Religion news 30 November

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Carol singing allowed within limits

Carol singing outdoors and in groups of six on doorsteps is allowed under new government guidelines for England, issued this weekend, so long as social distancing is observed. Professional and amateur choirs may perform in any indoor venue permitted to open, but the congregation should not sing. Singers performing, rehearsing professionally or engaged in an activity for under 18s, are not restricted in number. For adult amateur performances and rehearsals, the Government is advising organisations, such as churches, to consider whether to proceed, given the risk. Public worship is allowed from the end of lockdown on 2 December.

Ampleforth college ordered to stop admitting pupils

Ampleforth, the Roman Catholic boarding school in Yorkshire which has been at the centre of sexual abuse complaints, has been ordered to stop admitting new pupils.  The Department for Education issued enforcement action saying the school had failed to meet safeguarding and leadership standards following inspection reports from January 2016 onwards. The College, run by the English Benedictine Congregation, has been at the centre of sex abuse allegations for decades and was the subject of a report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse which said there had been a culture of acceptance of abusive behaviour and a secretive evasive response. The DofE said the school had shown “some willingness” to improve since 2018 and there were improved internal safeguarding arrangements, but the school’s progress had been too slow and inefficient. Ampleforth College says it will appeal as the decision is unjustified and based on incorrect information.

Labour appoints top lawyer to oversee action against antsemitism

Jane Ramsey, a barrister, member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life and a legal adviser to local authorities, has been appointed by the Labour party to take the lead in establishing an independent process to investigate antisemitism complaints. This follows a report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission which found evidence of unlawful acts, harassment and discrimination and political interference in cases of antisemitism within the party. But on the day the report was published, Jeremy Corbyn issued a statement which led to his suspension from the party. Speaking to the Jewish Labour Movement on Sunday, the current leader, Keir Starmer, said: “I can’t tell you how disappointed I was with Jeremy Corbyn’s response”, adding it had undermined the party and “it was just about as bad as you can get”.  Once more he committed to a policy of zero tolerance and said tackling antisemitism is a number one priority.

America’s first black Roman Catholic cardinal

Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, has become the first black American to be made a cardinal, in a ceremony at the Vatican this weekend. Aged 72, he has been ordained for almost 50 years and has held several senior roles including president of the US bishops’ conference. Recently, he criticised Donald Trump over his rhetoric and visit to the shrine of Pope John Paul II in Washington. His appointment follows growing unease in America over racial divisions and he said in a video conference, that he hoped to be a “voice for the African American community in the Pope’s ear.”

Punjab farmers, predominantly Sikh, tear gassed in peaceful protest on Delhi

Thousands of farmers from the Punjab, a predominantly Sikh state, have been teargassed and subject to water cannons as they marched towards Delhi to protest at new farm laws. They say they will lose out to big corporations under the laws, which encourage private sector investment in infrastructure and supply chains. The farmers are concerned they will lose their ‘minimum support price’, a guaranteed price paid by the government for produce.  There has been concern from Sikh leaders in Canada and the UK at the police action against the protesters.

Conference considers mosques’crucial role to connect people

The Muslim Council of Britain held a digital conference this weekend “Our Mosques Our Future”. Over ten sessions, delegates considered the future after Covid-19,  looking at finance, youth activities, leadership, accessibility, worship and community life. Imam Abid Khan, from Cheadle, spoke of the opportunities under Covid restrictions, with the Mosque’s role to connect people and provide spiritual uplift at all times, alongside the urgent need to provide worship online.

Police break up service in Milton Keynes

Thames valley police have apologised for incorrectly saying a pastor in Milton Keynes would be prosecuted for breaking Covid-19 regulations by holding an online service with loud music. The Rev Daniel Mateola of Kingdom Faith Ministries International Church in Milton Keynes, was told there were too many people leading the service which was being broadcast online. The service was broken up and four days later, he was told he would be prosecuted.  But now the Christian Legal Centre says the police have apologised saying there had been a misunderstanding over the legislation.  

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