Religion news 26 May 2021

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Image credit: House of One

‘House of One’ — unique Berlin project for three religions to share one building

The foundation stone of “The House of One” will be laid in Berlin tomorrow (Thursday 27 May). It is a unique venture, the first house of prayer and sacred building planned from the start by Christians, Jews and Muslims. Each will have their own space for worship, with doors that open onto a shared “fourth room”, encouraging conversation and fellowship. Project leaders told a Religion Media Centre briefing that it is a symbol of how humanity can move on from conflict to dialogue and peace-making yesterday. Projects with similar intentions are underway in the UK, not least chaplaincies, but no similar buildings have so far materialised. View the online briefing here

Discrimination against Muslims in Conservative Party

A report into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party has found evidence of discrimination and anti-Muslim views at local and individual level, but claims of institutional racism were not borne out. In 2019, Boris Johnson ordered the report into how the party handled discrimination allegations. Led by Professor Swaran Singh, the report said the party must act now to root out discrimination and advised that its complaints system needed an overhaul. Johnson’s comments, about women wearing the burka looking like letter boxes, had given an impression that the Tories were “insensitive to Muslim communities”. Baroness Warsi, a Conservative peer, insisted that the report showed the party was institutionally racist and she said the Equalities and Human Rights Commission should investigate.

Campaign against ‘draconian’ ban on singing in church

A government decision to allow only six choristers to perform indoors during the pandemic has angered England’s choral societies. The Association of English Cathedrals is joining a campaign to urge the government to lift restrictions on singing in worship. Its chairman, the Dean of Lichfield Adrian Dorber, said the continuing ban was draconian: “We appreciate public health concerns but now that sport stadiums can have fans, pubs and bars are open again and more and more of us are vaccinated, it seems punitive of the authorities to stamp down on singing especially on amateur choirs and church congregations”. The Royal School of Church Music is keeping the choral flame alive through an online Big Music Sunday Service on 6 June. Yesterday the Bishop of London Sarah Mullaly, said the church was reminding the government of the importance of singing. “All along, we have encouraged the government to be alert to the consequences of our choirs’ continued silence as well as the loss of congregational singing,” she said.

Belief in life after death stronger in young people

The global research company, Marugroup, has conducted a survey of beliefs in life after death, which suggests that half (51 per cent) of the British population believe they will continue in some form after their death, compared with 55 per cent in Canada and 68 per cent in the United States. In a poll conducted in Canada, the US and Britain in March, data suggests belief in life after death is rising, with highest responses among people under the age of 35. British Religion in Numbers says the findings disprove the notion that belief strengthens as the reality of death draws closer .

Dame Maureen Lipman resigns from Equity over Palestinian march

Dame Maureen Lipman has resigned from Equity, the actors’ union, after it called on members to join Saturday’s pro-Palestinian march in London, the Jewish Chronicle reports . The report says “several other actors and performers including Tracy-Ann Oberman, Dom Joly, Sanjeev Bhaskar, and Eddie Marsan have also condemned the union over its statement, and there have been least three other resignations”. Dame Maureen said the Equity statement had increased antisemitism and had “nothing to do with the poor Palestinians, who are only pawns, and everything to do with Jewish people”. 

John Sentamu finally takes his seat in the Lords

The former Archbishop of York John Sentamu has taken his seat in the House of Lords as an independent crossbencher. He retired last June and was expected to be given a life peerage at that time, but was not nominated until December, a delay that provoked accusations of “institutional prejudice”. He is now Baron Sentamu of Lindisfarne in the county of Northumberland and of Masooli in the Republic of Uganda.

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