Religion news 8 April 2022

Image credit: Religious Information Service of Ukraine

Theologians sign declaration against use of Christianity in populism and totalitarianism

The Religious Information Service of Ukraine reports a conference earlier this week at New College Oxford, on the theme: “Christian Identity in National, Transnational and Local Space.” It was organised by Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, set up by Odesa born Sir Len Blavatnik, the 20th richest man in the world, who has joint UK / US citizenship. Delegates published a declaration  calling on all Christian scholars to reject “unholy alliances of Christianity and political power, and especially in the context of nationalism, populism, and new forms of totalitarianism.” It was signed by theologians including Jürgen Moltmann, Miroslav Volf, Jose Casanova, Thomáš Halík, Katharina Kunter and Marietta van der Tol.

Archbishop in the thick of it on Question Time

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, took the unusual step of appearing on the BBCs Question Time programme last night. Careful to avoid entanglement with the more aggressive panel discussions, he talked in some detail about bringing justice for atrocities in the war in Ukraine. He said war crimes could only be dealt with after the fighting stops and there must be pressure for a ceasefire, with attention paid to sanctions and diplomacy.

Hardship fund for British Muslims sees 90 per cent rise in applications

A record number of Muslims are seeking financial support, caused by the rising cost of living coupled with the effect of the pandemic, according to the National Zakat Foundation. It says applications to its hardship fund have soared by 90 per cent over the past year and it is urging Muslims to give their zakat –  an obligatory religious levy — to support others dealing with unprecedented levels of hardship. Religion Media Centre report on this story is here

Guidance for housing Ukrainian refugees in Methodist manses

The Methodist church has issued guidance for churches in how to rent out a room or annexe in a manse, for Ukrainian refugees. The checklist covers legal boundaries, for example if help in kind is offered in lieu of rent, help for Ukrainians in the wider community and support for church members responsible for navigating the legal complexities.

The Church Times reports on efforts across England by churches eager to help Ukraine refugees offering homes and support. Those willing to offer assistance say the biggest obstacle to success is still the time taken to process visas.

Project to examine abuse in religious settings

Inform, the charity set up to provide information about new religious movements, has announced it will be a key partner in a project to examine abuse in religious settings. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the project will run from now until June 2024 based at the University of Kent. Dr Sarah Harvey, Inform’s senior research adviser will be analysing the factors that shape the context and experience of abuse in religious settings and the ways in which communities and organisations respond.

Holocaust denier aged 93 goes to jail for one year

The 93-year-old German Holocaust denier, Ursula Haverbeck, has been jailed for incitement to hate. The case results from her comments at a public event in Berlin and in an interview online. The judge said she had strayed miles from the historical truth and had shown no remorse. Her age was irrelevant.

“What does a Jew Look Like?” – the media’s representation of Jews

Representation of Jewish people in the media is being tackled by academic Keith Kahn Harris through the prism of photography. In his book “What Does a Jew Look Like?”, he explains how a picture of two Charedi men strolling through Stamford Hill has been used hundreds of times to illustrate any story about Jews.  The book, to be launched next week,  includes new pics from the same photographer, showing the diversity of Britain’s Jewish community, including a transgender rabbi, a repeat offender, and a black Jewish man of Nigerian descent. Dr Kahn-Harris wants to make a simple point that  Jews do not all look the same or think the same and are very different from each other. Read Lianne Kolirin’s article on his book here

The week ahead is full of religious festivals

Thursday 14 Vaisakhi – traditional Punjabi harvest festival celebrated with processions, singing and colourful decoration; also marks the inauguration of the Khalsa, the body of committed Sikhs who have decided to dedicate their lives to the tradition’s teaching. Factsheet here

Friday 15 Passover – eight day festival celebrating the liberation of the Israelites form slavery in Egypt. Factsheet here

The Christian festival of Easter starts on Palm Sunday (10 April) and leads to Good Friday marking the crucifixion of Jesus,  and Easter Sunday (17 April), marking the resurrection.  We have factsheets on Lent and Easter; and Easter and the Resurrection


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