Religion news 13 August

Image credit: Office of Senator Kamala Harris

“Faith is a verb” – Kamala Harris, US vice presidential candidate

Kamala Harris, chosen by Joe Biden as his vice-presidential candidate, was raised in Baptist and Hindu traditions, reflecting her heritage from Jamaica and India. Then six years ago she married a Jewish lawyer. In her recent book, she remembered her earliest lessons in church being taught about the Bible: “This is where I learned that ‘faith’ is a verb; I believe we must live our faith in action”. The Associated Press, in an article unpacking her faith influences, pointed to a 2017 speech, where she spoke of the central place of redemption in the criminal justice system, and the lessons learned from her Hindu roots, that all faiths value the pursuit of justice. Kamala Harris now attends a Baptist Church in San Francisco, led by the Rev. Amos Brown, who said she would unite “the spirituality, the genius and the nonviolent traditions” of her parents’ backgrounds and of the African American community.

Soon after her appointment was announced, the Roman Catholic bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, Thomas Tobin, tweeted: “Biden-Harris. First time in a while that the Democratic ticket hasn’t had a Catholic on it. Sad.”  The Bishop has in the past argued against abortion rights legislation and said that Catholics should not attend gay Pride events.

Charity Commission urged to investigate CofE safeguarding process

Seventy top lawyers and members of the Church of England have reported its handling of safeguarding complaints to the Charity Commission. In a letter made public, they say the church has dealt with complaints in an  “incompetent and unjust” manner and had failed to “devise  a  safe,  consistent and  fair  system  of  redress  to  all  parties  engaged  in  safeguarding  complaints”. The letter says that the National Safeguarding  Team (NST) core groups, which investigate cases, act in a secretive way “reminiscent  of  the Star  Chamber”,  with selective  use  of  arbitrary  unaccountable power. It outlines concern at the contrasting ways in which senior figures have been treated when allegations have been made and says there is no proper appeals procedure. Signatories include Lord Carlile, Linda Woodhead, Jonathan Aitken, Lord Carey’s sons Andrew and Mark, Angela Tilby and Adrian Hilton. In response, the Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs, said the church would co-operate fully with any forthcoming process, adding that the NST “should be respected and trusted for the work it does. Yes processes must be fair and open to scrutiny, which is why our guidance is being revised, but we must not lose sight of the central issue, which is that the Church has failed victims and survivors of abuse in the past and needs to take responsibility for that”.

Catholic schools in Hong Kong told to teach children to respect China

Catholic schools in Hong Kong have been told to explain the new national security law, which criminalises ‘subversion’ and encourage their students to be patriotic. The Catholic News Agency reports that a letter from the Diocese of Hong Kong to leaders of 200 schools, says teachers must foster the values of national identity in accordance with the social teaching of the church. Students must respect Chinese national symbols including the flag and national anthem.  School papers, books and resources must prevent political messages, positions or views. Cardinal Joseph Zen, emeritus Bishop of Hong Kong and a critic of China’s record on civil liberty and human rights, told the news agency in June, that while many would find official diocesan support for the implementation of the law disappointing, “on the other hand, it will be a lot of trouble if we don’t support the government. We never know what they will do to our Church.”

“Playing whack a mole” with Charedi Jewish unregulated schools

An official inquiry has been told that trying to engage with the Charedi Jewish community over the conduct of its schools was “like playing whack a mole”. The Independent Child Safeguarding Commissioner for Hackney, Jim Gamble, said the community was particularly resistant to engagement in the conduct of unregistered Yeshivas – Charedi Jewish schools. He said it was impossible to know how many or where these schools are, because as soon as they are detected, they move location. He was speaking to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which is hearing evidence on religious organisations this week. The Jewish Times reports that he criticised the Government’s lack of progress on the regulation of unregistered schools and said he had visited unregistered Yeshivas where safety, security and safeguarding issues were of concern.    

Catholic priests and laity given advice on tackling domestic abuse

A booklet raising awareness of domestic abuse has been published by the the National Board of Catholic Women, to enable priests and lay people to identify cases and help victims. The Board says domestic abuse has spiked during the lockdown and many victims do not want to tell the police and are often afraid to leave their abuser. It’s hoped the booklet will raise awareness in the Church of the devastating effects of domestic abuse and violence and encourage readers to support local initiatives.

Hare Krishna festival continues despite Covid19 restrictions

Thousands of people are expected to attend the annual Janmashtami event, which celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, at the Hare Krishna centre, Bhaktivedanta Manor in Letchmore Heath this week. It takes place over 5 days and usually attracts 60,000 people. But this year up to 10,000 are expected. To comply with Covid 19 restrictions, people are allocated a ticket for a half hour visit, must have their temperature checked and wear a face mask, observe social distancing, and must not sing or speak to people outside their group. Prayers will be offered before the shrine, with a queuing system. The local paper reports that the Manor has been working with all pubic service agencies to ensure the event can go ahead.  An elderly worshipper at the Manor was among the first to die of Covid19 in the UK, in March.