Religion news 5 May 2022

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Image credit: European Union

EU proposes sanctions and travel ban on Patriarch Kirill, leader of Russian Orthodox Church

Reuters reports that the European Commission is proposing that Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, should be added to a draft blacklist for an asset freeze and travel ban. The sanctions are to be discussed this week and need the backing of 27 EU states to be adopted. Kirill has failed to denounce the war on Ukraine, is an ally of President Putin and has supported the Russian army for defending the fatherland – Holy Russia. Reuters says his name is among hundreds of military officers and businessmen close to the Kremlin whom the EU accuses of supporting the war in Ukraine.

Jewish roots compelled former MP to help Ukraine people to safety

The Times and the Jewish News tell the story of a former Conservative MP who organised the exodus of refugees from Ukraine by busing them to safety in Paris, Luxembourg and Riga. Brooks Newmark, the former MP for Braintree, traces his Jewish ancestry to relatives in the region near Ukraine and was asked to help by the chief rabbi of Kyiv, Moshe Azman. From the start of the war, he has moved more than 7,600 people to safety, venturing into Ukraine to bus people away from Lviv, Kyiv and Mariupol. He told the Jewish News that he was influenced by the examples of bravery in WWII when Jewish people were rescued from the Nazis. He felt driven to help people in Ukraine against an aggressor “who in my opinion is Stalin Mark Two”. Full story here

Global Haredi Jewish population could double in size by 2040

A report from Jewish Policy Research has estimated for the first time, the number of Haredi Jews in the world. Haredis observe a distinctive eastern European dress code, are socially conservative Orthodox Jews and owe absolute adherence to the Torah in determining every aspect of their lives. “Haredi Jews Around the World” by Dr Daniel Staetsky, suggests that the global Haredi population is 2,100,00 – 14 per cent of the total Jewish population. The majority live in Israel and the United States. In the UK, there are an estimated 75,000, representing 25 per cent of British Jews. The report projects that the global Haredi population could double in size by the year 2040, rising to over a fifth of the total, with a growth rate three times higher than other Jewish groups.  The Jewish News quotes JPR director Jonathan Boyd saying the rapid growth of the Haredi population was “changing the nature of the Jewish world” with significant implications for how Jewishness is understood and seen. Read our factsheet on Haredi Jews here

US Catholic News Service closes after 100 years

The Catholic News Service, the news agency of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops dating back to 1920, will end domestic operations at the end of the year with 21 staff losing their jobs. Offices in New York and Washington and the Publishing Office will be closed at the end of the year, but the Catholic News Service Rome Bureau and the Office of Public Affairs will continue.  CNS reporter and editor Rhina Guidos thanked people for their support and said: “I think we’re more concerned with the state of Catholic media and the future for our amazing and brave clients, than with ourselves”.

Global Imams and Scholars Charter to foster unity and challenge negative image of Islam

Imams and scholars from English speaking nations have created a joint project to co-operate on research and initiatives in a spirit of unity.  The Global Imams and Scholars Charter says it is a response to challenges from wider society in Islamophobia, hostile media representation, the rise of atheism and materialism and the destructive impact of social media; as well as internal tensions of the acrimonious nature of intra Muslim discourse, and the lack of leadership and vision resulting in division. It says leaders have a responsibility to foster communities based on the core values of mutual respect. Discussion should be focussed on common interests that unite and add value, and those public hostile refutations that undermine cohesiveness and the public image of Islam should be avoided.  Participating organisations include the British Board of Scholars & Imams and other similar groups from Europe, Canada, Australia, North America, South Africa and New Zealand.

Town council tries to save redundant Methodist church for community use

Marlborough Town Council is attempting to thwart plans to sell off the Christchurch Methodist church for housing, by registering it as an Asset of Community Value, which would temporarily restrict any attempts to change its use. The Methodist congregation said the building had become a burden and needed to be sold off. But it is widely used by community groups and the council said it was of intrinsic value to the local area. This is Wiltshire reports that registering it would give local people the chance to put together a bid to buy it. Similar action has been taken for local pubs, shops and other facilities attempting a change of use.

Satanic group bids to fly a flag at Boston city hall

A Satanic Temple has asked permission to fly a flag outside Boston City Hall during Satanic Appreciation Week, from 23 to 29 July. It was emboldened after the US Supreme Court backed a fringe Christian group “Camp Constitution”, which wanted to fly a flag while holding an event in the plaza below. The City had refused, but the US Supreme Court ruled that this violated the group’s free speech rights.  Reuters reports that the Christian group, “Camp Constitution”, had questioned the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines, claimed the US Capitol attack was a cover-up for 2020 election fraud, and called the Pearl Harbour attack and 9/11 “carefully orchestrated false flags”. The Satanic Temple’s request is being considered by the city council. Guardian report here

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