Religion news 8 November 2021

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Image credit: Beth flickr CCLicense2.0

Faith groups take to the streets to protest at climate change

Faith groups joined the hundreds of thousands of people in protest marches against climate change, in Glasgow where Cop26 is taking place, London and cities throughout the UK. The Global Day of Action drew support from TearFund, Christian Aid, CAFOD, Faith for the Climate network and Interfaith Scotland. The BBC reports that the event was the largest protest in Glasgow since the Stop the Iraq War march in 2003.

Meanwhile the Times charts Christian climate activism in the run up to Cop26, with protests to block roads, the staging of a “die in” in Glasgow city centre and being present at Extinction Rebellion demonstrations, concluding: “The direct action is a sharp contrast with the usual view of the (sparsely attended) church in 21st-century Britain, a world of middle-aged women doling out tea and cake, and amiable vicars talking about the leaky roof”.

Muslim leaders roundly condemn assassination attempt on Iraq Prime Minister

The attempt to assassinate the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, has been condemned by the Muslim World League as an attempt to destabilise Iraq. He escaped unhurt after three drones filled with explosives targeted his home inside the Green Zone in Baghdad. Arab News says no one has admitted responsibility for the attack but suspicion is falling on Iran-backed armed groups. The Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, said it was a terrorist act aiming to return Iraq to a state of chaos controlled by non-state forces.

Government “failed to take seriously” the religious minorities in Afghanistan

The Bishop of Truro, Philip Mounstephen, is calling on the government to act with more urgency to protect religious people from persecution around the world. In an interview on BBC radio 4’s Sunday programme, he said the government and the west in general had failed to take seriously the plight of vulnerable religious minorities including Azeris and Christians, when Afghanistan fell . Their plight had been ignored and side-lined, yet action could still be taken urgently to rescue them. He called on the government to match their rhetoric with reality. He said an international ministerial conference will take place in 2022 to discuss religious freedom, but the dates have not been issued yet.  

Conversion ban proposals “loophole” allowing private prayer

The National Secular Society has expressed concerns about potential loopholes in government proposals to ban ‘conversion therapy’. Some evangelical groups have lobbied the government concerned that the proposals would ban prayer for a person seeking counselling, so criminalising clergy. The consultation says “private prayer” will not fall into the scope of the ban, but the NSS warns that this could create a loophole whereby “religious groups can continue to perform conversion therapy with impunity.”  The proposals ban “talking” conversion therapy for under 18s or vulnerable adults. But it will permit this where an adult “agrees by choice”.  The NSS says the idea of consent is “problematic in circumstances where individuals have been raised in insular religious households or communities”, for example where LGBT+ people fear divine punishment, and asks whether such people should be also classed as vulnerable.  

French bishops kneel in penitence  for child abuse victims in Lourdes

Agence France Press reports that senior members of the Roman Catholic church in France knelt in penitence at the shrine of Lourdes on Saturday, the day after their General Assembly accepted responsibility for decades of child abuse and acknowledged it had become systemic. The extent of the abuse was documented in a report released last month, revealing at least 216,000 children were abused by clergy and the church had responded with silence.  A photograph of a sculpture of the head of a  weeping child is displayed on a wall at Lourdes as a “place of memory” for the victims.

GAFCON says defection of Dr Michael Nazir Ali to Rome is “unsatisfactory” response

GAFCON, the Global Anglican Future Conference, has issued a response to the defection of one of its leading founders, the former Anglican bishop Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, to the Roman Catholic church. It says that his action has been unsettling for many Anglicans, “but because of serious doctrinal differences we do not agree that moving to the Roman Catholic Church is a satisfactory response to this situation”. It says: “Our strong conviction is that fellowship with our movement provides the right way to remain true to Christ and the gospel, even for those who cannot stay within their own Diocese or Province”.

Bishops support Richard Ratcliffe in latest effort to free his wife held in Iran

Richard Ratcliffe, who is on hunger strike outside the Foreign Office in support of his wife imprisoned in Iran, has won the support of the Bishops of London and Truro. This is day 15 in Richard Ratcliff’s second hunger strike to free his wife Nazanin, who was jailed five years ago on spying charges which she has always denied. The Bishop of London Sarah Mullaly said she hoped the family would be reunited soon. The Bishop of Truro Philip Mountstephen said he was honoured to stand with Richard Ratcliffe. The Foreign Secretary said she is continuing to press for Nazanin’s release.

Cinnamon network co-chair appointed leader of Churches Together in England

Bishop Mike Royal, co-chair of the Christian social action charity the Cinnamon Network, has been appointed as the next General Secretary of Churches Together in England. He told Premier Christian News that he will be based in Birmingham but will travel the country looking for the renewal of ecumenical ministry across the nation. He is a bishop with the Apostolic Pastoral Congress – a Charismatic and Pentecostal group of churches.   

Nurse finds a medieval royal gold Bible using a metal detector in a field

A nurse has found a tiny solid gold Bible thought to be 700 years old, by using a metal detector in a field in north Yorkshire. The Daily Mail reports that the Bible is thought to have been owned by medieval royalty, perhaps a relative of Richard III. At 1.5cm long and weighing 5g, experts liken it to the ‘Middleham Jewel,’ a gold pendant discovered 40 miles away near Middleham Castle, the childhood home of Richard III. That sold for £2.5million.

Creating Connections: sign up in Manchester, Nottingham, Plymouth and Birmingham

The Religion Media Centre has launched a project this autumn to enhance religious literacy and understanding in a landscape often fraught with misconceptions and assumptions on both sides. Creating Connections, where Religion meets the Media features a series of events to improve links between religious groups and journalists in England. They are an opportunity to explore the way religion and worldviews are interwoven into community life and it is hoped that key stories on religion and belief will be brought to life and lasting contacts for the future will be made. Reserve a place using the links below. All events take place in the afternoon. The Leeds event was last week. Here are the next four:

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