Religion news 8 December 2021

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Pope Francis accuses European Commission of acting like a dictatorship

Pope Francis has said that the European Commission acted like a dictatorship by producing an internal document saying reference to Christmas should be avoided in order to be inclusive. He said it was “ideological colonization” and an attempt to ban Christian words was “watered down secularism”. The EC document also advised against using names typically from one religion, substituting “Maria and John” with “Malika and Julio” when referring to a hypothetical couple. The document has been withdrawn and the European Commissioner for Equality said the guidebook clearly needed more work.

America announces partial boycott of winter Olympic “genocide games”

President Joe Biden has announced a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in China next year, with the US not expected to send any government officials to Beijing.  There had been calls for a full boycott  in protest at the treatment of minority Muslim Uyghurs in the north west of China. Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential nominee, led a group of senators who want to block funding for any proposed travel by US government officials to the Games, thereby ensuring a diplomatic boycott.

Evangelical “Affinity” group may break the law in protest at conversion therapy changes

 A group of conservative evangelical Christians, belonging to the organisation “Affinity”, say they’re willing to break the law to defend what they say are traditional Christian views on same sex relationships. They are concerned that the framing of legislation to ban conversion therapy, would incriminate them. Affinity is a group of evangelical churches, organisations and individuals, including Oak Hill Theological college, Christian Concern and the Church Society, with leaders based in a free evangelical church in Haywards Heath. In an open letter to the Equalities Minister, Liz Truss, (also the Foreign Secretary), they say that proposed legislation on conversion therapy would risk criminalising the compassionate duties of ministers and pastors as they seek to counsel on issues of sexuality, marriage and gender. The letter says that if pastors teach the traditional understanding of sex and marriage, even though it is a criminal offence, they would continue “to do our duty to God in this matter”.

Rabbis unite against government’s asylum bill

A group of 28 UK rabbis have written to the Home Secretary expressing the deep concern and dismay of many in the Jewish community over the government’s asylum bill proposals, which are going through the Commons. The Jewish News reports that the letter, coordinated by the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, was sent to Priti Patel yesterday. The rabbis say the bill will create a two-tier asylum system and restrict the rights of many refugees arriving outside official routes, against Jewish values of justice and fairness. It urges the bill should drop offshore asylum processing and expand and open safe routes for refugees.

Manchester Jewish museum’s top two leaders stand down

Manchester Jewish Museum’s chief executive Max Dunbar and chair of trustees Andrew Singer have announced that they are stepping down to allow new leaders to take the organisation “on the next stage of its journey”. Manchester Museums Association reports that Dunbar will leave at the end of December after more than 10 years at the museum to begin a new position on the development team at the University of Manchester, where he will support fundraising for the university’s cultural institutions. Singer chaired his final trustee meeting in October after more than 14 years on the board and nine years as chair. Together they led the institution through a period of significant change, culminating in the launch of the new museum in July following a £6m capital redevelopment. A statement from the museum said the men felt the time was right to open the doors for someone new to come in and grow the museum.

Michael Steinhardt surrenders 180 stolen antiquities

The Religion News Service reports that Michael Steinhardt, a billionaire philanthropist for Jewish causes, has agreed to surrender stolen antiquities valued at $70 million and to never again acquire antiquities. In an agreement filed on Monday 6 December in the Manhattan Supreme Court, Steinhardt, co-founder of Birthright Israel, which sends young Jews on free trips to Israel, found he will not face criminal charges for illegally smuggling the items including death masks, a stag’s head, a chest for human remains and a golden bowl. He said he was pleased there were no criminal charges against him and items wrongfully taken by others will be returned to their native countries.

M&S “Believe” Christmas jumper is a hit with clergy

Premier Christian News reports that a Marks & Spencer Christmas jumper has become a hit among female clergy across the UK with some calling it the Christmas clergy uniform of 2021.  The £19.50 jumper has the word “Believe” written in colourful text on the front. The question is, believe what, exactly?

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