Religion news 13 January

Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home, Tuam
Image credit: AugusteBlanqui CCLicense

The brutal, appalling facts of Roman Catholic mother and baby homes in Ireland

A report commissioned by the Irish government has catalogued the appalling treatment of mothers and babies in homes over the past 100 years. It found that 9,000 children died in the 18 institutions under investigation, run by Roman Catholic orders, and it is believed many babies were buried in mass graves or even a sewage system. 56,000 unmarried pregnant women were taken in by the homes investigated in the report, which said they had lived in a “stifling, oppressive and brutally misogynistic culture”. The Taoiseach, Mícheál Martin, said the report described a “dark, difficult and shameful chapter” of Irish history and “as a nation we must face up to the full truth of our past”.  The head of the Catholic church in Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin, has apologised unreservedly.

Christian persecution made worse by pandemic

The global pandemic has exacerbated the persecution faced by millions of Christians worldwide according to the global charity Open Doors International, which publishes its annual report today. It says Covid-19 has been used as a pretext to deny aid to Christians and to increase surveillance on them. In some cases, Christians find that they have been blamed for the virus. The World Watch List, published by Open Doors, ranks the 50 countries where Christians face the worst persecution. It says that more Christians are murdered for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country.

Foreign Secretary: China’s treatment of Uyghurs is horrific

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has told MPs that no companies should benefit from the use of forced labour of the Uyghurs, a minority Muslim group in north west China who have been interned and used as slaves, many picking cotton. He said China’s treatment of the Uyghurs was truly horrific and amounted to torture and no business should have involvement in a process that includes their work. Companies will be fined under the Modern Slavery Act unless they show due diligence in cleaning up their supply chains. The Board of Deputies of British Jews is holding an emergency meeting for MPs on the plight of the Uyghurs ahead of a Commons vote.

Places  of worship choose to close to stop coronavirus risk

Kaya Burgess, at the Times, has listed 18 Cathedrals which have chosen to remain shut for public worship during this coronavirus surge, and some of those are also closed for private prayer. The Church of England has issued new guidance for worship, including a rule that only one person should sing unless special circumstances require up to three people, and Perspex screens should be installed. Comprehensive story in Church Times here

Free school meals food parcels branded an outrage

The Rev Steve Chalke joined a chorus of outrage on social media at the state of food parcels for children who qualify for free school meals. “A loaf of bread, a bag of pasta, a can of baked beans, some cheese, 3 apples, 2 carrots, a tomato, 2 baked potatoes, 2 bananas, 2 malt loaf snacks & 3 snack size tubes of fromage frais! That’s it! A disgrace!” Later he said it was good news that the government has promised to reassess the provision.

Evangelical charity sets up field hospitals in car parks for Covid-19 patients

Samaritan’s Purse, the charity set up by the American evangelist Franklin Graham, has set up field hospitals in Los Angeles and North Carolina to help care for Covid-19 patients, because existing health care facilities are overwhelmed. In the first lockdown, they set up in Italy, the Bahamas and New York. Their presence caused some disquiet because of the organisation’s attitude to LGBTQ rights, but RNS reports that hospitals need help because of the sheer number of cases.

Church of England puts pressure on Barclays on climate change

The Church of England is pledging to urge Barclays to withdraw from financing fossil fuel companies, at its investors’ meeting in May. The Telegraph reports that the Church Commissioners are backing an investor campaign to stop financing projects not aligned with the Paris climate agreement. The paper quotes Edward Mason, from the Church Commissioners, as saying: “We continue to urge all companies whose activities have a significant impact on climate change, to ensure their strategy is aligned with the requirements of the Paris agreement”. Barclays was quotes saying it is working to help tackle climate change and regularly meets ShareAction, a climate change campaign group.

Prison chaplain loses challenge against ten year ban

 A Pentecostal prison chaplain, Pastor Paul Song, has lost his latest legal action to challenge a ten year ban from all prisons. He was banned from after giving an interview to the Mail on Sunday where he said “Islamic extremism” was dominating Brixton prison and he feared for his safety. Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, he applied for a judicial review, but this was rejected yesterday.