Religion news 5 May 2021

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Oxygen, medical help and food provided by UK faith group appeals for India

Faith groups are among multiple UK organisations mounting a relief effort for India, which faces an overwhelming health crisis from rising Covid-19 cases. Neasden Temple, the largest outside India, has provided 44 tonnes of liquid oxygen and is supporting four hospitals including a field hospital, and thousands of volunteers. Khalsa Aid has provided 200 oxygen concentrators, delivered on a Virgin Atlantic flight, and is supporting established medical services and organisations. Islamic Relief is appealing for funds to provide an oxygen generation plant, which can provide oxygen to 500 hospital beds and will last for 20 years. The appeal is promoted as Zakat, the giving required of Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.

Batley school cartoon row has sent ‘damaging message’ on critical thinking

The National Secular Society is accusing the government of “washing its hands” of the Batley Grammar School RE teacher, suspended for showing a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in a lesson. It says it is not confident that ministers are ensuring the school investigation is not unduly influenced by local imams, and it is concerned that Department for Education officials are failing to ensure that the school’s action against the teacher were appropriate. Stephen Evans, chief executive of the society, said the investigations would have national implications and the case had “already sent a damaging message on teachers’ ability to encourage critical thinking on culturally sensitive issues”.

Oil industry and church should unite in race to save the planet

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, a former oil company executive, has joined forces with the former boss of BP, Lord Browne of Madingley, to appeal for unity in the campaign to save the planet. In a signed article in The Times, they say they share a belief in the value of science and engineering, and the responsibility to safeguard the future of our planet and its citizens. They suggest that 2021 could be a watershed moment for international co-operation on climate change, with the G7 leaders meeting and the environment summit Cop26 in the autumn.

Millions of children and teachers learn mindfulness at school in the US

In the United States, the National Center for Health Statistics, estimates 3.1 million children aged 4 to 17, learnt mindfulness meditation in school in 2017, the last year for which data is available. Five million practised yoga. During the pandemic, teachers have also adopted the practice, as stress levels soared with many changes in teaching systems, from in-person, to online, and back again. Though secular in practice, the method is rooted in Buddhism and has previously alarmed fundamentalist evangelicals. But the Religion News Service reports that Alabama is considering lifting a 25 -year ban on yoga and meditation in public schools.

Greenbelt festival cancelled again

The Greenbelt festival, due to take place on August bank holiday weekend, has been cancelled for a second successive year because of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. It has kept going with support of 2,000 long-term donors, known as The Angels, and the government’s furlough scheme. Paul Northup, Greenbelt’s creative director, said it did not have the resources to risk going ahead this year. In an announcement on its website, organisers say: “We have spent the last few months hoping and praying that the government would step up and provide festivals like ours with the insurance protection we need to go ahead. It is clear now that we have been waiting in vain.”

Bishop of Lincoln retires months after safeguarding investigation

The Bishop of Lincoln, Christopher Lowson, has announced he will retire on 31 December 2021, a year before he reaches the compulsory retirement age of 70. He returned to work in March this year after a 20-month suspension while allegations were investigated that he did not adequately safeguard children and vulnerable people . He accepted a penalty for misconduct and apologised for an error of judgment in the way he handled a disclosure about a member of clergy. Bishop Lowson will take a period of study leave and retreat from October, and a farewell service will be held in November. He has been Bishop of Lincoln for 10 years.

Mothers’ names included on marriage certificates

Marriage certificates in England and Wales will now include the names of both the mother and the father of the couple. The Home Office said the reforms were “the biggest changes to the marriage registration system since 1837” and would correct a historic anomaly by allowing for mothers’ details to appear on the marriage entry for the first time.

Hillsong pastor resigns in another sex scandal story

Darnell Barrett, the creative director of Hillsong church in New Jersey, has resigned after sharing lewd pictures of himself on Instagram. The images were seen by a woman volunteer, who complained. Last November, Carl Lentz, a Hillsong New York pastor, was fired for “moral failures”. Hillsong is a charismatic, socially conservative mega church movement founded in Australia in 1983, with an emphasis on contemporary music and attracting large congregations which fill convention centres.

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