Religion news 8 June 2022

Image credit: Cineworld

Cineworld pulls The Lady of Heaven film after Muslim groups protest

Cineworld has cancelled all screenings of the film The Lady of Heaven after loud protests by Muslim groups in towns and cities where it was shown. The protesters said it was a blasphemous and offensive film for its portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad and his daughter, Lady Fatima. Cineworld said it had cancelled the showings to ensure the safety of staff and customers. An announcement made through a megaphone to Muslim groups protesting outside Cineworld in Sheffield, was met with cheers. Malik Shlibak, executive producer of the film, told The Guardian this was a dangerous development, challenging the freedom of speech. The film is still being shown in some Vue cinemas.

Global condemnation of Nigeria church attack that left 50 dead 

The United Nations, EU and UK government have condemned the attack on a church in southwest Nigeria, when gunmen opened fire on a congregation at a Catholic church Pentecost service, killing 50 and injuring 90. In the House of Commons, foreign and development office minister Vicky Ford said she was horrified by the “heinous attack” and committed to working with the Nigerian government on matters of security. She said it was clear that religious identity was a factor in violence in Nigeria, but root causes were complex involving historical grievances. The local bishop, Jude Arogundade. told Vatican News that as well as the 50 and more who were killed, about 90 people were injured, some seriously and still receiving hospital. The dead included entire families gunned down in an “act of unspeakable violence”. The bishop called on the international community to challenge the Nigerian authorities to do more to protect citizens. The attackers have not been caught.

Skateboard hero of London Bridge terror attacks may be made a saint

Ignacio Echeverría, 39, the Spanish banker who died after heroically using his skateboard to ward off the 2017 London Bridge terrorist attackers, is being put forward to become a saint. The Times reports that his family are working with the church to open the process of canonisation, encouraged by the Pope’s comments shortly after the attack, when he said the action expressed “a true, complete and exemplary imitation of Christ” and those who offer their lives voluntarily and freely for others were worthy of consideration and special honour. Echeverría fought off the attackers, saving several lives and protecting a police officer, before being stabbed in the back and dying of his injuries. He was awarded a posthumous George Medal, which the Queen presented to his parents in 2018.

The meaning of friendship, as robots replace human companions

One in five of British people would consider getting a companion run by AI (artificial intelligence) if it were to become available in the future, a study has revealed. A research paper by Theos, a think tank on religion in society, showed a survey of 5,000 UK adults concluded 53 per cent would not consider having robot friends, but 20 per cent would be open to such a relationship, with more women, young people and wealthy among the number. Panellists at a Religion Media Centre online briefing discussed whether a robot companion could be compared to a human friend, with Dr Beth Singler saying companionship was complex: “There’s a very strong difference between the perfect friend and the good enough friend and the AI that presents itself as the perfect friend may not be good enough for us.” Full report here

Vatican fraud trial hears from London-based fund manager

The Associated Press reports the continuing fraud trial at the Vatican’s criminal court, where 10 people are accused of financial crimes related to the Vatican’s €350 million project to develop a former Harrods warehouse in London into luxury apartments. The agency says prosecutors have accused brokers and Vatican officials of swindling the Holy See out of tens of millions of euros in commissions and then extorting €15 million from the Vatican to get control of the London property. All deny the charges. Raffaele Mincione, a London-based fund manager, gave evidence this week and said the Holy See knew the risks and it could have made a profit but it withdrew from the investment — an “irrational” decision, he said. Religion News Service report here

Archbishop appeals to conservative bishops to join Lambeth Conference

The Anglican Communion Office says the Archbishop of Canterbury has written to the archbishops of Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda, to tell them that his invitation to attend the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops in July, remains open. They are among the leaders of 12 provinces aligned to the rival Gafcon (Global Anglican Future Conference) organisation, a conservative grouping set up in opposition to liberal views, including LGBTQ+ issues. Gafcon is holding its own global conference in 2023. Justin Welby and the communion’s secretary-general, told the archbishops that staying away would mean a loss of influence and “all of us will be the poorer spiritually as a result of your absence”.

Another set of resources in CofE consultation on sexuality

The Church of England has produced an additional set of resources in its long complex journey to resolve issues around differing views about sexuality. The new resource is called “The Gift of the Church” and bishops will be given opportunities to “shape it” in the coming weeks and then consider it in their “discernment processing” during the autumn. It is intended to supplement the “Living in Love and Faith” resource which has been discussed in parishes over the past two years.


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