Religion news 3 August 2021

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Image credit: Hastings in Focus

Jewish organisations unite to criticise Nationality and Borders bill

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, Rene Cassin and World Jewish Relief have released a joint statement raising concerns over the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill. They say the UK must protect and support those in need of asylum and the proposal to assess people seeking asylum differently based on their means of arriving in the UK, will not protect those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny. Nor will it prevent dangerous Channel crossings or stop people smugglers, they assert. The statement warns that the bill is  likely to reduce the number of families being reunited and increase the risk of families taking dangerous journeys to be with their loved ones. 

UK to host Sikh Games in 2023

The UK is to hold its own “Sikh Games” in 2023. Similar events to open opportunities for ethnic minority participation, have already been run successfully in Australia, New Zealand and India. The organisers say the  games will bring Sikh communities together around competition in football, cricket, hockey, powerlifting and athletics. There will be full opportunities for women and a programme of paralympic sport. Organisers will work closely with grass roots clubs and gurdwaras. The Football Association and the English Cricket Board are official partners, working to increase participation in sports amongst the Sikh community. More information https://thesikhgames.com/

First Muslim nominated to US Religious Freedom top job

Rashad Hussain, an American lawyer, envoy and linguist, has been nominated as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom by the Joe Biden administration. He is the first Muslim to be nominated to this key position, according to the White House. Aged 41, he holds a law degree from Yale School and a master’s degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University. He is currently Director for Partnerships and Global Engagement at the National Security Council and in many top previous roles he pursued policies to counter antisemitism and protect religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries. He speaks Urdu, Arabic, and Spanish. The appointment has been welcomed by Open Doors USA,  campaigners for religious freedom,  who point to a rising tide of religious persecution worldwide.

Scottish nursery denies it rejected Muslim family’s daughter because of their name

The Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf has reported a nursery to the authorities amid claims that it discriminated against his daughter because of their Muslim sounding name.  His wife applied to the Little Scholars nursery near Dundee, for a place for their two-year-old daughter, but was told none was available. However, Yousaf said applications from others with “white Scottish-sounding names” were accepted. The nursery has strenuously denied allegations of discrimination and said it would welcome a Care Inspectorate investigation as it has nothing to hide.

British Muslim Sufi leader passes away

Dr Abdalqadir as-Sufi, a British Muslim Sufi leader, has passed away at the age of 91. He was a convert to Islam, having been born Ian Dallas in Scotland in 1930. He went on to travel widely, founding mosques in Norwich, Cape Town and Granada and starting the Murabitun movement, following traditional teaching, which has 10,000 followers. He was a prolific scholar and writer, inspiring translations of the Quran and ancient scholarly books and was well known for his views that the zakat – the giving of alms – should be restored and that trading should be just.

Medieval church vandalised days after renovation finished

The medieval St Mary Magdalene’s church in Caldecote, Hertfordshire, has been vandalised just ten days after a £150,000 renovation. Windows were smashed, powder fire extinguishers were let off leaving dust over every surface, and bleach was poured over the pews and the wooden floor. The church, between Hitchin and Bedford,  is disused, but cared for by the Friends of Friendless Churches and volunteers immediately came to the rescue, cleaning the building and raising £3,000 to repair damage. The police are investigating.

The Australian Prime Minister who prays and reads the Bible every day

Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, has given an extensive interview to the Australian Weekender, on how his faith helps him deal with stress and motivates his work. In the interview, reported in the Daily Mail, Morrison described how he was converted at the age of 12 in the family’s Presbyterian church and later moved into Pentecostalism. He prays every day, usually on his knees, and reads the Bible on his phone. Earlier this year, he revealed that he has laid hands on people he has met in his work who need a spiritual blessing, such as those affected by a cyclone. In this interview, he says his very personal faith does not dictate his policies and it is unfair to link it to  his decisions in office.

The Team GB swimmer who prays before every race

Olympic team GB swimmer Daniel Jervis, who finished fifth in the final of the 1500 metres freestyle, says he prays before every race, not to win but to feel calm. Speaking to the BBC after the race, he said he has a Bible text tattooed on his arm reminding him that God is not abandoning or leaving him. Jervis is from the village of  Resolven in south Wales, where he attends the Baptist church.

Proclaiming the gospel from rooftops in Amritsar

Anglican bishops from across the world are taking part in conversations this week to prepare for the Lambeth Conference to be held next year, when more than 880 bishops will meet in Canterbury. The bishops are split on issues around sexuality and the conversations are on themes trying to find common purpose. This week, they will consider how they “proclaim the gospel” in a world of many faiths, poverty, war, conflict and climate crisis. In a film to kickstart discussion, Pradeep Samantaroy, the Bishop of Amritsar in the Church of North India,  explained how, during lockdowns, church services were held on rooftops in cities and villages, where family clusters could gather and see one another, singing and praying, while obeying Covid-19 restrictions.

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