Religion news 2 October

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Archbishop of Canterbury urges free school meals in holidays as well as term time

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Durham are urging the government to extend free school meals to every child whose family is on universal credit, both at school and during the holidays. Their call comes as the Trussell Trust warns that 670,000 people will be destitute by Christmas and food parcel demand will increase by 61%.  Justin Welby and Paul Butler say schools must be able to expand their role as a place of security for children at risk and extra funding must be made available.

Terrorist” applies equally to white supremacists and Muslims

Senior journalists have warned of the danger of inconsistencies in the reporting of atrocities and the way the word “terrorist” is used in association with Muslims, but less so with white supremacists. In a debate organised by the Centre for Media Monitoring, they explained how information from the police and other authorities was often cautious after an attack, but there were inconsistencies in reporting and slowness to comprehend that white supremacy attacks are terrorism. Jon Snow, Channel 4 News, said mistakes such as false attribution, can fuel Islamophobia. Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent, said terrorism is colour blind and it was “incredibly important” that the media reports fairly, without bias, so that it is respected.

Equality Act criticised for allowing discrimination in favour of religion

The National Secular Society says discrimination against non-religious and religious minorities remains lawful, despite 10 years of the Equality Act. In a report, it says “exceptions to accommodate faith schools, faith-based admissions and religious practice in schools” are leading to a level of religious discrimination that “would not be tolerated in any other area of society”. An exception in the act which allows employers to discriminate on the basis of religion or belief when there is a genuine occupational requirement, is “being overused”, it adds.

Labour leader backs London holocaust memorial

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has backed the proposal for a holocaust memorial centre to be built next to Parliament. The Jewish Chronicle reports that Sir Keir is disappointed that permission has not yet been granted despite plans being in for two years. He said it was vital for our nation that we commemorate the people who were murdered in the Holocaust, as the fight against intolerance and prejudice and the stain of antisemitism, goes on.

First British black Muslim festival

The first British  Black Muslim Festival will take place online over this month. More than 40 speakers from across the globe will discuss the achievements, history, sacrifices and challenges  of being black in the UK. Topics include racism, wealth, family, mental health and community activism. The event coincides with Black History month and sets out to right wrongs. One attendee, LaYinka Sanni, from London, told Al Jazeera that while the perspectives of black Muslims have not been completely ignored, “they have definitely been dismissed and diminished”.

Mike Pompeo has cordial talks at the Vatican

The American Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has met two senior Vatican officials to discuss China and several conflicts including the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Eastern Mediterranean. The Vatican said it was a respectful meeting which lasted 45 minutes. Pompeo has previously criticised a deal between the Vatican and the Chinese government, which gives it a say over the appointment of bishops. The Vatican said both it and the US were seeking religious freedom and a normal life for the Church, but there is a divergence over the method to reach that goal.

Evangelical despair at Trump’s debate performance

The Religion News Service in the United States has been trying to gauge reaction among evangelicals to the shouting match that was the first “presidential debate” between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Evangelicals with conservative views are considered key to Trump’s electoral success in swing states.  The 31 year old leader of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action said he felt disrespected by Trump’s relationship with the evangelicals for votes. The Twitter account of Hillsong Church, a global evangelical community, read “Can’t they just mute Trump’s microphone!! He is coming across as such a bully. No respect for him sorry.” Hillsong apologised, deleted the tweet and said it was a mistake.  J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, also took exception to Trump’s failure to take sides on racism: “When asked to condemn white supremacy, every single one of us should be ready to do so”.

Trump’s unreleased tax returns: “Inshallah”

One of the cantankerous exchanges between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on the first presidential election debate, concerned Trump’s unreleased tax returns. Trump told the audience “you’ll get to see it”, to which Joe Biden replied “Inshallah”. The phrase means God willing, but is used colloquially to mean “not going to happen”. Social media response was mixed, some approving of an Arabic phrase uttered by a Presidential candidate; others saying it was disrespectful to Muslims.