Religion news 27 February 2024

NASA visualisation of the earth's termperature in 2100. Image credit: Stuart Rankin CCLicense2.0

Global Muslim project to save the planet launched today

Muslims around the world are being urged to join a decade of environmental action to tackle climate change, at the UN Environmental Assembly in Kenya.  Prominent global Muslim organisations have come together to create a covenant reminding followers of their faith imperative to help save the planet, pointing to key teachings in the Quran that state Muslims must respect the earth on which they live and not abuse it. “Al Mizan – a Covenant of the Earth” is endorsed by the Muslim Council of Elders and more than 300 Islamic and international organisations. Fazium Khalid, founder of the UK-based Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences is a member of the team behind the call to action. He says “As Muslims now comprise a fifth of the population on earth, we should be contributing at least a fifth part towards resolving global crises.” Read Angela Youngman’s article here

Tory Islamophobia row inflamed by talk of no go areas

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, says he doesn’t think the suspended Tory MP Lee Anderson is racist or Islamophobic, but admitted that his comments were wrong and ill-judged. Mr Anderson, the former deputy chairman of the Conservative party, lost the party whip at the weekend having refused to apologise for claiming “Islamists had got control” of the London Mayor Sadiq Khan. He later described his words as clumsy. In a visit to Yorkshire, Mr Sunak told the ITV regional news programme that the MP’s comments were wrong and ill-judged. But the row has not been contained. Tory MP Paul Scully said parts of Tower Hamlets and Birmingham’s Sparkhill had no go areas, with people misinterpreting their own religion.  Downing Street said Rishi Sunka disagreed and had spoken of the value of diverse communities. The Muslim Council of Britain has written to the Conservative party, calling for an inquiry into the party’s “structural Islamophobia”.

Appeal for Church of England to reconcile over bitter divisions on same sex relationships

The General Synod of the Church of England has been urged to find a way of reconciling its differences in the fractious debate on same sex blessings, which is dividing the church. The Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, who leads on the process, told the synod he was determined to bring a concrete action plan to the July synod for unresolved issues. He said it was a gift of Anglicanism to hold extremes together, finding unity despite discord, and the church should go back to its roots and learn from its 500-year history. The debate on “ten commitments” to find the basis of an agreed way forward, started late on Monday and there was only time for one amendment asserting this was not a matter on which people could agree. But it was voted down after members were told reconciliation had to be possible. The debate continues today.

Promise to establish churches on every housing estate

The Synod has heard a call that the Church of England needs to recruit more leaders from working class backgrounds and that it should continue its efforts to ensure there is a church on every significant housing estate in the country. The Bishop of Blackburn, Philip North, called on the church to act now to reverse the “slow erosion” of Christian life on estates. He said “I’m convinced that there is an underground army of evangelists and prophets out there which a culturally middle class church is simply missing.”

Campaign Against Antisemitism urges stronger policing of protests

The Campaign Against Antisemitism has criticised a new House of Commons report on the policing of protests for failing to introduce stronger measures to ensure the safety of the Jewish community.  The report by the cross-party Home Affairs Select Committee “The Policing of Protests” is released today, but in a written statement CAA says that while the report acknowledges the threat posed to MPs by intimidation and violent attacks, it hasn’t treated the Jewish community with “the same degree of alarm”. The statement goes on to claim that “after months of intimidatory marches, this report offers no concrete recommendations for the here and now, just a long-term policy discussion about workforce planning and new laws that will take years to agree.”

Charlotte Church denies antisemitism after leading a choir in “from the river to the sea”

Meanwhile the Daily Telegraph reports that the Campaign for Antisemitism has written to the Charity Commission in a row over the opera singer Charlotte Church who was criticised for leading a choir in a rendition of “from the river to the sea” during a pro-Palestinian charity concert. The Board of Deputies of British Jews has reportedly called on Ms Church to apologise, saying: “The chant is viewed by many in the Jewish community as a call for the complete destruction of the state of Israel.”  The Jewish Chronicle  says Ms Church denied she was antisemitic on Instagram saying: “Just to clarify my intentions there, I am in no way antisemitic. I am fighting for the liberation of all people. I have a deep heart for all religions and all difference.”

Dozens die during worship in a mosque and a church in Burkano Faso

The authorities in Burkina Faso, West Africa, say Islamist gunmen are suspected of carrying out an attack at a mosque which resulted in dozens of deaths. The attackers surrounded the mosque in Natiaboani town during early morning prayers. A local resident has claimed the victims were all Muslims, mostly men. This comes on the same day that at least 15 Catholic worshippers were killed during Sunday mass in Essakane in north-east of the country. No link has yet been formally made between the two attacks. According to BBC news, more than a third of Burkina Faso is under the control of Islamist insurgents. The West African country is run by the military and has suffered from recurring droughts and military coups for years.

Pope reported to have mild flu symptoms

Pope Francis is reported to have mild flu symptoms after his Monday audiences were cancelled, as a precautionary measure, according to The Tablet . The Vatican did not provide further details on the Pope’s condition nor comment on whether he would continue with his activities for the rest of the week.  The cancellation comes after a five-day Lenten retreat at his residence, for which all of his regular activities were suspended.

Italian parish priest targeted in poison attack on consecrated wine

The Guardian reports on an Italian parish priest who believes the mafia tried to poison him by putting bleach into his chalice of wine. Father Felice Palamara, who has often spoken out against the local mafia, says he’s received a number of death threats and his car had been vandalised twice. Last weekend he’d just consecrated the chalice of water and wine at his church in Calabria when he noticed a strange smell which was later confirmed to be bleach. “My revenge is called love, my shield forgiveness, my armour mercy … I will not dwell on obstacles, nor will I be frightened by the darkness.” he added. He has now been given a police escort.


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