Religion news 3 June 2024

Image credit: @DannyBenDavid

Chief Rabbi tells London rally Israeli hostages must be freed

The Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, spoke at a rally of 40,000 people in London this weekend, appealing for the release of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas. He said the suffering and torture they are enduring while being held in Gaza is terrible and all those at the rally were determined to continue the campaign for their release. It was one of the largest such demonstrations held in the capital. The US President, Joe Biden, has unveiled a deal to end the war and set the hostages free, but two Israeli ministers have threatened to resign and collapse the governing coalition if Netanyahu agrees to it.

Bishop of Winchester signs petition supporting deselected LibDem candidate

The Bishop of Winchester, Philip Mounstephen, has signed a petition calling for the re-instatement of the former Lib Dem candidate for Sutton and Cheam, David Campanale, who was deselected because of his Christian beliefs against gay relationships, based on Bible texts. In a tweet, the Bishop said: “The deselection of David Campanale on the grounds of his beliefs alone is shockingly illiberal. On this basis Gladstone wouldn’t have been allowed to stand in Sutton & Cheam”.  The bishop has long advocated the freedom of religion and belief and chaired the Independent Review of Christian Persecution in 2019. The petition has gathered more than 13,000 signatures, but with the election weeks away, the Lib Dems have now selected another candidate, Luke Taylor, to fight the seat.

Jesuit Refugee Service calls for reform of asylum system

The Jesuit Refugee Service has set out three priorities for candidates to address in the general election campaign: The repeal of anti-refugee law in favour of a system that considers asylum claims fairly and offers legal support; ending immigration detention, saying thousands are held in prison like conditions suffering abuse, neglect and humiliation; and lifting the ban on work for asylum seekers, alleviating poverty. Director Sarah Teather said: “Over a number of years we’ve seen a shocking rise in hostility, scapegoating and cruel policies targeting refugees and asylum seekers. But so many of us want a different approach: one that welcomes women, men and children who come here in search of safety, treats them with dignity and celebrates the gifts they bring.” 

Women’s rights campaigner against Sikh Court in London

Pragna Patel, a founding member of Southall Black Sisters and the advocacy group for minority women Project Resist, says the opening of the world’s first Sikh court in London demands urgent attention. It has been set up to arbitrate in family and civil disputes according to Sikh principles, but. Writing in The Guardian,  Ms Patel says “the use of religious laws to regulate minority women’s lives is not only discriminatory, it is immensely harmful in a context where domestic abuse and related femicides of South Asian and other minority women remain persistently high”. conservative religious forces are moving into the space vacated by the state. She said there is the prospect of “unchecked growth of unaccountable religious courts with the potential to make highly arbitrary, potentially discriminatory decisions that serve to undermine women’s rights” and there is no choice but to fight back. Our story on the Sikh court is here

“The Chosen” US blockbuster on the life of Jesus, launches season 4

“The Chosen”, the US block buster series of films about the life of Christ, launched Season Four on its app this weekend after months of delay and a legal dispute. The Religion News Service reports that the season premiered in cinemas in February, but its showing on the app was delayed from early March, with the founder Dallas Jenkins citing a legal dispute. This resulted in a split between The Chosen which makes the films, and Angel Studios, which had been a long term partner responsible for distribution. The Chosen was started with crowd funding and has gathered more than 200 million views worldwide, with income of $14.4 million at the box office over its entire run. It can be viewed for free on the website or The Chosen app. Season 4 covers Jesus’ teaching, his parables and miracles and grossed $6 million over its first weekend in cinemas. From now on, two new episodes a week will appear on the app for free.

Six people injured at anti “political Islam” rally in Germany

Six people were injured in Germany this weekend when a man stabbed members of “Pax Europa”, a group opposed to the spread of “political Islam”, which was holding an event in Mannheim.  One of the people stabbed was Michael Stürzenberger, an anti-Islam activist. Police shot and injured the attacker. AP reports that the German Interior Minister, Nancy Faeser, said an investigation is underway.

Ambitious plan to gather all the world’s Christians for prayer

An author and Bible teacher from Dallas is leading an initiative “Gather25” to enable all 2.5 billion Christians around the world to gather for a 25 hour event of prayer and worship. It would be the first simultaneous global gathering of all Christians. Jennie Allen has garnered support from large US organisations to make this happen. People will assemble in person and online and AI will translate so that live music, teaching, prayers and stories of hope can be understood simultaneously around the globe. She told Premier Christian News that she started the Gather25 project after having a vision of the second coming, then woke up and thought: “What would we do if Jesus was coming back soon?” She resolved to teach the rest of the world about Jesus.

Polish Corpus Christi concert attracts tens of thousands

In Poland, an estimated 50,000 people packed into Siberians Park in Rzeszów for the Corpus Christi concert, celebrating Christ in the eucharist, where the bread and wine are the body and blood of Jesus. Called “One Heart, One Spirit”, it was the 22nd concert of its kind and was broadcast to thousands more people across the globe. Vatican News says these concerts are becoming more and more popular in Poland, both in large cities and small towns. There were around 200 choristers and soloists, as well as instrumentalists and volunteers and the programme included 26 songs, lasting three hours. In Rome, the Pope celebrated the festival by  blessing the sacrament which was brought to him by a procession of cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and families, winding through the streets of the city.


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