Religion news 3 November 2021

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Image credit: UK in Holy See. flickr. CCLIcense2.0

Faith leadership at Cop 26

The Pope’s representative at Cop26, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, relayed his message that international leaders have the opportunity to show the political will to mitigate the negative effects of climate change and to help the poorest and most vulnerable populations. The goals written into the Paris Agreement cannot be delayed, he said, and warned that in the near future, environmental migrants will outnumber conflict refugees. Urgent, courageous and responsible action is needed. 

The Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment, Graham Usher, welcomed the first decision from Cop 26, to end deforestation by 2030. He tweeted that this was an important first step and leaders should do more, more quickly and more generously. He is in Glasgow attending various fringe events with Anglicans from all over the world.

Rabbi Jonathan Romaine who founded EcoSynagogue, says his hopes that the government was taking climate change seriously, were dashed in the budget, when fuel tax on inland flights was cut and car fuel prices were frozen. In an article in the Guardian, he said it was dispiriting that there was no encouragement of the green economy or help for poorer countries to take climate change measures. But faith groups, many of which are assembled in Glasgow for Cop26, remain “ determined to live by our values and tell truth to power”.

Australian religious discrimination bill revised for the third time

The Guardian reports that the government in Australia is making a third attempt to revise and push through a religious discrimination bill, which would give legal protection to someone expressing a statement of belief. The law is intended to protect health practitioners refusing to provide certain treatments; and would allow religious institutions to discriminate against staff on the basis of religion to maintain a “faith-based ethos.  This is known as the “Folau clause” after the rugby league player sacked for suggesting homosexuals and other “sinners” would go to hell. The bill has been actively promoted by Christian groups, but internal resistance among MPs has led to multiple revisions in the last two years.

Alabama makes it easier to use religion as objection to vaccination

The Associated Press reports that the Alabama senate has advanced legislation aimed at protecting employees who choose not to get vaccinated against Covid-19, by setting out an easy process to claim a religious or medical exemption. Businesses would be required to distribute a form where employees could claim a religious or medical exemption by ticking a box. An employee submitting the form could not be fired for not getting the vaccination unless the business appealed and got permission from the Alabama Department of Labour. But an opposition Democratic Senator said Republicans were giving people the ability to “tell a big lie” to avoid getting vaccinated and there was limited ability to investigate the sincerity of the employee’s claim.

Renaissance plaques kissed as a sign of the peace during communion, go under the hammer

The largest single owner collection of more than 200 Renaissance small bronze plaques and medallions to come onto the art market since 2008, is to be offered at Olympia Auctions on 24 November.  Many “plaquettes” were used on the “Pax”, a liturgical object from the Middle Ages which was passed round the congregation to be kissed as a sign of the peace.  The auctioneers, Matthew Barton Ltd, explain that actual kissing between congregants was prevalent in church services until the 13th century but was later substituted with the Pax for modesty and now the peace is passed with a simple handshake. The items belong to a private collector who acquired and then added pieces during the last 50 years, and each item is expected to fetch between £500-£1500.  A percentage of the proceeds will benefit Westminster Abbey.

No halloween costume for Strictly’s BBC Dan Walker because of his Christian beliefs

The BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker, son of a Baptist minister and conservative Christian, chose not to dress in a scary ghost or vampire costume on Strictly Come Dancing last weekend, because his family does not celebrate halloween. Interviewed on his day job sofa, he explained that his children go to “light” rather than halloween parties and he wanted to set his family an example. Strictly bosses allowed him to dress as a lobster instead.

Creating Connections: sign up in Manchester, Nottingham, Plymouth and Birmingham

The Religion Media Centre has launched a project this autumn to enhance religious literacy and understanding in a landscape often fraught with misconceptions and assumptions on both sides. Creating Connections, where Religion meets the Media features a series of events to improve links between religious groups and journalists in England. They are an opportunity to explore the way religion and worldviews are interwoven into community life and it is hoped that key stories on religion and belief will be brought to life and lasting contacts for the future will be made. Reserve a place using the links below. All events take place in the afternoon. The Leeds event was last week. Here are the next four:

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