Religion news 4 February

Image: Worcester Cathedral

Cathedrals, temples, mosques and churches join national vaccination campaign

Worcester has become the fifth cathedral to open its doors in the fight against the coronavirus, as a centre for lateral flow tests. Worship is suspended at the cathedral to help to restrict the spread of the virus, but private prayer is continuing for two hours each lunchtime. Lichfield, Salisbury and Blackburn cathedrals host vaccination clinics and Rochester’s crypt is a testing centre.

Neasden Temple, in northwest London, opened as a vaccination centre this week and was visited by the home secretary Priti Patel yesterday. She said she was concerned at disinformation about the vaccine, but urged people of all communities to have the vaccination, because it would save lives.

Lords urge courts to rule on genocide so trade deals can be blocked

Eight bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury have voted — again — to give British courts the right to decide whether a country has committed genocide, forcing trade deals to be blocked. They joined Lord Alton’s lead to pass the measure for the second time with a large majority (359:188), hoping it would have some impact on China’s treatment of the majority Muslim Uighur population, which has continued despite worldwide condemnation. The Commons has already rejected the measure once on the grounds that it would damage the separation of powers between the courts and the executive. Guardian story here

UK politicians forced to debate Sikh farmers’ protests in India

A petition to the UK government, urging the safety of farmers protesting at new farming laws in Delhi, has achieved more than 100,000 signatures and triggered a Commons debate. Mainly Sikh farmers from the Punjab marched on Delhi in December, to protest at new farming laws they say would undercut their profits. They are camped on roads leading into the capital and there have been violent scenes with police using tear gas and water cannon. Stephen Kinnock, Labour’s shadow minister for Asia and the Pacific, says the foreign secretary should hold urgent talks with the Indian government on the protests: “We call on both sides to show restraint, but we are clear that the onus is the Indian authorities’ to protect the farmers’ right to peaceful protest, to respect their right to freedom of assembly and expression, and to respond to any incidents of civil disobedience in a proportionate and appropriate manner.”

Pope appeals to journalists to promote dialogue, truth and facts

Pope Francis has issued advice to journalists, on the 100th anniversary of the Catholic News Service. In an audience at the Vatican, he said disinformation, falsehoods, defamation and a love of scandal were sins that contribute to the concealment of truth, ruined lives and deepened divisions. By throwing “gas on the fire”, the media had a key role in the polarisation of American society. Instead, he called on Catholic news outlets to promote unity and encourage people to talk to each other, to distinguish good from evil, to develop sound judgments on facts, and to appreciate the importance of working for justice, social concord and respect for the earth. CNS began in Washington and has reporters around the globe, with offices in Washington, New York and Rome.

The Pope intends to visit Iraq from 5-8 March, unless there is a serious new wave of coronavirus. Even if health restrictions mean no one can see him except on television, he believes it will still be worthwhile. His trip includes a visit to the city of Ur, birthplace of Abraham.

US evangelical leader repents for supporting the religious right

The prominent American evangelical, the Rev Rob Schenck, has publicly repented of his alignment with the fanatical religious right who took part in the insurrection on Capitol Hill on 6 January. Mr Schenck is administrative bishop of the Methodist Evangelical Church USA and president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute in Washington. In a signed piece for the Religion News Service, he said “Big-name preachers, ministry celebrities and political figures have stoked fear, resentment and affront among my fellow believers for nearly half a century … During my now regrettable 30 years as an activist on the religious right, I aided and abetted the poisoning of evangelical culture by engaging in alarmist rhetoric from the pulpit. I denounced the ‘abortionists’, the ‘homosexual lobby’, ‘godless atheists’ in academia and ‘Democrats’ in Congress and the White House. More than 50,000 financial contributors rewarded me for doing all that. After a while, the money and adulation became a drug to which I became addicted. Sadly, addicts sometimes do things they wouldn’t do if they were sober. Thankfully, I got sober before I committed a physically violent act.”

Retired bishop rebuked for comments about race

The retired Bishop of Bristol, Mike Hill, has been formally rebuked and told to undergo unconscious-bias training for comments about a priest’s ethnic background having a bearing on issues of truth, the Church Times reports. He has since apologised. The priest, the Rev Alwyn Pereira, now working in Aldershot, said it was a “historic watershed” moment. Tim Wyatt’s article is here

Purple dye from King David’s reign discovered near the Red Sea

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered purple textiles from the time of King David’s reign — about 1000BC. The purple dye “argaman” comes from sea snails on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and is associated with royalty and priests. The dig was near the Red Sea and its findings are outlined in the Plos One journal.