Religion news 8 July

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UK Hajj tour operators threat

British Muslim tour operators are threatened with financial ruin after the Saudi authorities barred international travellers to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage in a measure to control the Covid-19 epidemic. Usually 25,000 British Muslims go to the Hajj in a normal year, the largest number from western Europe, but the decision to bar all international visitors is creating challenges for the £175 million Hajj industry in the UK. Rashid Mogradia, CEO of the Council of British Hajjis, told a Religion Media Centre online briefing that there will be some casualties among tour operators, whose income relies on the Hajj. Full story here

Christian adoption agency must recruit gay parents

The evangelical Christian organisation Cornerstone (North East) Adoption and Fostering Service, has been told it must allow gay parents to sign up as carers. Its policy of only welcoming married heterosexuals as foster carers was condemned by Ofsted, but Cornerstone mounted a legal challenge. Mr Justice Julian Knowles said the fostering service was legally allowed to recruit based on its religious ethos, but its policy of requiring “applicants to refrain from homosexual conduct” was unlawful. Cornerstone “must change its recruitment policy” to allow homosexual carers to become “prospective foster parents and it cannot lawfully refuse to do so”. Cornerstone said it would “prayerfully” consider the findings.

Right to Life objects to abortion amendment

A landmark bill on domestic abuse has passed an important step in the Commons on the way to becoming law, and now goes to the Lords to complete its stages. The bill was first proposed by Theresa May in 2018 and creates a legal definition of domestic abuse as being not just physical, but emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic. Children will be explicitly recognised as victims if they witness abuse. It outlaws “consent for sexual gratification” as a defence for causing serious harm through violence. It places a duty on councils in England to provide shelter for victims of abuse. An amendment from Labour MP Diana Johnson, to allow the continuation of ‘telemedicine’ introduced during #COVID19 so that women in abusive relationships can access abortion services without having to attend a clinic, was withdrawn, a move welcomed by the Christian Institute, Christian Action Research and Education, and the Right to Life campaign. The government says it will continue to consult.

GLOBAL

Yazidis return home

More than 1,000 Yazidi families are returning to their hometown of Sinjar in northern Iraq, six years after being forced out by Islamic State amid reports of massacres and rape.  After moving to the town of Sharya, many lost their jobs and donor aid, and the coronavirus lockdown measures made their lives harder. Most of the returnees have relatives in their hometown who serve in the military or police. But little has been rebuilt in Sinjar, with water scarce and power intermittent.

Pope leads service for migrants

Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in Rome today (8 July) marking the 7th anniversary of his visit to Lampedusa, the island off Sicily which is a transit point for tens of thousands of migrants. Dangerous crossings in small boats led to thousands drowning.  The Pope mourned the dead by throwing a wreath of flowers into the sea.

Catholic missionary statue toppled

The statue of St. Junipero Serra in Sacramento, California, has been toppled, beaten with sledgehammers and burned.  It was the third statue of the saint to be torn down in California in recent weeks. Serra founded 21 missions in California and helped to convert thousands of native Americans to Christianity. Critics say he was a symbol of European colonialism and the missions used forced labour. The Catholic News Agency quotes Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, saying: “the group’s actions may have been meant to draw attention to the sorrowful, angry memories over California’s past,” but their “act of vandalism does little to build the future.”

Threats unveiled against New Zealand mosque

An inquiry into the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand, when 51 people were killed, has heard that police and security services were warned of a threat against another mosque on the same day. The Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand said it warned police and security services repeatedly about threats from white supremacists, including a Facebook message threatening to burn the Koran outside a mosque in Hamilton on March 15, 2019, the same day as the Christchurch attack. Reuters reports that the submission said extra security measures could have been taken at all mosques and police had enough intelligence to warrant a coordinated national strategy.