Religion news 29 October

Deep concern and call to action over refugee family’s death crossing the Channel

The death of a Kurdish Iranian family trying to get to England in a boat crossing the English Channel has shocked charities and community leaders. To date, more than 7,400 people have made the crossing — four times the 2019 figure. Seeking Sanctuary, the Catholic social justice charity, said there must be solutions for refugees not involving a risk to life in flimsy boats, or security measures such as patrols, walls and fences. The Bishop of Dover, Rose Hudson-Wilkin, said “We must do more to help our fellow sisters, brothers, sons and daughters seek safe haven and be offered the same chances to live their lives as we do, with peace and love.” The Rev Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis, said the way to stop gangs preying on refugees was to allow people to claim asylum from outside the UK. Roman Catholic Bishop Paul McAleenan said the government must pursue “heartless profiteers” to ensure that no one felt compelled to risk their life on the open sea.

Dean  of Christ church wins employment tribunal case

The Dean of Christ Church Oxford, Martyn Percy, has won a legal victory in the tortuous and toxic dispute with the college. An employment tribunal confirmed that he was an employee, despite college claims to the contrary. This was an important step in his  claim against Christ Church for religious and disability discrimination. The two sides have been in an increasingly acrimonious dispute for two years.

Methodist leaders urge cancellation of debt for poor families

The president and vice-president of the Methodist church, the Rev Richard Teal and Carolyn Lawrence, have joined calls to “Reset the Debt”, a campaign urging that debt is cancelled for the poorest families in the pandemic. In a blog to church members, they describe the “inspiring stories” of Methodists providing food for children who receive free school meals, saying that the church has supported families for decades. National church officials are working with charities and the government to secure greater support for those in need.

France issues safety advice to citizens living in Muslim majority countries

The Telegraph is reporting that French citizens living in Muslim majority countries  have been advised to take extra security precautions after a row over President Macron’s response to the beheading of a teacher. Samuel Paty was killed because he showed his class cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Macron responded by defending the right to free speech, but this caused a backlash abroad. Now France has issued safety advice to its citizens in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iraq, Mauritania and Turkey, advising them to exercise caution, saying they should stay away from any protests over the cartoons and avoid any public gatherings.

Charity withdraws speaking invitation after anti-Zionist comments

The charity MEND, which campaigns against Islamophobia in Britain, has disinvited a Muslim chaplain from a speaking event, after a newspaper revealed anti-Zionist comments from six years ago. Gareth Bryant was due to speak on 29 October, but after the Jewish Chronicle reported his comments on Zionism and fascism, the invitation was withdrawn. MEND issued a statement saying the language was at odds with its values.

MP demands action to tackle anti-Sikh hatred

The Labour MP Preet Kaur Gill has written to the government calling for action to tackle anti-Sikh hatred. She wrote as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs and said the issue should be treated similarly to Islamophobic and antisemitic discrimination. She said official Home Office data for the past two years showed the level of reported hate crimes targeting Sikhs had increased by more than 70 per cent and the issue could not be ignored.

Antisemitism within the antivaccination movement

A report from the government adviser Lord Mann says there is a “resurgence of antisemitism” within the anti-vaccination movement. It predicts that even after a vaccine for Covid-19 emerges, “it will be essential to quickly sideline the conspiracy theories and misinformation of the anti-vaxxers”. The study, sent to all government departments this week, warns that exposing the level of antisemitism among the anti-vaxxer movement is of the utmost importance.

Living in Love and Faith report published on 9 November

The Church of England has announced that its programme of resources “Living in Love and Faith”, which seeks to explore human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage, will be published on the afternoon of 9 November. The resources have been compiled to help the church consider deep differences over  gender and sexual identity by examining the Bible, theology, history and the social and biological sciences.