Religion news 5 November

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Scars on the American soul

As a deeply divided America waits to see the outcome of the Presidential election, church leaders have spoken of the deep scars on the nation from a divisive campaign and tight result. Phillip Jackson, the vicar of Trinity Church Wall Street, said  the election will leave inevitable scars on the country and the church will need to do more – love one another, serve those on the margins and fight for racial justice. As shops and offices continue to be boarded up in fear of social unrest, leaders of the church held a service at Washington Cathedral praying for unity, healing and hope as people ‘wait patiently’.

Meanwhile early exit polls among 15,590 people, by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, and published in the New York Times, suggested the vast majority of white evangelicals continued to vote for Trump – 76% against 23% for Biden. Robert Jones, CEO and Founder of the Public Religion Research Institute in the States, suggests that one reason for the tight vote in North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona is that each has seen a significant drop in the proportion of white evangelical Protestants since the last election. He suggests that race and the legacy of white supremacy divides the country the racial attitudes of white Christians, particularly white evangelical Protestants, were a driver in this election. 

Bishops to the British: Keep calm and carry on

As the second lockdown starts in England, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have appealed to people to be calm, courageous, and compassionate as they face the second lockdown. They suggest people join together in prayer every day at 6pm and say “Christ’s love will comfort us, calm our fears, and lead our nation and our world through this terrible pandemic.” They set out practical steps of not hoarding, being neighbourly, compassionate, gentle and kind and simply “get on with things.

Government refuses to budge on public worship ban

Remembrance Day services are being re-arranged to take place online or outside, something which has infuriated the former Prime Minister Theresa May, who told the commons that men and women who died serving their country deserve better than live streamed services.

Theresa May also questioned why public worship has been banned in the lockdown. Faith leaders had immediately challenged the measure, sending an open letter of protest to the Prime Minister, questioning the science which led to the decision and emphasising the importance to social and mental wellbeing of collective worship. The faith minister Lord Greenhalgh held back to back zoom meetings with all faith groups and the places of worship taskforce, but there is no sign that the government is changing its position.

The Muslim Council of Britain has issued guidance to mosques where private prayer is allowed, but not collective worship.

China removes domes from mosque

A British diplomat in China has posted images of a mosque which has had its domes removed by state authorities. Nanguan Mosque in Yinchuan, used to have bright green domes and golden minarets but they were removed during renovations. The UK’s deputy head of mission in China, Christina Scott, said the removal was ‘so depressing’. The Telegraph reported that Islamic-style onion domes and decorative elements have also been removed from mosques in Gansu province. The UK foreign office said: “We are deeply concerned about restrictions on Islam and other religions in China. We call on China to respect Freedom of Religion or Belief, in line with its Constitution and its international obligations.”

Canada and New Zealand move towards allowing assisted dying

New Zealand has voted to legalise euthanasia in a referendum which saw 65% of people in favour. The law will allow terminally ill people with less than six months to live, to choose assisted dying if approved by two doctors. In Canada, MPs approved a bill to make it easier for someone who is dying to get help to end their suffering. Humanists UK are urging the UK government to bring forward assisted dying legislation.

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