Religion news 8 May 2024

Camp at Manchester University. Image credit: Charles Veitch YouTube

Prime Minister demands urgent action at “unacceptable rise of antisemitism” on university campuses

The Prime Minister is calling in university vice-chancellors to discuss the “unacceptable” rise in antisemitism at UK universities and to prevent harassment of Jewish students. The meeting, expected today, follows the setting up of camps in several universities where students are protesting at the authorities’ alleged complicity in the war in Gaza, in action similar to protests in the USA. The Times reports that a spokesman for the Prime Minister said he expected university leaders to take “robust action” and ministers are providing guidance on how universities should deal with protests and prevent outside groups from infiltrating campuses. The report says that the university regulator is due to announce that universities will be required, under their conditions of registration, to have robust policies in place to prevent the “harassment” of students on campus.

“Muslim Vote” makes 18 demands on Labour to win back voters

The campaign group “Muslim Vote” has issued Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer with 18 demands to win back supporters who defected in last week’s council elections over Labour’s stand on the war in Gaza. Muslim Vote, which calls out  MPs who failed to back a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, says main political parties do not represent Muslims. It is calling for Labour to apologise for its early stand on Israel’s action, and urges the party to cut ties with Israel, let Muslim students pray in school, return “Zionist money”, ensure insurance quotes do not discriminate against Muslims, provide alternative student finance and sharia compliant pensions. Labour lost its majority in Oldham, voters are said to have stayed away in the West Midlands and candidates backing pro-Gaza candidates picked up votes. An article in The Spectator says this is the start of sectarian politics in the mainstream. 

Jesuit Refugee Service says abuse continues in immigration detention centres

The Jesuit Refugee Service is publishing a report saying patterns of mistreatment detailed in the inquiry into Brook House Immigration Removal Centre, are continuing throughout UK detention centres to this day. The inquiry found instances of violent abuse, routine failure to safeguard them and a toxic, dehumanising culture. The report “After Brook House: continued abuses in Immigration Detention”, was written after a workshop and interviews with detained men and women and “finds clear parallels between their experiences and the events described in the Brook House Inquiry Report”.   Sarah Teather, JRS UK’s Director, said: Immigration detention has destroyed too many lives, it must not be allowed to continue. It is beyond time to end the use of detention for immigration control.” 

Gay US Methodist minister comes out after ban lifted on LGBGTQ ordination

The Religion News Service reports the story of a 42 year old gay Methodist minister who was finally able to come out at his church on Sunday, following the historic vote at the United Methodist conference. It voted to remove a ban on the ordination of LGBTQ clergy and repeal a declaration that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.   The Rev Charles Daly told the congregation at Epworth United Methodist Church in north Carolina, that his denomination was free from the “alley that it backed itself into.”  He is the first same-sex married minister in his district and said he was now freed of the heavy burden of having to negotiate his identity in a denomination that until last week censured people like him.

Today at 1300 we are holding a briefing on the United Methodists’ historic decisions on LGBTQ issues. Get the zoom link from [email protected]

Schoolsweek survey indicates schools are replacing broadly Christian assemblies with mindfulness

The education publication “Schoolsweek” says 70 schools have been granted exemptions from the legal requirement to provide “broadly” Christian worship since 2018. They have been given permission to opt out and provide gatherings instead on looking after the planet and mindfulness.  The article explains that local authority-maintained schools and academies can apply to their SACRE or regional directorate, to opt out in arrangements that last five years and can be extended. It says 18 schools and academies were granted exemptions or renewals last year including Edith Neville Primary School in Camden, whose  demographic is “about 90 per cent Muslim”.  It quotes one primary school  head saying they replaced assemblies with daily reflections and a focus on religious festivals, while other weekly PSHE sessions “allowed for mindfulness and reflection time”. It says: “Ofsted stopped inspecting collective worship in 2004 after 76 per cent of schools were non-compliant”.

US Religious Freedom report criticises India’s “drastic turn downward”

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom says conditions in India are taking a drastic turn downward, with national and various state governments “tolerating widespread harassment and violence against religious minorities”. In its 2024 annual report, it points to 17 countries of particular concern based on their governments tolerating severe violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief. These include India. It criticises the Indian government’s decision to fast track citizenship only for non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan already residing in India and says this potentially exposes millions of Muslims to detention, deportation and statelessness.

Adventurer Bear Grylls helped baptise Russell Brand

Russell Brand has revealed that Bear Grylls helped support him as he was baptised in the Thames a week ago. They met through a television programme on a trip across the Hebrides and became friends. Bear Grylls is an ambassador for the Alpha programme and is a friend of the former vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, Nicky Gumbel. Russell Brand explained in an Instagram post that his first week of being a Christian was incredible and thanked  Bear Grylls and a friend called Joe, who stood either side of him in the baptism. Brand is accused of rape, sexual assault and emotional abuse, but denies the allegations. Grylls told reporters  that assisting in the baptism was a “privilege” after the comedian’s “tough time”.


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