Religion news 6 April 2022

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London Tower Bridge Itfar 2022. Image credit: @MudassarCh__

War crimes commander ‘blessed by Russian orthodox priest

The Times reports that the Russian commander suspected of committing war crimes in Bucha near Kyiv has been named by a Ukrainian group as an officer who was recently blessed by the Orthodox Church. Their story comes from InformNapalm, a Ukrainian volunteer initiative that monitors the activities of the Russian military and special services. The report says the officer was blessed by an Orthodox priest in November before his deployment to Ukraine, in a service led by the Bishop of Khabarovsk. There is no independent verification.

Government’s flagship LGBTQ+ event cancelled over conversion therapy

The row over conversion therapy has led to the cancelling of the UK’s first international LGBTQ+ conference Safe To Be Me, which was due to be held in June. More than 100 organisations objected to the government’s proposal that conversion therapy should be banned except for transgender people and withdrew from the conference.

Faith Leaders join call for national thank you day on Sunday 5 June

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi, the Muslim Council of Britain and City Sikhs are supporting a national Thank You Day on Sunday 5 June, when they hope 10 million people will put on joint events to thank people who make a difference to their lives. Organisers hope that on the Sunday, the finale of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration weekend, local faith groups will come together to organise “walks of faith” ending with a Big Jubilee Lunch . The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said he hoped people would get behind the events to thank the Queen and thank everyone in local communities who helped make last year better than it otherwise would have been. His call was echoed by the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis; Zara Mohammed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain and Jasvir Singh, Chair of City Sikhs, who said the event would help keep communities compassionate and connected. The plans were launched last night at Alyth synagogue north London, with the guest appearance of former East Enders star, Tracy-Ann Oberman.

Tower of London witnesses Itfar harmony instead of torture

The Tower of London, for the first time in its 900-year history, has hosted an itfar to break the fast of Ramadan. The Naz Legacy Foundation, jointly hosted the event with leaders including Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Cardinal Vincent Nichols. Naz Legacy Foundation’s founder Harris Bokhari said the Tower of London, once feared by religious minorities as a place of imprisonment and torture, was now highlighting public service, faith in God and the protection of minority communities – a refreshing moment

Tesco launches Itfar Ramadan billboard campaign

Tesco has launched an advertising campaign “Together this Ramadan” featuring pictures explaining the foods that are eaten to break the daily fast at sunset during Ramadan. It worked with BBH London and The Unmistakables agency, which aims to foster inclusion, in order to enhance the representation of Islam. The team, including practising Muslims, created a billboard poster for digital screens in Brent, Birmingham and Bradford, which will remain in display at sunset for three hours. The image is of an Itfar table in a family home, with vibrant colours, table decorations and food.

New home for Muslims in Harrogate

Harrogate Islamic Association has at last found a building to turn into a mosque, after 10 years of searching. It has bought the former Home Guard club on Tower Street and hopes to open the place of worship later this year. A spokesman from the Muslim community told York Press that the community had to bounce from place to place for prayers and everyone is relieved and happy to find a home.

Jewish man jailed for refusing to give wife religious divorce

Alan Moher, who refused to grant his wife a Jewish religious divorce (a “Get”) has been jailed for 18 months for coercive or controlling behaviour. He separated from his wife in 2016 but denied the religious divorce, which meant she was unable to remarry, have more children or enter into a relationship with another man. The court heard she had suffered mental anguish. Jewish News story here

Nigerian humanist association leader jailed for blasphemy

The Guardian reports that the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala, has been sentenced to 24 years in jail on blasphemy charges. It says that Bala is an atheist, the son of a religious scholar and outspoken religious critic in a staunchly conservative region. The report says he faced death threats and calls for him to be tried for blasphemy after he posted comments critical of Islam on Facebook in April 2020. His defence team were shocked by his sudden guilty plea and think he just wanted to end the case. Humanists in Nigeria say the result means they will, by implication, be criminal.

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