Religion news 7 February 2024

Interactive exhibition of Notre Dame. Image credit: Notre-Dame, The Augmented Exhibition

Interactive Notre Dame exhibition comes to London

An immersive exhibition of Notre Dame has come to London, telling a 850-year story from 12th century origins to current renovations following the fire of 2019. The exhibition has been created by digital heritage specialists and has already been on display worldwide including in Paris, Washington, Montreal and Dubai. It is now in the  13th century Chapter House at its sister church, Westminster Abbey in London. A touch screen tablet leads visitors through interactive sound and film re-creations of historic moments such as the wedding of King Henri IV, the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte and the 19th century construction of Notre-Dame’s iconic spire of Viollet-le-Duc, which was dramatically destroyed in the fire. Renovations are nearly complete and Notre Dame will be open to the public in December.  Catherine Pepinster’s article is on our website here.

Rowan Williams asks “where’s the evidence” that church abuses asylum system

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has challenged politicians to show the evidence for their accusations that churches support “industrial scale bogus asylum claims” through enabling false conversions. He told the “i” that he guessed the vast majority of Christian pastors would be well aware of the risk of false claims. He asked: “What evidence is there that this is a large-scale problem? More significantly, what evidence is there that Christian clergy are deliberately colluding in any such phenomenon? If there is no such collusion, do the former Home Secretaries think they can offer cast-iron criteria to determine the sincerity of people enquiring about this?”.

Review of Abdul Ezedi case will consider whether his conversion led to asylum decision

The concern over sham conversions relates to the case of Abdul Ezedi, wanted in connection with a chemical attack against a mother and her two young children in London, who was granted asylum after converting to Christianity. He was resident in the north east of England where neither the Catholics nor the Church of England have any record of dealing with him, but Action Foundation, a Christian based charity at City Church in Newcastle, confirmed it supported Ezedi between April 29 2021 to March 2 2022. It runs Alpha courses and receives government grants for its work with refugees.  The Times reports that the Home Secretary, James Cleverly, has requested an internal review into the circumstances around the decision to grant Ezedi asylum and this will include the extent to which his conversion played a role. Ezedi is still at large.

The Religion Media Centre is running a media briefing tomorrow on asylum seekers and the church. Thursday 8 February at 1100, including guests Tim Loughton MP, Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani and Emily Shepherd, CEO of the Welcome Churches Network. Details from [email protected]

Humza Yousaf says there is deep rooted Islamophobia in the UK and it’s getting worse

Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s first minister, and the first Muslim to hold that role, has said that there is deep-rooted, systemic and endemic Islamophobia in the UK and it is getting worse. Speaking on “The Rest is Politics” podcast with Alistair Campbell and Rory Stewart, he said he sometimes “overcompensates” due to his religion: “We will always in this country be seen by some people through our skin colour first, or our religion first. And that’s been my experience…There is definitely still a deep-rooted, systemic and endemic Islamophobia in this country, and Scotland is absolutely not immune to that at all”. He went on to say that his faith keeps him grounded and provides him with solace through contemplation.

Kenyan sect leader charged with murdering 191 children

The Kenyan sect leader Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, accused of telling followers to starve so they could get to heaven early before the world ended, has been charged with the murder of 191 children. Their bodies were found in the Shakahola forest, near his Good News International Ministries centre. Al Jazeera reports that autopsies showed that the majority of the 429 victims had died of hunger. But others, including children, appeared to have been strangled, beaten, or suffocated. Mackenzie, a former taxi driver and pastor,  was charged with 29 others before a court in the coastal town of Malindi near the Indian Ocean.

World Vision appeals for political solution to humanitarian crisis in northwest Syria

The Christian charity World Vision has released a policy document highlighting the escalating humanitarian crisis in northwest Syria, one year after earthquakes devastated the area. Two earthquakes in the region killed more than 56,000 lives and destroyed homes, displacing millions of people. The document says the situation in Syria is more critical than ever with millions relying on humanitarian aid, healthcare services facing closure and 800,000 people still living in tents and it is calling for a political solution with a peace process supported by the international community.

Survey launched to create “Catholic manifesto” for general election campaign

The Catholic Union has launched a survey asking Catholics for their views on policy areas which will be issues in the forthcoming general election campaign. It says the results will inform its publication of a “Catholic Manifesto” which will be sent out to candidates ahead of polling day. Its director, Nigel Parker, said: “We want to make sure that our work is focused on those areas which lay Catholics care most about and where we can have the greatest impact”.

Lego releases Notre Dame Cathedral brick set

Lego is releasing a Notre Dame Cathedral set in June, six months before the 850-year-old building in Paris re-opens following its major restoration project. A statement explains: “Even though LEGO has a policy against making religious sets, Notre Dame is probably legitimized by the set’s architectural focus on the monument. A similar case was, for example, the 2019 LEGO Taj Mahal”. The set has more than 4,000 bricks and will retail for $229.99, with a portion of the proceeds from the sales going towards the restoration fund.


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