Religion news 7 December 2021

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Image credit: @RepThomasMassie

Archbishop “sickened” by gun toting US congressman’s Christmas card

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said he was “sickened” to see the picture of the US Republican congressman Thomas Massie posing for a Christmas card photo on social media with his family, toting guns, with the message “Merry Christmas! ps. Santa, please bring ammo..” The Archbishop took to Twitter to say: “The message of the angels at Christmas is peace on earth and goodwill to people. It has nothing to do with the US gun rights debate. Let us turn away from the glorification of violence and instead welcome the God who comes to us in peace as the Christ-child. Pope Francis meeting refugees in Lesbos this weekend offers us a truly Christ-like image”.

Archbishop also disappointed that Nigeria is on the red list

Five hours later, Justin Welby took to Twitter again to criticise the government for red listing Nigeria, Botswana and South Africa for travel. “It’s very disappointing that Nigeria, Botswana and South Africa are red listed – countries already suffering, that will suffer more from travel bans.. We are one human family, and we will not be safe from this virus anywhere until we are safe everywhere”.

Andy John, the new Archbishop in Wales

The new Archbishop of the Church in Wales is Andy John, currently the Bishop of Bangor. He was elected on the first day of voting by church representatives meeting in Llandrindod Wells yesterday. He is the senior bishop in Wales and has already been acting up as Archbishop since his predecessor retired. The Church Times biography says he was born in Aberystwyth and served in various churches in Wales. He is from an evangelical background, attended St John’s College Nottingham, is divorced and married again, and supports allowing same-sex couples to have their marriages blessed in church.

Rohingya Muslims take legal action against Facebook for fomenting genocide

Lawyers in the USA and the UK are asking for £150 billion in compensation for the Rohingya Muslims, after they were forced from their homes in Myanmar from 2017. Their claim is against Facebook, which has already admitted that it had not done enough to prevent the incitement of violence and hate speech against the Rohingya in 2018 following a brutal military campaign in which more than 10,000 Rohingya were killed. The complaint says no compensation has been paid or support offered. The US case before a court in San Francisco is on behalf of an estimated 10,000 Rohingya, whilst a similar UK case has about 20 claimants.

Survey suggests support for tighter food labelling

A survey commissioned by the National Secular Society suggests that 72 per cent believe meat from animals killed without stunning, which is required in some religious traditions, should be clearly labelled. The NSS says that animal welfare legislation requires all animals to be stunned before slaughter, but there is an exemption for Jewish and Muslim practices. The survey said 58 per cent believe this religious exemption should be removed. The government is consulting on information about animal welfare labelling for a food strategy white paper.

Catholics resume pilgrimages to Our Lady of Guadalupe shrines

Millions of Catholics are preparing for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on 12 December, a celebration which had to be abandoned last year due to the pandemic. The day marks the moment when  the Virgin Mary appeared in a vision to St. Juan Diego on a hill of Tepeyac in Mexico in 1531. The main shrine is in Mexico where pilgrims visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and people are being asked to be cautious by wearing masks and staggering arrival times on site. But there is another shrine in Des Plaines, Illinois, where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are expected to arrive on foot, bike, bus or car for the two-day festival with music, dance, fireworks and midnight mass. Religion News Service story here

Independent church pastor in Cuba faces ten years for peaceful protests

The Rev Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo, a Cuban Protestant pastor, will stand trial this week after taking part in peaceful protests in the summer, highlighting a shortage of food and medicine. He was detained on 11 July and charged with a series of crimes including disrespect, assault  and public disorder. He is the leader of the Monte de Sion Independent Church in Palma Soriano, Cuba, and had a previous brush with the law when his church property was confiscated in 2012. Christian Solidarity Worldwide has taken up his case and says the family has been told he faces a ten year prison sentence.

More missionaries kidnapped in Haiti released

Five of the 17 people from the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries who were kidnapped in Haiti seven weeks ago, have now been released. Their kidnappers have demanded $1 million for each hostage.  They were on their way to an orphanage whose work they supported. Since then they have urged supporters to pray and fast for the hostages’ release.

Jewish couple removed from flight after refusing to store prayer shawl on the ground

An elderly Jewish couple say they were removed from an American Airlines flight in Miami after they refused to store their prayer shawl on the floor under their seat. Roberto and Elena Birman were flying to Newark when an air steward checked the overhead compartments, found the shawl in a bag and demanded it be put under the seat. They refused, they were removed and now they are suing. An American Airlines spokesman is quoted as saying: ‘The safety and comfort of our customers are our highest priorities and we’re committed to providing a positive, welcoming experience for everyone who travels with us.’

Church of England digital team sweeps the awards board

The Church of England’s digital team swept the board at the Digital Impact Awards, a national scheme run by Cravenhill publishing, which attracts entries from all businesses. The judging panel said the Church of England had used innovation and initiative in digital comms through the pandemic.  They were awarded “In House Digital Team of the Year” and three gold awards for an Ash Wednesday Instagram filter, using virtual reality techniques; the Time to Pray app and podcast; and the 2020 Advent and Christmas campaign ‘Comfort and Joy’. They won against Lloyds Banking Group, Fidelity, Centrica and Nestle. 

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