Religion news 9 June 2021

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Image credit: Tear Fund

Teenage Christians in Cornwall protest on climate change as G7 leaders arrive

Hugh Nelson, the Bishop of St Germans in the Diocese of Truro, is leading a campaign to highlight the urgency of tackling climate change, as G7 leaders gather for their summit in Cornwall. He has encouraged teenagers in the area to write to the G7 leaders urging them to cut CO2 emissions to zero, end funding of fossil fuels and support the world’s poorest communities affected by climate change. Their protest includes a 1½-mile prayer walk during the G7 meetings. Bishop Nelson says he was deeply struck by the commitment of Extinction Rebellion protesters in London in 2018, and was among a group of Christians who washed the protesters’ feet, which for him was “a symbolic act of service to them and their cause”.

MPs fail to vote on international aid cut as the Commons debate runs out of time

The Commons held an emergency debate on reversing a cut in the international aid budget from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of national income, but no vote was held because after three hours, the motion lapsed — it ran out of time. Strong speeches were made in favour of the reversal, with Andrew Mitchell, a former shadow international development spokesman, saying the cut was an “unethical and unlawful betrayal”. Steve Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury, reminded the Commons that the cut would apply during financial constraints from the pandemic and would be restored when circumstances allowed. Downing Street, meanwhile, said it had no plans of its own to bring forward a vote. Mr Mitchell said that if the vote had been been held, the large number of Tories rebelling would have led to a government loss.

Recommendation for closer links between Muslim seminaries and UK universities

A report into the relationship between universities and 26 Muslim Darul uloom (seminaries) in the UK has made recommendations to enable students to move into postgraduate courses. Authors of the report said yesterday that the seminary qualifications, which can take eight years to complete, were not recognised by universities and the subject matter did not perfectly match post-graduate opportunities. This was due in part to a lack of knowledge of the kind of education offered in seminaries, and partly due to the difficulty in validating courses with educational bodies. The report recommends a pilot scheme allowing collaboration with three universities — St Mary’s, Twickenham, Birmingham and Leeds; mapping the seminary curriculum against quality assurance benchmarking; and supporting female scholars whose career path is difficult.

JFS pupils’ petition on mental health follows abrupt change of head

Parents at JFS, a large Jewish comprehensive school in north London, have been told formally that Sir Michael Wilshaw, the former chief inspector of Ofsted, is taking over as interim head. A letter from the governors further surprised parents with news that the previous head had resigned at the end of May. Schoolsweek reports that Sir Michael has agreed to be interim executive principal for the remainder of this term with the support of Dame Joan McVittie, a former London head teacher, safeguarding expert and a senior Ofsted inspector. The Jewish News says that in the past two days, children have collected 350 signatures for a petition calling on the school to prioritise mental health, after three pupil suicides in five years, the most recent in March.

First minister and DUP leader in Northern Ireland are both creationists

Paul Givan, 39, a member of Ian Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church, has been named Northern Ireland’s new first minister. He will take over from Arlene Foster next week. She was both DUP leader and first minister, but the roles have been split with Edwin Poots leading the party. Both men have a fundamentalist approach to the Bible and are creationists. Givan has supported schools that teach it, taken a firm line on abortion and cut funding for an Irish language scheme. Under the power-sharing agreement, his appointment must be approved by Sinn Féin.

Iona Abbey’s multi-million renovation officially opened

Living quarters at Iona Abbey have been reopened by Princess Anne, patron of the Iona Abbey Capital Appeal. The work cost £3.75m and attracted donations from around the world. The princess told a service that the vitality of work and worship at the historic site had been secured for many years to come. On the same day, the Iona community advertised for a new executive director.

Sandford St Martin 2021 broadcasting winners

The 2021 Sandford St Martin awards celebrating outstanding contributions to the public understanding of religion, ethics or spirituality through broadcasting, were awarded last night.

  • Journalism award Hidden Children of the Church, on what is it like to meet your father for the first time … when he is a priest. Won by BBC Religion and Ethics for BBC Radio 4
  •  Children’s award Sol, an animated story of turning loss and grief into hope and light. Won by Paper Owl Films for TG4, SG4 and BBC Alba
  •  Radio and Audio Award The Paddle Out, an immersive and intimate audio experience focusing on how the surf community deals with grief and loss. Won by Falling Tree Productions for BBC World Service “Heart and Soul”
  •  TV / Video award Witness – Ashes to Ashes, US Lynchings and a Story of Survival. Won by Rees Films for Al Jazeera English
  •  Trustees Content award Burnley Crisis, won by BBC News; Ramadan in Lockdown, won by Clockwork Films for Channel 4
  •  Trustees Community award Psalm 23, UK Jewish Film for YouTube; Radio Wanno, religious services on local prison radio by Radio Wanno x HMP Wandsworth chaplaincy team
  • Radio Times readers award It’s a Sin, a community of young people face HIV in the 1980s. Won by Red Production Company for Channel 4 and HBO

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