Religion news 6 June 2024

Image credit: Ed Pawson/RMC

D-Day headstones point to enduring ideas of hope

Vigils have been held in Portsmouth and Normandy to remember those who died in the D-Day operation 80 years ago. Thousands of troops were joined by civic leaders, families, royalty and politicians to pay tribute, with music, poetry and solemn ceremony. And today there will be a service of remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, and a commemorative event at the British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-Mer , with beacons being lit in towns and cities this evening at 9.15pm.  At the Bayeux War Cemetery in France, where more than 4,600 are buried, the rows of uniformly plain and understated headstones offer a snapshot of the beliefs and worldviews of the mid-20th century. The inscriptions added by grieving families point to a society where religious imagery and Christian scriptural references were commonly used to describe the trauama of loss. There is hope of eternal life, admiration for the sacrifices made, and support for the righteousness of the cause. Read our article by Ed Pawson here

Muslims hope BJP losses will check anti Muslim rhetoric and politics

The Washington Post carries a report from India after the election results which saw the ruling Hindu BJP lose 63 seats, and enter talks with other parties to form a coalition government. Reporter Rana Ayyub has been gauging reaction among the country’s Muslim population. A human rights activist welcomed the result in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where almost 80 percent of the population is Hindu, but voters chose a candidate from the secular socialist political party, the Samajwadi Party. There will be only 22 Muslims in parliament after the election, but Modi’s reduced majority has led to an expectation of stronger checks on anti-Muslim rhetoric and politics. A think tank leader suggested the BJP will be at the mercy of coalition partners and the result “gives Indian Muslims a breathing space.” The article is here

Rabbi couple heading to Israel from Leeds after death threats

The couple working as Jewish rabbis at the University of Leeds and surrounding region, are heading back to Israel after antisemitic abuse, death threats and abusive and threatening phone calls. Rabbi and Rebbetzen Zecharia and Nava Deutsch had been in Leeds for three years when Zecharia was called up for IDF service after the 7 October Hamas attack. But when he returned to Leeds, his young family faced a barrage of abuse and the university Jewish society building was defaced with graffiti “Free Palestine”.  The couple said: “The past few months since October last year have been exceptionally challenging at both a personal and communal level. There were many moments when we felt that the University should have been much stronger in protecting our family, and the Jewish students from those elements on campus who were attacking Israel and our right to be Jews”. They thanked the Jewish groups which supported them and were proud of achievements in the past three “meaningful years”. Jewish News story here.

Jewish TV executives criticise BBC for hiring cricketer Qasim Sheikh after 7 October posts

More than 100 Jewish BBC TV staff, contractors, suppliers and contributors, have criticised the BBC for hiring Scottish cricketer Qasim Sheikh for the Test Match Special team this week, commentating on the Scotland v England T20 game.  In an open letter to the BBC director general Tim Davie and chief content officer Charlotte Moore, they say they are in disbelief that Sheikh was hired after he shared a post on X that likened the Prime Minister and other leaders including Netanyahu to Hitler, describing them as  the “Kids Killer Union”; and another post appearing to say that saying Hamas was justified in their 7 October attack on Israel  “to defend themselves”.  The letter says the BBC has displayed “a monumental double-standard” when compared with its treatment of former England captain Michael Vaughan, who was dropped from the commentary team after being accused of making racist comments, which he always denied and of which he was cleared. The letter continues: “We are despairing, despairing at the total absence of courage, morality and understanding that BBC leadership repeatedly demonstrate in relation to Jews time and again. We can now add the case of Qasim Sheikh to the ever growing canon that the BBC must answer for.” Qasim Sheikh has issued a statement apologising for any offence caused and described the attack of 7 October as morally reprehensible. Broadcast article here

German theologian Jürgen Moltmann has died aged 98

The German theologian Jürgen Moltmann, Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at the University of Tübingen, has died aged 98. He is widely known for his work on The Trinity, explained in the trilogy: Theology of Hope (1964), The Crucified God (1972), and The Church in the Power of the Spirit (1975). He understood the crucifixion as an event in which all three persons of the Trinity participated in redemption and suffering of the world. Theology for him was related to human situations and he believed the idea of the kingdom of God required action in society, leading to new ideas of liberation theology, peace and the challenge to act against poverty. He was converted while a prisoner of war in Scotland, and on his return to Germany, started studying theology. He is described in one obituary as “the most significant Protestant theologian of the second half of the 20th century”.

CofE endowment fund is worth £10.4 billion

The Church Commissioners for England says the Church of England’s endowment fund is now valued at £10.4billion. It says in 2023 £120.6m was paid in pensions and £223m in charitable expenditure, a rise of 19.4 per cent on the previous year with more than two thirds going to dioceses. The fund contributes around 20 per cent towards the total annual running costs of the Church of England. The annual report is here.

Clash at Cannes over Dominican actress’ flowing dress with a picture of Jesus

A security guard at the Cannes film festival clashed with Dominican actress, TV host, and beauty queen Massiel Taveras, because her dress with a flowing train had a picture of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns. Ms Taveras said the guard tried to stop her displaying the picture and told her she should go to church or read the Bible.  She explained she wanted one photo to be taken to credit the designer. On her Instagram account she said: “Jesus is happening 👑 it’s the beginning of a new era, everybody around the universe let’s dress up JESUS 🙌☝🏻 not only outside but inside of our souls. This act of love change my life for ever”.


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