Religion news 27 October

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Faith groups combine with wider community to provide free school meals

One in five children in the United Kingdom qualify for free school meals, which means their household income is less than £7,400, not including benefits. The exact figure varies in the four nations, from 17% in England and Scotland, and 20% in Wales to 28% in Northern Ireland, where the income cap is higher. But the government has refused to extend free school meals during the holidays in this pandemic, despite vocal opposition from the footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford and opposition politicians. Boris Johnson says there are other ways, through the welfare state system, to protect children. To serve the immediate need,  the whole community – faith organisations, community groups, sports clubs, businesses – have been galvanised into action, working together:

Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, told the Church Times that the collaborative ventures were a sticking plaster measure for this half term, but he hoped the government would change its mind; YourNeighbour, a network of 1,000 churches and an offshoot from the Christian charity the  Good Faith Foundation, has published a report saying 58 per cent of its members have provided emergency food; The Salvation Army is involved in collaborative projects  with other charities to provide meals; Luton Football club teamed up with other charities to prepare and distribute free school meals; Restaurants cafes and day care centres in Burnley are offering free school meals

Amy Coney Barrett, devout conservative Catholic, confirmed to US Supreme Court

Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed to the US Supreme Court by 52 votes to 48. Only one republican voted against. Known for her conservative views, particularly on abortion, her appointment seals a 6-3 conservative majority in the court. She is a staunch Roman Catholic, and member of a small charismatic group “People of Praise” that believes in male supremacy in leadership and once described female mentors as handmaidens. In her gruelling three-day interrogation by Senators, she was quizzed about policy, not the faith underpinning her values.

US voter research charts rise of religious “nones”

Pew Research centre says Christians account for the majority of registered voters (64%), but that figure has been falling. Meanwhile, the share of religiously unaffiliated voters (28%) has risen. Around eight-in-ten Republican registered voters are Christians, compared with about half of Democratic voters. The Latino voter is less likely to turn out according to Pew Research.

Trump no longer a Presbyterian

The Religion News Service has elicited the information that President Trump describes himself as a non-denominational Christian. In an exclusive interview, he said he no longer identifies as a Presbyterian, though his parents “taught me the importance of faith and prayer from a young age”. Trump went on to say that “Melania and I have gotten to visit some amazing churches and meet with great faith leaders from around the world. During the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak, I tuned into several virtual church services and know that millions of Americans did the same.”

Hindu festivals in the UK forced online

Hindus in Bolton celebrated the Navrati festival with a series of online shows, involving actors from Mumbai and Ahmedabad, as well as dance and worship. The nine-day festival ended at the weekend with a one hour performance of the story of a battle between the Goddess Durga and the demon Mahishasura.  Other festivals at this time of year have also been forced online – Dussehra, celebrating good over evil, last Sunday; and Diwali, the festival of lights on 14 November.

Diplomatic ties severed with France over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed

The row over the French President Emmanuel Macron’s defence of freedom of speech and Muslims abroad has intensified. Turkey’s President Erdogan questioned Macron’s mental health, a slight which caused France to recall its envoy from Turkey. Pakistan has urged the government to recall its envoy from Paris accusing President Macron of “hate-mongering” against Muslims. Several missile eastern countries are boycotting French imports. Macron made his comments days after a history teacher was beheaded in the street for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a lesson.

Thirteen news cardinals from all corners of the world

The Pope is creating 13 new Cardinals next month, with many from outside Europe including Rwanda, Washington DC, the Philippines and Brunei. A further group of men over the age of 80 have also been selected as cardinals – from Mexico and Rome. Their new roles will be confirmed in a ceremony on 28 November, the first Sunday of Advent.

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