Religion news 8 June 2021

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UK Muslims and Sikhs urge government to reverse international aid cut

The campaign to reverse the government’s decision to slash the international aid budget will be pursued in an emergency Commons debate today (Tuesday). The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, decided that an amendment due to be discussed yesterday could not continue because it was not related to the bill on science and technology. But he wanted the matter dealt with by a Commons vote as soon as possible, so a three-hour debate will be held today, days before the UK hosts the conference of G7 leaders in Cornwall. The cut from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of national income was proposed by the government without a vote. It has been universally criticised by faith leaders who warn of broken promises and serious consequences for the world’s poor. The Sikh Council UK said: “At a time of the pandemic, the current decision could have devastating effects for the developing nations risking thousands of lives while Covid-19 spreads”. The Muslim Council of Britain also backs the reversal, saying the decision risks jeopardising the British response to Covid-19 and the UK turning its back on some of the world’s poorest people.

Sir Michael Wilshaw brought in as head of Jewish comprehensive school

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the former head of Ofsted, has been named as the new interim head of JFS, Europe’s largest Jewish comprehensive school, in north London. Jewish News reports that the announcement was made to pupils at school assemblies yesterday. The school’s governing body met last night and was due to issue a statement to parents. The change follows an Ofsted inspection that concluded last week and there is speculation that the report will be negative. Sir Michael replaces Rachel Fink, head since 2017, and becomes the fourth head in five years. Jewish News says there have been three pupil suicides over the same period.

Archbishop welcomes moves to get more tax from multinationals

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has welcomed a historic G7 deal to make multinational companies pay more tax. Finance ministers agreed to a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15 per cent, ensuring large companies like Amazon and Facebook pay more in the countries where they do business. In a tweet, Archbishop Welby said: “It is right that large corporations should pay where they earn and contribute to the systems from which they benefit. The global tax deal agreed by the G7 is significant progress towards a fairer world and a great example of international co-operation.”

Trump-supporting evangelical preacher’s radio show pulled by YouTube

A radio show presented by Eric Metaxas, the Trump-supporting interdenominational evangelical, has been pulled by YouTube for violating its community guidelines. A YouTube spokesperson told The Christian Post that the show was terminated under the three strikes system, following violations on Covid-19 medical misinformation and presidential election integrity. In a Facebook post, Metaxas said it was a grotesque attack on free speech, that he was speaking the truth and YouTube’s tactics were Maoist and Soviet-style: “It’s been clear to us for some time that they wanted to wipe us out. So although we have done our very best to comply with their creepy Marxist ‘community standards’, they nonetheless seem to have been digging into some of our older videos to find things they could use against us.” His radio show is now streamed on Rumble and syndicated on the Salem Radio Network.

Former Oxford don sued over stolen papyrus Biblical texts

Dirk Obbink, a former Oxford University classics professor, is being sued for £5m over the sale of fragments of biblical papyrus that were allegedly stolen from an Oxford University collection. Legal action by the owners of the Museum of the Bible in Washington claims that he stole and sold ancient objects including texts from the Old and New Testaments, between 2010 and 2013, The Times reports. They are said to be worth $7,095,100. Dr Obbink was arrested in March 2020 and the investigation continues. In the past he has denied the accusations, saying the documents linking him to the sales are forgeries intending to damage him. He said he would never betray the trust of his colleagues and the values he sought to protect and uphold throughout his academic career.

Rector of St Helen’s Bishopsgate reveals he was beaten by John Smyth

The Rev William Taylor, rector of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, a large evangelical church in the City of London, has revealed that he was abused by John Smyth, who ran Iwerne Trust holiday camps for public school boys in the 1970s. A letter from St Helen’s churchwardens says the rector felt he had to speak out after implications that he had covered up the abuse. In fact in 1981, when he was 20, Smyth beat Mr Taylor violently in his shed three times in a 14-week period, after which he never visited Smyth’s shed again. The letter says he did not report it to the police, because he did not think he had been the victim of a crime. Smyth died in 2018.

Non-Muslim to lead the Penny Appeal charity

The Muslim charity, the Penny Appeal, has appointed Alex Leith as its chief executive — the first non-Muslim to be in such a role for an Islamic charity. His experience lies in tech, digital marketing, and finance and he moves into one of Britain’s largest Muslim charities with an income last year of £31.5m and a staff of about 200. It funds humanitarian aid projects in Asia, the Middle East and Africa; and works in the UK to help homeless people and survivors of domestic abuse. He starts his new role on 21 June, replacing interim chief executive Harris Iqbal, who is moving into consultancy work.

Play portraying Jesus as a trans woman continues to cause furore

A one-woman show portraying Jesus as a trans woman will form part of a Pride Zoom evening event organised by the Scottish teachers’ union, the Education Institute of Scotland. Written and performed by Jo Collins, a trans artist, Christian and both a father and grandmother, The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven was written 10 years ago and continues to court controversy. Premier Christian News reports that over this performance, John Denning from the Christian Institute, has said the play is deeply offensive for Christian members of the union. Premier quotes a EIS spokesperson saying the spirit of the play is a reminder that Jesus loved all people equally.

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