Religion news 30 March 2022

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Greg and Clare Thompson from "Love Bristol". Image credit: RMC

Ukraine news

Following peace talks in Turkey, Russia vows to radically reduce activity in norther Ukraine and pull back forces from Chernihiv; the West urges caution and President Zelensky says Russia cannot be trusted; He says 70 people were deported to Russia from a hospital in Mariupol which  is still under siege.

Faith groups step into chaos as Ukrainian refugees seek visas for the UK

Faith groups are stepping into chaotic scenes, trying to help Ukrainian refugees navigate their way to the UK. Volunteers Greg and Clare Thompson, from Love Bristol, are working in Poland trying to help match Ukrainian refugees with families in the UK and then helping them fill in complicated visa forms. They say it’s a tortuous route, there is no matching system and the visa process is long and complicated, adding that it’s embarrassing to explain the process for the UK when other European countries waive people through. They told a Religion Media Centre briefing that they felt they had to do something, so travelled to the border of Ukraine and Poland, to find no British presence. So they set up a table with a flag on it to help people navigate their way to the UK. They have helped process 75 visa forms but no one has been given a visa and they warned that refugees would be desperately in need of money to stay in accommodation while they wait. Dr Krish Kandiah, who set up the Sanctuary Foundation to help house refugees, said he hoped the outpouring of support amongst the public to help the Ukrainians marked a cultural change in attitudes to refugees. View the briefing on our YouTube channel here

Tributes to the inner spiritual compass of the Duke of Edinburgh

The Dean of Windsor, David Conner, paid tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh at the service of thanksgiving in Westminster Abbey.  In his tribute, he said: “He was one of those rare people who remained true to, and guided by, what you might call ‘an inner spiritual compass’; a sense of being called to play a part in the making of a God-intended world.” The Duke died in April at the age of 99.

Didsbury mosque rejects accusation it turned a blind eye to extremism

Didsbury mosque in Manchester, attended by the Manchester Arena suicide bomber Salman Abedi, has issued a statement rejecting comments made by lawyers acting for the bereaved families at the public inquiry earlier this month. The mosque was accused of preferring to turn a blind eye to Islamist extremism rather than tackle it.  A statement on the mosque’s Facebook page  said it was disingenuous to give the impression Didsbury mosque had not condemned the attack and bizarre that the Charity Commission was asked to revoke its charitable status.

Commitment to help faith based academies alarms Humanists UK

Humanists UK has expressed alarm at government proposals in its latest education white paper, to help religious groups open more state-funded schools in England. In “Opportunity For All” (page 52) the government says it will give assurance that “statutory freedoms and protections that apply to Church and faith maintained schools also apply to academies with a religious character”. Humanists UK says this “paves the way for greater segregation, due to faith schools being able to discriminate against children on grounds of religion in their admissions policies. Such policies disadvantage the non-religious, ethnic and religious minorities, and the poor”.

Teachers threaten strike action over ban on gay author

The “i” carries a story that teachers at the John Fisher Catholic school in Croydon, are being balloted for strike action after the diocese cancelled a visit by a gay author and sacked a number of governors. Simon James Green’s books for young adults feature gay characters and Southwark Archdiocese said the content was “potentially offensive” and brought the school into disrepute.

Global Anglican archbishops assemble in London

Anglican archbishops from all over the world are meeting in London this week in preparation for the Lambeth conference in July and August. They will be addressed by Dr Marion Watson, from the University of Oxford, who oversees work on vaccines; and a government minister from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, which is organising an international conference in London in July on the Freedom of Religion and Belief. They are also expected to discuss a consultation from the Church of England on extending the involvement of the wider Anglican Communion in the choice of future Archbishops of Canterbury. 

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