Religion news 5 October 2021

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Image credit: Vatican media

Forty religious leaders call on governments to tackle climate change

Pope Francis hosted 40 leaders from world religions at the Vatican as they issued a joint call for government leaders to take urgent measures to tackle climate change, when they meet at Cop26. They said the meeting in Glasgow next month should be seized as an opportunity to limit the rise in the average global temperature to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. They represented around three-quarters of the world’s population and said the war against climate change affects the poorest on the planet. World leaders, they said, have an obligation to “safeguard the home entrusted to our stewardship”.

Retired dean continues direct action against climate change

Climate change activists have once more caused major disruption on key roads in London, taking direct action to sit down on the tarmac, preventing traffic from moving. The activists included the Rev Mark Coleman, who retired as borough dean of Rochdale last year and has been pictured in the latest protests, with clerical collar, sitting on the A40 junction with the North Circular, stopping traffic in a coordinated campaign. He has been arrested repeatedly and is one of a small group of clergy determined in their protest, which has already provoked the Diocese of Oxford to criticise their actions which “frustrated many people” by blocking motorways.

Bishop says taxpayers pick up effect of problem gambling

The Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, has urged the government to reform the gambling industry after a review accused it of making profits while taxpayers were left to pick up the pieces of lives destroyed by debt, deprivation, suicide and homelessness. Public Health England’s review found that gambling cost the government £647.2m a year and people living in the northeast and northwest of England were significantly more at risk of problem gambling than people in the south. The bishop is quoted in the Church Times saying that reforming the gambling sector would reduce the burden on the taxpayer.

Citygate Christian Outreach Centre, in Beckenham, under investigation

Law and Religion UK reports that the Charity Commission has announced that it has opened an inquiry into Citygate Christian Outreach Centre (charity number 1111470), which runs a church in Beckenham. The church started in 1997 with 13 people and has built up round the same pastor, with a large congregation now meeting in the old Post Office depot building. The Charity Commission opened an inquiry when it learnt that the trustees had given an individual more than £900,000 via unsecured loans. It also identified concerns about the charity’s awarding of payments and other financial benefits to trustees and others connected with the charity. The inquiry is examining decision-making in relation to the unsecured loans; if there has been any financial loss to the charity; whether potential conflicts of interest in relation to financial transactions have been handled appropriately; if there has been any unauthorised private benefit to the trustees and/or connected parties; and whether the trustees have complied with their governing document and fulfilled their duties and responsibilities under charity law.

Bristol University sacks Professor David Miller for comments about Israel

Bristol University has sacked David Miller, professor of political sociology, following a long-running campaign about his comments on Israel. The university says a disciplinary hearing found Professor Miller did not meet the standards of behaviour expected from staff. But a report from an independent QC “considered the important issue of academic freedom of expression” and found that Professor Miller’s comments “did not constitute unlawful speech”. The Jewish Chronicle reports that the sacking was supported by the Union of Jewish Students, Bristol JSoc, the Jewish Leadership Council, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism, the chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Community Security Trust. It goes on to report that Professor Miller condemned his dismissal as “a pressure campaign against me overseen and directed by a hostile foreign government”, adding: “The University of Bristol is no longer safe for Muslim, Arab or Palestinian students.” He said he would be challenging the decision and would take the university to an employment tribunal if necessary.

Muslims in Belgium appeal against ban on halal slaughtering techniques

Muslim associations in Belgium will appeal against the decision of Belgium’s Constitutional Court to ban ritual halal animal slaughter. The associations say that religious slaughter techniques are an alternative to stunning animals before death, and are fully compatible with public health, food safety, and animal welfare requirements. They say a ban on ritual slaughtering is against the freedom of religion. But the European Court of Justice says the measures allow a fair balance to be struck between the importance attached to animal welfare and the freedom of Jewish and Muslim believers to manifest their religion.

Swedish cartoonist of the Prophet Muhammad dies in car crash inferno

The Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who lived under police protection after his 2007 depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, has died in a car accident with two protection officers. The Telegraph reports that Vilks, 75, was killed in a collision with a truck near the small town of Markaryd. Both vehicles caught fire and the truck driver was taken to hospital. Foul play is not suspected.

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