Religion news 27 January 2022

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Archbishop says world must be vigilant against antisemitism

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said that antisemitism is a profound evil which poisons the atmosphere in Europe and around the world. He was speaking at a conference in Berlin marking the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, where the final solution was outlined and agreed. He said antisemitism was like a volcano which erupts from time to time with absolute destruction and the world must be vigilant against the first signs of an eruption. Antisemitism could never be tolerated. The conference was organised by the European Coalition for Israel and the Evangelical Academy in Berlin, in the days leading up to Holocaust Memorial Day, which is observed today, 27 January.

BBC rules on hotly disputed article about antisemitic abuse

The BBC has partially upheld complaints on a BBC article about an incident in the centre of London, when insults were hurled at Jewish men travelling on a bus during Hanukkah. The BBC report said a slur against Muslims was heard from inside the bus, but this was hotly disputed and complaints were made, including from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Chief Rabbi. The BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit said the BBC should have recognised there was genuine doubt about its report that an anti-Muslim slur was heard. The BBC accepted the findings and apologised for not doing more to highlight that these details were contested. The verdict has not satisfied the complainants who have welcomed the news that Ofcom has announced its own investigation, saying the ruling “raises issues under our due accuracy rules”.

International day of prayer for Ukraine seeks dialogue not war 

At the conclusion of his weekly general audience, Pope Francis asked the faithful to pray for peace in Ukraine. He had earlier announced that yesterday was to be observed as the international day of prayer for peace in the region. His prayers spoke of the need for the spirit of brotherhood and his hope that world leaders would ensure that “dialogue may prevail and the common good be placed ahead of partisan interests”. 100,000 Russian troops are massed on the border with Ukraine raising fears of an invasion. The west has responded with military supplies, threats of sanctions and the promise of troops.

Pope Francis says parents should not condemn their children if they are gay

In the same address, the Pope urged parents not to condemn their children if they are gay. Reuters reports that he acknowledged the challenges of being a parent, especially in trauma where children are sick, imprisoned or killed in car accidents. He added: “Parents who see that their children have different sexual orientations, how they manage that and accompany their children and not hide behind a condemning attitude. Never condemn a child”. Pope Francis has sought to make the church more welcoming to LGBT+ people, despite the official teaching saying that homosexual activity is “intrinsically disordered.”

Christian Institute warns of possible legal action over Scotland conversion therapy ban

The Christian Institute, a campaigning group, is warning that legal action could be taken against the Scottish parliament if it pursues a ban on conversion therapy. This week the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee backed a ban on LGBT+ conversion therapy in Scotland after a petition was presented to the Scottish parliament. Pink News explains that unlike the ban proposed by Westminster, the committee in Scotland recommends that there is no loophole for “consenting” adults, and that religious forms of conversion therapy are banned. The Christian Institute, which believes in the inerrancy of scripture and is anti abortion, says a ban on conversion therapy could interfere with its church activities and legal action could be taken if the ban is not scrutinised highly enough.

Changing religion and political dynamics in America

An article in the Guardian explains research into changing religious and political affiliations in America. Ruth Braunstein, associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, explains that the backlash to the religious right in America has led to four new phenomena – the rising number of religiously unaffiliated “nones”, people who are spiritual but not religious, more interest in the religious left and the purification and radicalization of the religious right. She says the uncompromising political stance of the religious right pushes away dissent and is less likely to encounter checks on ideas. The shift to the right has had another effect  on liberals, who are de-politicising their public religious expression.

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