Religion news 6 July 2021

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Image credit: St Paul's Cathedral

Service of thanksgiving as the Queen awards the NHS the George Cross

The Queen has marked the 73rd anniversary of the NHS by awarding it with the George Cross, the highest award for non-operational gallantry and heroism in Britain. In a personal message, the Queen praised NHS staff across the UK for working “with courage, compassion and dedication” for more than 70 years. The Duke of Cambridge joined frontline past and present NHS staff and patients at a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral led by the dean, David Ison. The duke later hosted a tea party at Buckingham Palace to thank NHS workers. The Church Times reports that Canterbury Cathedral held a two-minute silence at 11am and tolled its bell at 8pm.

Bishop pays tribute to Covid-19 sacrifices of many as government prepares to lift restrictions

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Covid recovery group, has paid tribute to the sacrifices of many amid the pandemic as the prime minister outlined plans to lift most restrictions 19 from July. She said the vaccination programme had been an answer to prayer but, while it had transformed the outlook of the pandemic, it had not eliminated all risk. “As Christians, called to love our neighbour as ourselves, we must also exercise collective responsibility and continue to take appropriate precautions to protect others,” she said. “Over the past 18 months we have mourned the tens of thousands who have died from Covid-19.”  She said she was inspired by the way churches had risen to the challenge and found new ways of gathering to worship God, rand to each out and serve their neighbours in these difficult times. Read full statement

Attack on a young Jewish man in London prompts calls for a crisis meeting on antisemitism

Campaigners are calling for the government to take firm action on antisemitism, after footage emerged of a visibly Jewish man being abused twice within an hour on a bus and then the London Underground. According to the victim’s brother, Shlomie Liberow, who tweeted footage of the incident, a fellow passenger hurled abuse at him and threatened to “slit his throat” and shouted “free Palestine” as he disembarked. In a report published earlier this year, the Campaign Against Antisemitism revealed that three in five British Jews believe the authorities are not doing enough to address antisemitism. Rabbi Herschel Gluck, the president of Shomrim, an Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood watch scheme, believes the government is not taking antisemitism seriously enough. It has become acceptable and common place and it is not enough to throw money at it and make nice statements. “There has to be a crisis meeting, treating it like a security threat”. Story by Lianne Kolirin here

Religious leaders wish Pope a swift recovery

Religious and political leaders around the world have expressed their wishes and prayers for Pope Francis as he recovers after surgery to remove part of his colon. Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar in Cairo, Egypt, tweeted: “I wish my dear brother, Pope Francis, a speedy recovery to continue his devotion to humanity.” The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, also expressed his “fraternal wishes for a quick convalescence” in a message to the 84-year-old Pope. The Catholic News Agency said Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world’s Eastern Orthodox Christians, had assured Francis of his prayers and his hope that they would continue to “carry out together the indispensable mission of unity, to which Christ calls us”. The Chief Rabbi in Rome, Riccardo di Segni, also wished the Pope “a speedy recovery” in a post on Twitter. The Pope is said to be alert, in good overall condition and is expected to recover in hospital for seven days.

Jewish women stay in abusive relationships two years longer than national average

Jewish women stay in abusive relationships two years longer than the national average due to a fear of “bringing shame” on their families. Research by Jewish Women’s Aid (JWA) found that it could take 11½ years to report the abuse as opposed to the national average of 9.5 years, the Evening Standard reports. The charity says lockdown measures had been “used as an opportunity by perpetrators to abuse women”. Calls to its helpline increased by more than 60 per cent. Nationally, one in four women will be affected by domestic abuse, and there is no evidence to suggest the issue is more prevalent in Jewish communities. However, cultural expectations and the perceived stigma of divorce played a huge part in why the women did not always seek help. Some reported being in abusive marriages for up to 60 years.

Move to make abortion legal until the moment of birth has been withdrawn

An amendment to a bill going through the House of Commons, which would have legalised abortion up to birth in England and Wales, has been withdrawn after a strong protest by pro-life Christian campaigners. Another amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would have made it an offence punishable by up to two years in jail for those demonstrating outside abortion clinics. Women attending these clinics have been so intimidated that councils have created buffer zones to keep protesters away. The measures were withdrawn by MPs on Monday evening.

Pride march organisers blame church and government for attacks that led to cancellation

LGBTQ+ campaigners have blamed the Georgian Orthodox Church and prime minister Irakli Garibashvili for inciting violent far-right crowds to gather in the centre of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, to prevent a Pride march on Monday evening. Opponents blocked Tbilisi’s main avenue, denounced journalists covering the protest as pro-LGBT propagandists and threw sticks and bottles at the media workers, the Associated Press reports. About 20 journalists were injured. Animosity against sexual minorities is strong in Georgia. Organisers of the march said opponents were supported by and emboldened the government and the Georgian Orthodox Church. They cancelled the march, accusing the authorities of not providing adequate security measures. 

150 students missing after armed raid on Nigerian Baptist boarding school

Police and military personnel are trying to find 150 students missing after armed men raided a Baptist boarding school in Nigeria’s Kaduna state on Monday. Reuters says dozens of distraught parents gathered at the school compound, some weeping and crying out, standing in groups awaiting news. Discarded sandals lay strewn nearby. Dormitories containing metal bunk beds and cupboards were deserted. The attack on the Bethel Baptist High School is the 10th mass school kidnapping since December in northwest Nigeria, which authorities have attributed to armed bandits seeking ransom.

Couple celebrate wedding on canal boat outside their church

A couple who had to cancel their wedding twice because of the Covid-19 pandemic have become the first to use a canal boat part-owned by a Church of Scotland congregation for their wedding celebration. On Saturday, Dawn and Len Purves welcomed guests on the All Aboard, which is moored outside Polwarth Parish Church in Edinburgh. After their ceremony inside the church building, they were able to hold their reception on the 60ft yellow, white and blue canal boat — all in accordance with social distancing guidelines. It is hoped that the boat, which is jointly owned with People Know How, a social innovation charity, will be used for spiritual and educational pursuits and, when conditions allow, will serve as a safe space to gather, socialise and improve wellbeing and community cohesion.

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