Religion news 3 December 2021

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Image credit: UNICEF Ethiopia CCLicense2.0

Bishop urges global commitment to vaccinate everyone

The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, is calling for a global commitment to sharing and distributing Covid-19 vaccines. He told Premier Christian Radio of his concern that 70 per cent of people in Europe have had at least the first dose, compared with only 7 per cent of people in Africa. He said the rise of new variants showed the need to vaccinate the world as fast as possible.

Pope urges Cyprus dialogue to heal ‘terrible laceration’ of the island

Pope Francis has begun a five-day visit to Cyprus, Greece and the island of Lesbos, seeking dialogue to heal the “terrible laceration” that has divided Cyprus for 50 years. Speaking in the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace in the divided city of Nicosia, he praised Cyprus for its response to refugees and promised that 50 would be found homes in Italy. He told assembled priests and dignitaries that everyone needed to work together to overcome divisions and work for unity.

Bishop of Liverpool praises ‘calm scrutiny’ of BBC local journalists

The Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, has spoken of the crucial role of BBC local journalists in offering calm scrutiny, in their coverage of the suicide bomber outside Liverpool women’s hospital. In his maiden speech in the Lords, he said that where some media outlets pointed to the naivety of people of faith or deplored the refugee system, local journalists were ready to explore communities of faith as places of God’s welcome. This meant they continued to hold the significant trust of people which few other voices achieved. While underlining the need for religious literacy to be deepened, he said: “The BBC is not perfect, but it should be treasured and supported.”

Anti Muslim hatred in US Congress

A row is reverberating in Washington after Lauren Boebert, a Republican in Congress, called the Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar “a member of the jihad squad”. Omar then received a harrowing, hate-filled death threat on her voicemail, which she played to the press, as she implored House Republican leaders to remove anti-Muslim hatred in their ranks. “When a sitting member of Congress calls a colleague a member of the ‘jihad squad’ and falsifies a story to suggest I will blow up the Capitol, it is not just an attack on me but on millions of American Muslims across the country,” she said. Boebert reportedly declined to apologise directly to Omar and now more than 40 House Democrats have called for her to be stripped of committee places.

Australian government forced to delay religious discrimination bill

The Australian government has shelved the religious discrimination bill after making concessions which angered conservatives. The bill was intended to protect religious groups when speaking out or, for example, giving permission to consider LGBTQ+ issues when making appointments. This week the government agreed a clause to protect gay students from discrimination in religious schools angering conservative Christian lobby groups, who called it an “appalling deal”. The House of Representatives has adjourned for the summer without a vote on the bill, while two inquiries into the measure take place during the holidays. The Guardian‘s report here

All staff at religious schools in New York must be vaccinated

New York City has directed religious and private school employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by 20 December. The rule is expected to be resisted by some Orthodox Jews who are not vaccinated because of unfounded fears about fertility and pregnancy. The New York Times reports that the rate of vaccinations is 77 per cent in New York as a whole, but only 51 per cent in Borough Park in Brooklyn which has a large Orthodox community.

Hillsong church founder faces trial next year

The criminal trial of Brian Houston, Hillsong Church’s founder and senior pastor, has been postponed until 2022. He will deny concealing his father’s abuse of a child during the 1970s, a crime that could lead to a five-year prison term. Meanwhile, Discovery+ is planning to run a series next year on the megachurch, with allegations of bullying, sex abuse and affairs.

Paris archbishop resigns over rumours of relationship with a woman

The Catholic Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, has resigned after allegations of an improper relationship with a woman in his previous job, which were reported in the French weekly magazine Le Point, but which he denied. Aupetit, now 70, was a doctor before being ordained a priest in 1994. In a statement he said he did not wish to be the source of division.

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