Religion news 9 June 2022

Image credit: ECB

Health secretary very concerned Cineworld has cancelled “The Lady of Heaven” film

The health secretary Sajid Javid says he is “very concerned about cancel culture in the UK” after Cineworld cancelled screenings of “The Lady of Heaven”, a film based on the story of Lady Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad.  The cancellation followed loud protests outside Cineworld cinemas by groups of Muslims who said the film was blasphemous and offensive. Sajid Javid told Talk TV that people have a right to free speech, calling it a fundamental value. More than 120,000 people have signed a petition for the film to be pulled from all UK cinemas.

Moscow’s chief rabbi in exile after refusing to back Ukraine war

The Chief Rabbi in Moscow, Pinchas Goldschmidt, is in exile after resisting Kremlin pressure to support the war in Ukraine, according to his daughter-in-law.  Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, a journalist who is married to Goldschmidt’s son, Benjamin, said on Twitter that the chief rabbi had been put under pressure by authorities to publicly support the “special operation” in Ukraine – and refused. He left Russia weeks after the invasion of Ukraine, to take care of his ailing father in Jerusalem where he has stayed. Guardian story here

Sir Lenny Henry wins Sandford St Martin award

Sir Lenny Henry and the Afghan women’s news organisation Rukhshana Media have been named joint winners of the 2022 Sandford St Martin Trustees’ Award for addressing under-representation in broadcasting. The Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity was created at Birmingham City University to increase representation of marginalised people in the industry. Rukhshana Media is a news agency founded by Zahra Joya in November 2020, now operating from London, giving voice to Afghan women.

CofE finances under scrutiny as church buildings threatened with closure

The Save the Parish campaign has set up a financial scrutiny group to “dig deep into CofE/diocesan finances” as the church faces the prospect of buildings closing due to falling congregations and lack of funds.  It will publish a report and announce the findings at an event the day before the July synod at All Saints Pavement, York. The campaign says it has 150 members on the General Synod ready to champion parishes, considered to be under threat from re-organisation plans.

Muslim think tank launched to promote Islam relevant to the UK

A Muslim think tank and research academy, the Oxford Institute for British Islam, has been set up  at St Peter’s College, Oxford, to promote an understanding of Islam relevant to the United Kingdom. Its provost, Dr Taj Hargey, says it “seeks to advance free-thinking pluralism by providing fresh insights benefitting the five-million strong Muslim community, so that they can become part of Britain and not apart from it”. In an article published in the Jewish Chronicle, Dr Hargey says Jews and Christians have moved from rigid orthodoxy to reform and “a similar progression is imperative for British Muslims to fully take their place in society”.

Canadian megachurch pastor arrested for sexual assault

The leader of the Canadian Meeting House megachurch, Bruxy Cavey, has been arrested and charged with sexual assault, almost three months after admitting sexual misconduct and resigning as the primary teaching pastor. Police in Hamilton, Ontario, announced in a statement that Cavey, aged 57,  was arrested after an investigation into reports of a sexual assault between 1996 to 2021. The church has more than 5,000 members across 21 locations in the Toronto metropolitan area.

Mexican mega church leader jailed for sex abuse

Naasón Joaquín García, leader of La Luz del Mundo church in Mexico,  has been sentenced to 16 years and eight months in a California prison for sexually abusing three girls. The Associated Press reports that his church has 5 million followers around the world.

Faith leaders join English cricket attack against discrimination in the game

Leaders from all faiths gathered at Lords to support the English Cricket Board’s Unity Statement, affirming that it is a game which “encourages leadership, friendship and teamwork”. An Imam, Rabbi, Cardinal and vicar were among the large group of faith representatives who signed up. The ECB says the initiative follows last year’s testimony from Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq and others, which exposed racism and discrimination.   It led Mohammed Sadiq Patel to found the Heaven Help Us Cricket Club to promote inclusion and demonstrate cricket’s ability to unite people and communities. The Rev Chris Kennedy from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s cricket team said: “My friendly Sunday cricket club in an Oxfordshire village has Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, agnostic, humanist and atheist players. We expect the professional game similarly to be all-inclusive.”

Soft rock 70s Baha’i star Jim Seals dies aged 80

Jim Seals, of the 70s soft rock duo Seals and Crofts, has died at the age of 80. Both Jim Seals and Dash Crofts were members of the Baha’i faith and a number of their songs made reference to its teachings, such as a tribute to Abdu’l Baha on the album “Takin’ it Easy”, with the line: “mankind is one, all religions agree”.  They talked about their faith and handed out literature at concerts. Their most famous songs, such as Summer Breeze, propelled them to stardom, but their last album was released in 2004.


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