Religion news 7 June 2024

Image credit: US Embassy, The Hague public domain

D-Day ministry among the dead and dying

D-Day commemorations in France and Britain included 23 veterans of the conflict, who are now aged 100. They were strong enough to deliver emotional tributes to their friends who lay buried in war graves at the Bayeux cemetery, forming part of a remembrance ceremony which included song, silence and prayer from the Chaplain General of HM Land Forces, Methodist minister the Rev Canon Michael Parker. Stories of chaplains who served on D-Day emerged throughout the day.

Catholic chaplains offering sacramental and practical comfort:

An account of the work of Catholic chaplains in World War Two describes heroism and indiscriminate killing as 22 army chaplains lost their lives between D-Day and the end of September 1944. “Defend Us in Battle: Catholic Chaplains in the British Military”, by James Hagerty and Barry Hudd, published by Sacristy Press, says 150 unarmed chaplains accompanied the 850,000 troops. It describes how chaplains came ashore with the men and were immediately under fire, ministering to the dead and dying, offering sacramental and material comfort, including to captured Germans. Four Catholic priests died in Operation Overlord, which was launched on D-Day. Fr Peter Firth of the Diocese of Lancaster, waved to a soldier and was shot, dying instantly. Fr Gerard Nesbitt, of Hexham and Newcastle Diocese, was killed by a shell explosion while conducting a funeral of men including an Anglican chaplain, killed in a motorcycle collision – the two chaplains lie side-by-side in war graves. Fr Patrick McMahon, an Irish Columban, was killed when his ambulance was hit by a shell. And Fr Gerard Barry of Liverpool Diocese attached to 8th Royal Scots, was killed while sheltering in a deserted farmhouse. The book is here

…. Rescuing the dying and burying the dead:

The Methodist church tells the story of army chaplain, the Rev Leslie Skinner, the first British chaplain to land on the Normandy beaches. In his journal The Man Who Worked on Sundays, he describes the noise, cold and horror of landing on Gold Beach, his care for wounded soldiers, burial of the dead and providing last rites with a portable communion kit. He stayed with his men as they moved into Germany, rescuing bodies of the dead from destroyed tanks and was honoured with the French Croix de Guerre with palm and the Belgian Chevalier of the Order of Leopold II with palm . His story is told on film here

…. Collecting the wounded by jeep and motorbike:

Baptist minister the Rev Thomas Lovegrove MC, was with the Green Howards (formerly the Yorkshire Regiment) when they landed on Gold Beach. He saw off the patrols with “a wee prayer if required”, and waited for their return, sometimes collecting them on a motorbike or evacuating them on a jeep under mortar fire. He was awarded the Military Cross for his action. Twitter thread by @whincupm here

Other news:

The Muslim Vote endorses four Labour candidates

The Muslim Vote has endorsed four Labour candidates – Naz Shah, Apsana Begum, Afzal Khan and Yasmin Qureshi – in the General Election. The decision has caused “serious legitimate disagreement” among the supporters. In a statement, The Muslim Vote says the organisation was set up around the November ’23 vote on a ceasefire in the Israel / Gaza war, to support those MPS who voted for it and punish those who did not, by putting forward other candidates. They have identified a small number of Labour MPs who voted for the ceasefire and have a record of supporting the cause. The statement ends by calling for a shift in the way disagreements are dealt with which will mean either unity or a split.

Sikh Network publishes manifesto for change

The Sikh Network has published the third “Sikh Manifesto”, outlining demands for action by political parties in the forthcoming general election. It says the election offers the opportunity for a paradigm shift in government relations with Sikh community organisations which will restore confidence. Its ten point plan includes more effective representation of Sikh issues in parliament; systematic collection and use of data on Sikhs by public bodies; promoting a better understanding of the Sikh identity and way of life; tackling  hate crimes targeting Sikhs and Sikh religious institutions; raising the treatment of Sikhs by the Indian government; the release of Jagtar Singh Johal and Sikh political prisoners from Indian jails; an independent public inquiry into the actions of the UK Government on the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984; self-determination to the Sikhs. The Sikh Manifesto predicts an increase in the number of Labour Sikh MPs from two to at least fourteen and is optimistic that many of its demands will be resolved by a prospective incoming Labour government.

CofE produces prayers for the election campaign

Church of England bishops have produced a set of daily prayers and reflections for the election campaign, urging a better culture, trust, truth and love of the neighbour. The prayers are part of the #PrayYourPart campaign, promoting participation. There are 28 days until polling day on 4 July, but there are just 21 prayers designed to begin on 14 June. They cover prayers for party leaders, candidates and the media, integrity and truthfulness, and key subjects including education, technology, prisons, housing, migration and the environment. On integrity, the prayer reflects that people who run for public office often face abuse but “anyone who points the finger at anyone else is always open to the charge of hypocrisy” and everyone should hold themselves to high standards. And there’s a word of advice for the incoming government: ”The challenge of government is as much about implementing ideas and avoiding errors as it is about developing policy”.

Antisemitism is pervasive in Europe and an existential threat to democracy

Katharina von Schnurbein, the European Commission coordinator on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life, has said that antisemitism poses an existential threat to European democracy and made it clear that bigotry in some migrant communities needs addressing. The Jewish Chronicle reports her address to the European Jewish Association, when she said that war in Gaza had ignited antisemitism across Europe, and although “within migrant communities, antisemitic prejudice can be higher”, she did not want to blame immigration for bigotry. She said: “Antisemitism has been in EU countries long before mass migration.. Jew hate in Europe is pervasive. Antisemitism never goes away”.  She wanted to see social media companies ensure that hatred is not perpetuated, and she believed a system was needed to record all instances of Jewish hate crimes on social media.

Ivory Coast Methodists leave United Methodist Church over same sex decision

Methodists in The Ivory Coast have disaffiliated from the United Methodist Church following its conference decision last month to overturn a rule forbidding “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from being ordained or appointed as ministers. The Associated Press reports on the impact of the change on churches in Africa, where homosexuality is punishable by prison or event death in certain countries. The Ivory Coast has one of the largest number of Methodists at 1.2 million. AP explains that the United Methodist Church has about 4.6 million members in Africa, Europe and the Philippines, and about 5.4 million members in the United States. One quarter of its congregations in the US have left over the issue. In Zimbabwe, Methodists welcomed the decision but protests were held outside the church headquarters with signs saying homosexuality is a sin and an abomination.

Relic of St Swithun found in Stavanger Cathedral

Archaeologists in Norway believe they have found a fragment of the arm bone of St Swithun, contained in a reliquary in the cellar of Stavanger Cathedral. It was believed the relic had been destroyed in the Protestant Reformation, but researchers believe it was among many objects saved and hidden in the cellar. The fragment of the arm is within a gilded copper panel 10 x 5 centimetres, attached in the past to a wooden object.  The Church Times explains that St Swithun is the patron saint of Stavanger, and the relic was probably brought to the city in 1112 by the first Bishop of Stavanger, an Englishman called Reinald.


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