Religion news 3 July 2024

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Labour will repair ‘missing link’ between faith groups and government

The government ban on talking to the Muslim Council of Britain is “absolutely absurd”, according to Sir Stephen Timms, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group of Faith in Society. He told a Religion Media Centre briefing on the future relationship between faith groups and the government that a Labour government, if elected tomorrow, would talk to them. He believed the party would definitely want more dialogue with faith groups and criticised this government’s withdrawal of support to the Interfaith Network, a decision he described as “extraordinarily foolish”. Lib Dem peer, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, agreed that good relations with faith groups were needed at local and national level and said there was a “missing link” to facilitate this. The Conservatives did not put up a spokesperson for the briefing. Links to the article and recording of the briefing are here

Starmer accuses Tories of religious intolerance over Shabbat jibes

The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has accused the Conservatives of religious intolerance over their claims that he would be a “part-time prime minister” after he said he would stop working at 6pm every Friday to take part in celebrating Shabbat with his wife, Victoria, who is Jewish. Speaking in Derbyshire, he said: “I do carve out Friday nights the best I can for Vic, the kids and her dad as protected time.  That we are even having a conversation about this is laughably pathetic and desperate. Is that really what Rishi Sunak wants to be talking about two days before the polls close? It is a pretty terrible indictment of the negativity of their campaign.” Report in The Telegraph here

Future MPs urged to end poverty in UK

Successful candidates in tomorrow’s general election are being urged by Methodist, Baptist, and United Reformed (URC) ministers to commit to end poverty in the UK and across the world. The Rev Tessa Henry-Robinson, moderator of the URC general assembly, said: “The UK is among the wealthiest nations in the world, yet some children sleep on the floor and lack daily food and essentials.” Paul Morrison, a policy adviser for the Methodist, URC and Baptist churches, added: “Every candidate and every party should priorities poverty and tell voters what their plan is to turn the tide on this injustice.”

Other news
More than 116 crushed to death at Indian Hindu ceremony

At least 116 people have been crushed to death at a Hindu satsang, a devotional gathering, in northern India.  The victims, including many women and children, were still being identified last night. It is not yet clear what caused the crush, in Mughalgarhi, Uttar Pradesh. Some witnesses said a fierce dust storm caused a panic as worshippers left the religious event. “People fell in a drain by the road. They started falling one on top of the other and got crushed to death,” a woman told the Press Trust of India news agency. BBC report here

Police inquiry over ‘antisemitic abuse’ of rabbi visiting mosque

Police have started an investigation into the “antisemitic abuse” of a rabbi at mosque in Prestwich, Greater Manchester. Rabbi Arnold Saunders, the Conservative candidate for the Bury South constituency, was invited to the Masjid Bilal Islamic Centre by mosque elders to speak to its members. A video clip circulating online shows Rabbi Saunders being harangued and called a “snake” Greater Manchester police said “the full circumstances of the incident and those involved” was being investigated. Manchester Evening News report here

CofE dioceses all ‘on a journey towards justice, inclusion and equality’

Racial injustice is slowly, but steadily, being overcome in Church of England dioceses, says a report by the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns. It updates progress with analysis of 51 Zoom conversations and the answers to questions sent to churches across the UK. In his foreword to the report, committee chair the Very Rev Rogers Govender says: “There is still so much to accomplish, not least in raising awareness, education and prophetic actions.” But he said he was encouraged by examples or faith and action, adding: “Each diocese is unique and all are on a journey towards justice, inclusion and equality for all people”.

Noise issues defeat Sikh temple plan for old Methodist church

A plan to convert the former Wednesfield Methodist church in Wolverhampton into a Sikh temple has been rejected because of parking and noise issues. The council said the proposed number of parking spaces failed to meet the needs for the temple, “particularly given the capacity of the building being 150” and the expected levels of noise and activity would cause unacceptable levels of disturbance to neighbours. BBC report here

Christian condemned to die for ‘hateful’ social media

Christians have rallied to the support of Ehsan Shan, sentenced to death in Karachi, Pakistan, for sharing “hateful content” — defaced pages of the Quran — on social media. He was arrested in August last year after groups of Muslim men burnt dozens of homes and churches in the city of Jaranwala in Punjab, following claims that two Christians —Shan was not involved — desecrated pages from the Quran. Christian leader Luke Victor called for Shan’s release. AP report here

‘Abominable’ statue of the Virgin decapitated

A statue showing Mary giving birth to Jesus has been decapitated in the Austrian city of Linz. The sculpture had been on view at St Mary’s Cathedral as part of an art installation project on women’s roles, family images and gender equality. Alexander Tschugguel, an Austrian traditionalist Catholic, called the statue an “abominable and blasphemous caricature” and praised the vandal as “the hero of Linz”. Daily Mail report here

Archbishop fears threat to Japan’s Catholic church

The Archbishop of Japan’s oldest Catholic church says his congregation is facing a threat from the country’s declining populations and ageing society, but just as the founders overcame adversity when the church was founded 150 years ago, he urged them to remain optimistic. In a sermon at the Old Cathedral of St Joseph in Tokyo, Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi said the first missionaries introduced Christianity amid persecution and it was up to modern worshippers to “move forward with a positive attitude”.

Local lad makes monk

The Douai Abbey Church in Berkshire has welcomed Aidan Messenger to its brotherhood. The 29-year-old monk has become the first local Catholic to join the community for more than 120 years. Brother Aidan, who was baptised Thomas on his admission to the community in Upper Woolhampton, said: “I sense that this is the place where God has called me to be.” He joins the resident 13 monks who serve the parishes of St Bernadette’s, Pangbourne, and St Luke’s, Theale, as well as the abbey church. The parish was founded in 1903 after the monks were expelled from their original church in northern France. Report in The Tablet here

Bishop centre stage at Glasto

The Bishop of Bath & Wells was given a five-minute slot on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival on Sunday and commented that the farm was temporarily home to “about 20 times the population of my entire city”. Dr Michael Beasley invited anyone with a curiosity about Christianity to visit the church marquee nearby, where several clergy — including the Rev Chris North, who chairs the steering group that runs the tent — were waiting to offer help and support for anyone in need of physical or mental sustenance. Mr North described the role of the festival tent as offering “positive engagement with a human being” for anyone who was mentally or physically ill or lost. Church Times report here


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