Religion news 3 April 2024

Image credit: Inter Faith Network

Christian Aid repeats calls for ceasefire in Gaza after seven aid workers killed in Israeli strike

Several aid agencies have suspended operations in Gaza after Israel struck three vehicles clearly marked with the logo of the World Central Kitchen charity, killing seven, including three British men. They were carrying food from a warehouse to people in Gaza, which is said to be on the brink of famine. Ships carrying aid to Gaza from Cyprus have turned back because safety of delivery cannot be guaranteed. Interviewed on LBC, Christian Aid’s head of Middle East policy and advocacy, William Bell, sent his condolences, condemned the attack and repeated calls for a ceasefire: “This is another reminder of the indiscriminate and serious threat posed by airstrikes and demonstrates the fallacy of there being anything such as safe zones in Gaza”. Israel said the attack was “tragic and unintentional”.

What next for interfaith work in Britain?

The Inter Faith Network is expected to close its operations this month after 37 years of working with Britain’s many faith communities and promoting good relations between them. Faith leaders were shocked and dismayed by the announcement of the closure, triggered by the government’s decision to withdraw its funding. The IFN was the first organisation to bring national faith communities and their leaders into regular engagement and has continued to play an important role in enabling them to discuss issues of common concern — as well as running the Inter Faith Week in England, Wales and Northern Ireland every November. Lianne Kolirin has spoken to others involved in work which brings different faith groups together – the United Religions Initiative, the Faith and Belief Forum and Faith Action – and asks, where next for interfaith work in Britain? Article is here

President Biden meets Muslim leaders

The Associated Press reports that President Joe Biden held a meeting for a group of Muslim American community leaders at the White House, followed by an iftar dinner, in a bid to discuss tensions over America’s stand on Israel’s war against Gaza. It is the most high profile meeting of its kind since the war broke out and includes Muslim staffers and senior national security aides. AP says Biden has held large receptions to mark Ramadan and Eid at the White House since taking office, but plans were scaled down this year because of the war. 

Pope Francis pays warm tribute to his predecessor Benedict

Pope Francis has paid tribute to his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in a book out today “The Successor”. He says that Benedict was patient and kind, and defended him against his critics who accused him of heresy. Benedict resigned due to ill health and lived for ten years in Rome after Pope Francis was elected. In the book, Pope Francis explained that Benedict never opposed any of his decisions: “He never withdrew his support from me. Maybe there was something he didn’t agree with, but he never said it.” The men were obviously close and the Pope recounts the day when he said goodbye to Benedict on his death bed, holding his hand and staying with him: “I said a few words to him affectionately and blessed him. That’s how we said goodbye.” The Vatican News report of the book says Pope Francis revealed he has ordered a revision of papal funerals, and in future the Pope’s body will not lie outside the coffin on a raised plinth – catafalque – with pillows, saying that Popes “should be watched over and buried like any other child of the church. With dignity, like any Christian.”

Cleric caught up in Martyn Percy’s acrimonious dispute retires aged 59

The Dean of Llandaff, Richard Peers, has announced his retirement aged 59, days after he was cleared of charges under the Clergy Discipline Measure into statements he was alleged to have made about Dr Martyn Percy in 2020. Richard Peers was Sub-Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, when the Dean, Martyn Percy, was involved in a long acrimonious dispute with college authorities. The complaint against him dates from conversations he is alleged to have had with Dr Percy’s supporters in 2020, but the complaint was comprehensively dismissed by a church tribunal last month and he was described as an “impressive and truthful witness”. In a statement published on Easter Sunday, Richard Peers said the past years had been challenging and he had decided the time was right to retire after 30 years of ministry.

Trump backs “God Bless the USA Bible” – his favourite book

Donald Trump, US presidential candidate, has given his backing to the “God Bless the USA Bible”, a King James version which includes a handwritten chorus to “God Bless The USA”, the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence and the Pledge of Allegiance. In a promotional film, he says “religion and Christianity are the biggest things missing from this country” which is why the country has “gone haywire”.  All Americans have a Bible in their homes, he says, and it is his favourite book. “Christians are under siege and we have to defend God in the public square.. Our founding fathers built America on Christian values and those are under attack as never before. Pray that God will bless America again. Make America Pray Again”. The God Bless the USA Bible retails at $59.99

Drinks companies make the most out of Ramadan

Visual Capitalist, which publishes global data explaining business and consumer trends, suggests companies are cashing in on Ramadan in Muslim majority countries. For a period of around four weeks, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, observing spiritual practices and engaging with the community. This year Ramadan lasts from 10 March to 9 April. Latest stats for Ramadan 2023, from 9,672 respondents in 15 countries, says the top brand associated with Ramadan is Coca-Cola, which has spent money on ad campaigns associated with the season, saying it spreads happiness and kindness. Second is the water tank and filtration company Marjan Group, third is the  beverage company Vimto and fourth is Almarai, a Saudi dairy brand. Nestle, Pepsi and Nike, which once produced a dawn to dush sneaker, all follow.


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