Religion news 29 April 2024

Image credit: © Mazur/

50 per cent cap limiting faith schools intake “set to be abolished”

The Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, is set to announce this week that the 50 per cent cap forcing faith schools to keep half the places open to children of different religions, is to be abolished, according to the Telegraph. Catholic schools had protested at the measure, which was introduced by the coalition government. They said it would be against Canon Law to refuse Catholic children a place and therefore took no part in setting up free schools. Removing the rule means Catholic schools will be able to set up new institutions and join multi-academy trusts. The report says the announcement will be followed by a seven week consultation.

Irish churches asked to help find accommodation for single male asylum seekers

Irish government minister, Joe O’Brien, has written to church dioceses asking them to make  buildings or land available to help accommodate asylum seekers, according to the Irish Times. It reports that the church was asked to help with refugees from Ukraine in 2022, and the call has been repeated to house asylum seekers as there are 1,600 single men without accommodation, many of whom are sleeping on the streets. The call has been reported as justice minister Helen McEntee told a Dáil committee the number of asylum seekers crossing from Northern Ireland into the Republic had increased by a number “higher than 80 per cent”, after the UK government brought in legislation to send asylum seekers who had entered the UK illegally, to Rwanda. The Taoiseach has said that the government will introduce legislation on Tuesday to send the migrants back to the UK, but the UK government says it won’t accept them back. Helen McEntee is due to meet Home Secretary James Cleverly today (Monday) and the issue will come up at the British-Irish intergovernmental conference this week.

 Memorial for Muslim soldiers at the National Memorial Arboretum

A memorial is set to be built at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, for Muslim soldiers who fought and died alongside British and Allied forces in both World Wars. Sky News reports it will be a 13.2m minaret-shaped structure made from brick and terracotta, inscribed with stories of the soldiers in the conflict.  The report says at least 2.5 million Muslim soldiers and labourers are reported to have fought with the Allied forces in the First World War and 5.5 million in the Second World War. Nearly 1.5 million Muslims were killed in action. The architect Benny O’Looney said a sculptor and Islamic calligrapher will help to create the monument, which will stand near the monuments to Sikhs, Gurkhas and others.

“Political evangelicalism” takes on student protesters in America

The Religion News Service reports a “political evangelical” rally at Columbia University, the place where nationwide protests against Israeli military action in Gaza began. Ten days ago, the university president sent in the police to arrest protesters, an action which inflamed the students and led to copycat demonstrations across America. Last Thursday, RNS reports that Christian nationalist activist and musician Sean Feucht, pastor Russell Johnson and conservative author and Trump supporter, Eric Metaxas, led a rally during which Sean Feucht described the widespread protests as an “anti-Christ, antisemitic agenda”. The “flood” of antisemitism and the Israel-Hamas war was a sign of the end of the world: “These are the end days, and we’re one day closer to the return of Jesus”. RNS said the rally “was a sign of political evangelicalism’s increasing interest in campus politics writ large and the pro-Palestinian campus protests in particular”, noting that the House Speaker, Mike Johnson, an evangelical Christian, had earlier visited Columbia to decry antisemitism on the campus.

Zimbabwe Methodist bishop ticks off argumentative church in America

Zimbabwe Methodist Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, has told the United Methodist conference in America that they should stop arguing and start praising the Lord. The church is split over same sex relationships, with 7,600 churches, a quarter of the total, leaving to become independent or join rival Methodist groups, even before the final vote is taken at the conference in Charlotte this week. There will be proposals to lift the ban on same-sex marriage and to allow “practicing homosexuals” to be clergy and bishops. United Methodist News reports that the bishop said Christianity was not about destroying one denomination to build another. Referencing attempts to get churches to leave and join other groups, he said: “Africa needs to know how the gospel got to the continent before you send people there to pull people out of The United Methodist Church.”

Individual compensation for CofE abuse could reach £660,000

The Church of England has published details of its redress scheme for survivors of abuse, which will range from £5,000 to £660,000 for rare and exceptional cases. The process of deciding the level of the award has been mapped out, taking into account the nature of the abuse and its impact on the applicant. The redress will not just be financial, but will offer apologies, therapy, and support for victims and survivors. The Redress project team includes two members of the Survivor Working Group. Church Times report here

UK first campus Pop Up Passover café at Surrey University

Jewish students at Surrey university in Guildford, introduced a pop-up Passover Café on campus, the first time for at least 21 years when Passover has been observed in term time.  Rabbi Alex Goldberg, Dean of Religious Life and Belief, said: “It’s been great to be given this facility for students, staff, and visitors to pop in, munch Matzos, cook and chill with a coffee. Students working together to build a home from home is wonderful to see.” The Passover Café is part of a university initiative to ensure all students feel supported and integrated into campus life, regardless of their religious or cultural affiliations.

Russell Brand‘s plan to be baptised

Russell Brand says he planned to be baptised yesterday, possibly in the River Thames. The comedian posted a video saying he had  decided to “take the plunge” and was curious to find out what it was like. He understood it as an “opportunity to leave the past behind and be reborn in Christ’s name like it says in Galatians — that you can live as an enlightened and awakened person.” Russell Brand is facing sex assault claims including rape from several women going back 20 years, which he denies. He has been interviewed by police but not arrested or charged. Recently  he has taken an interest in Catholicism and has endorsed the Hallow app, a Catholic prayer app, saying he uses it every day to pray and advises on praying the rosary.  


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