Religion news 26 April 2024

Asylum seekers Hope hostel, Kigali, Rwanda. Image credit: Google Earth

Bishop: Rwanda bill is a dark moment in our country’s history

Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani has described the passing of the Safety of Rwanda bill as a “dark moment in our country’s history”.  In a comment piece in the “i”, she said it goes against our long-standing tradition of welcoming and supporting refugees in the UK. She herself fled to England from Iran as a refugee aged 14, after her father, an Anglican bishop, survived an assassination attempt and her brother was murdered. She said: “The bill worryingly takes us a step closer to fully abdicating our moral and legal responsibility for refugee protection by outsourcing that duty to a country that our own courts have not yet declared safe for refugees”. She urged the government to wait until safeguards were in place and implored the authorities to act with compassion to those it chooses to deport. “I still believe the Rwanda bill does not reflect who we are and it does not espouse the values I see at work in our communities, where people from all backgrounds join together to serve, worship, work and live together”.

Jewish groups urge review of the 1986 Public Order Act to improve policing of demonstrations

A delegation of Jewish community groups met the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley yesterday, to discuss the policing of pro Palestine marches, days after an incident in London where Gideon Falter, CEO of the Campaign Against Antisemitism tried to cross the path of a march and an officer warned him of risk as he was “openly Jewish”. The delegation represented the Board of Deputies, Community Security Trust and the Jewish Leadership Council. A statement from the Board of Deputies said the meeting raised concerns that the Public Order Act of 1986 needed to be reviewed.  The President of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, said it should reflect the realities of the 21st century and was not designed “to consider a concentrated campaign intended to bring central London to a standstill on weekends with repeated marches for months on end”.  Jewish News reports separately on a phone meeting between the home secretary, James Cleverley, and Ms van der Zyl, where she expressed great concern at some of the policing and responses from officers to “disturbing incidents.” Mr Cleverley replied that should the Jewish community feel safe on London’s streets, and for Jews to hide their Judaism is a red line that cannot be crossed.

Seder in the Street in New York combines passover and protest

Around 300 people were arrested in New York after a Seder in the Street, which was also a Jewish protest at the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. They sat across a main road to pray and protested loudly for the end of US military aid to Israel. Rabbis and activists in Brooklyn told the story of the Israelites exodus from Egypt and related it to the Israel – Hamas war in Gaza. The Religion News Service reports that Rabbi Miriam Grossman, spiritual leader of the Brooklyn Jewish congregation Kolot Chayeinu, prayed for the people of Gaza and performed the kiddush, the Seder blessing over the wine.  Syrian Rabbi Esther Azar broke bread which she said this echoed the rubble of Gaza and the “brokenness” of the war victims. Beth Miller, a political director for Jewish Voice for Peace, said politicians speak about the Jewish community as they they all support Israeli government, but her organisation decouples Jewish identity from Zionism. The Seder as a protest was inspired by the 1969 Freedom Seder where Jews and African Americans joined forced to denounce the war in Vietnam. This time, it takes place against a backdrop of university pro Palestine protests which have spread nationwide, with riot police, tent cities and fear among Jewish students.

CofE partners with housing groups to campaign for Homes For All

The Archbishop of Canterbury has backed the “Homes For All” report which calls for an independent body to review and transform housing policy. Justin Welby said temporary, insecure or unhealthy housing, blights the lives of millions of people, and there is a moral responsibility to put it right: “Everyone should have a home that is comfortable and safe, and in a thriving community where they can flourish”.  Homes For All is a coalition of the Church of England, Housing Justice, Nationwide Foundation and several other housing and building groups. Its report sets out 25 recommendations for a good housing system and calls on all political parties to sign up to it for a long-term strategy.

CofE parallel system of leadership for opponents of women bishops “an error of judgment”

 The Church Times reports on an address by the Bishop of Dover, Rose Hudson-Wilkin, at a conference organised by WATCH (Women and the Church). She said it was an error of judgment to introduce a parallel system of bishops and clergy for people who disagreed with the ordination of women as bishops, which was voted through in 2014. She described it as a “blinkered and restrained condition” indicating a lack of confidence within the church for taking decisions. It had led to some women in the church feeling their wings were clipped and feet tied to structures and procedures that were unequal and un-Anglican. She was particularly critical of the way the system eroded the role of bishops, once seen as a focus of unity. It had led to the current factions demanding their own personalised bishops who they could relate to.

Former Soul Survivor pastor joins church in Edinburgh

The former senior Soul Survivor pastor, the Rev Andy Croft, who was briefly suspended following investigations into the behaviour of Mike Pilavachi, has been announced as the associate rector of St Paul’s and St George’s Church in Edinburgh.  Premier Christian News reports a spokesperson from the church saying the appointment followed a rigorous process. Andy Croft was found to have failed to act on three occasions when allegations were made, and apologised. But he explained two of the three instances did not reach the threshold for a disciplinary complaint to be made and in the third instance, a disciplinary complaint was made but it has now been dismissed. He was allowed to return to the ministry but chose to resign from Soul Survivor in Watford saying his family needed to process the whole experience.

“Planet Lead” appointed by Church Commissioners

The Church Commissioners have appointed a “Planet Lead” to guide its work on managing £10.3 billion of investments within concerns for the environment. Laura Moss-Bromage is currently senior manager in the climate change and sustainability services team at Ernst and Young. She will advise on climate related stewardship initiatives, biodiversity strategy and engage with companies and policymakers.

Witnessing the launch of the world’s first Sikh court

Reporter Liz Harris observes the remarkable sight of 46 Sikh “magistrates and judges” taking an oath to launch the world’s first Sikh court, in the surroundings of the 15th-century Old Hall in Lincoln’s Inn. They pledged to “uphold the principles of justice, equality, and integrity” as prescribed by their scripture and faith. Most of them were women. The court will deal with family and civil disputes amid concern that secular courts lack the necessary religious and cultural expertise. Her report includes comment from an academic in law who is not convinced of the need. This eye witness account is here


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