 kidnapped missionaries in Haiti

The leader of the gang in Haiti suspected of kidnapping 17 members of an American missionary group has threatened to kill the hostages if his demands are not met. Al Jazeera reports that Wilson Joseph, leader of the 400 Mawozo gang, issued the ultimatum in a video posted on social media, in response to his demand for $1m ransom. The missionary group, from the Amish and Mennonite traditions, was abducted after leaving an orphanage on an assignment. The captives include five children aged from eight months to 15 years and adults aged from 18 to 48. The FBI is said to be working with Haitian authorities to resolve the situation and recover the missionary group.

Army recruitment exercise for Muslim women in York

The British Army, as part of its recruitment drive to represent society as a whole, has given a group of Muslim women the chance to tackle an assault course at a barracks in York. The BBC quotes Major Kate Haniford, of the Royal Artillery, saying the army is an organisation that should represent the society it serves and all army roles are open to women. The report says there are 650 Muslims serving in the RAF, Army and Royal Navy out of a total force of just under 150,000

Ancient Jewish manuscript returns home to Spain after 600 years exile

The Sarajevo Haggadah, a medieval Sephardic Jewish manuscript traditionally used during the Passover meal (Seder), is being brought back to Spain for an exhibition on six centuries of exile. The Sephardic Jews originated in Spain until their expulsion in1492. The Sarajevo Haggadah is one of 14 remaining Haggadot (prayer books) that survived the expulsion. Euronews says it has colourful illustrations, poems and depictions of human faces. Its return for the exhibition has been descried as a “homecoming”.

Creating Connections: sign up in Manchester, Nottingham, Plymouth and Birmingham

The Religion Media Centre has launched a project this autumn to enhance religious literacy and understanding in a landscape often fraught with misconceptions and assumptions on both sides. Creating Connections, where Religion meets the Media features a series of events to improve links between religious groups and journalists in England. They are an opportunity to explore the way religion and worldviews are interwoven into community life and it is hoped that key stories on religion and belief will be brought to life and lasting contacts for the future will be made. Reserve a place using the links below. All events take place in the afternoon. The Leeds event was last week. Here are the next four:

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