Religion news 9 February

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Church and taxi campaigns take the vaccine to BAME communities

Churches have come together to launch a campaign promoting the take up of the Covid-19 vaccine among BAME communities. The Give Hope campaign is co-ordinated by the Your Neighbour network, a Christian organisation offering frontline support during the pandemic. Anglican bishops have joined Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal and Evangelical churches to make clear that fake news and misinformation is dissuading BAME people from being vaccinated. A recent by the Royal Society for Public Health found that 76 per cent of the population is willing to take the vaccine, but this fell to 57 per cent for minority ethnic groups.

Two GPs — one Muslim and the other Jewish — have launched London’s first mobile vaccination unit to encourage faith communities to take up the vaccination. The initiative is funded by the newly formed Covid Crisis Rescue Foundation, set up by Dr Sharon Richmond to provide urgently needed PPE for NHS staff through crowd funding. The Jewish News reports that she has joined forces with Dr Yasmin Razak to run the mobile unit, which visited St Charles Hospital, the Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, and the Venture Community Centre in North Kensington this weekend. Their ambition is to create a fleet of units touring the capital.

Woman appointed to key role in Catholic Synod of Bishops

Sister Nathalie Becquart, a nun from France, has been appointed to a key role in the Synod of Bishops, which advises the Pope on issues in church and society. She is the first woman to hold the role of “under secretary” and will have voting rights. The synod’s secretary-general, Cardinal Mario Grech, said the appointment showed that “a door has opened” and showed the Pope’s desire for women to have a bigger role in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church. Vatican News story here

Christian theologians ride to rescue Jarel Robinson-Brown

Christian theologians have come to the defence of the Rev Jarel Robinson-Brown, a chaplain just appointed to his first curacy, whose tweet about Captain Sir Tom Moore caused an outcry. In a tweet posted as the nation was preparing to clap in Captain Sir Tom’s memory, he said “The cult of Captain Tom is a cult of White British Nationalism”. Although he apologised and deleted his tweet and account, the Diocese of London issued a stern rebuke, a petition to sack him attracted 22,000 signatures and he received abuse and death threats on social media. But his supporters have criticised the diocese’s heavy approach. And the Society for the Study of Theology, which promotes Christian theology and represents 500 academics including Jarel Robinson-Brown, condemned the attacks and said it stands in solidarity with him, calling on the church to defend him: “The vocation of the theologian requires freedom of expression and conscience and must include the freedom to name and confront evils that others have not acknowledged.” The Archdeacon of London is investigating.

California church worship ban overturned

The US Supreme Court has ruled that California cannot ban indoor church services because of the pandemic, but it can keep for now a ban on singing and chanting indoors. Reuters reports that the action was brought by Pentecostal churches in the state. The justices said the state could cap indoor services at 25 per cent of a building’s capacity.

Tributes paid to Merryl Wyn Davies of the Muslim Institute

Merryl Wyn Davies, a Welsh convert to Islam who was a key influence in the Muslim Institute, has died at the age of 71. She was responsible, with others, of reforming the institute in 2010, after a difficult history, changing it into a fellowship for intelligent debate and analysis of issues affecting Muslim communities. An author, speechwriter, broadcaster and journalist, she died in Kuala Lumpur, where she had spent many years. Read the Muslim Institute tribute here

Six-week-old baby dies after Romanian Orthodox baptism

A Romanian Orthodox priest is facing manslaughter charges after a six-week-old boy he baptised through immersion in holy water, died of a cardiac arrest. AFP quotes the baby’s father as saying that his child was crying with his mouth open, but was still immersed three times, inhaling water. The incident has provoked an angry response near the northeastern city of Suceava and a petition has been launched to force the church to change its practices.

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