Religion news 2 November

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Faith groups resist government’s plan to ban public worship

Government plans to prevent public worship during the lockdown are being hotly contested by all faiths. Cardinal Vincent Nichols once more took the lead saying he had not seen any evidence to justify the ban. The Mosques and Imams national advisory board is appealing for communal prayer to be allowed. Leaders can broadcast worship from their buildings and they can be used for private prayer and funerals, just not for services. The Bishop of London Sarah Mullaly, leading on safety during Covid, said she was urgently seeking clarification. Religious festivals coming up include Diwali on 14 November, Hannukah on 10 December, Advent 29 November.

Greek Orthodox priest shot and critically injured in France

French police are searching for a man who shot a Greek Orthodox priest in Lyon at the weekend. It was first thought that this followed the pattern of attacks against Christians after three people were stabbed to death in Nice and a teacher was beheaded in Paris,  But anti-terrorism police are not involved in this third investigation and the motive is unclear. The priest, Father Nikolaos Kakavelakis, is in a critical condition.  France is on high alert after the first attack in protest at cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Six people have been arrested following the attack in Nice. The president’s fierce defence of free speech and the government’s subsequent crackdown against Muslim groups has caused global tension, with diplomatic disputes and  boycotts of French goods.

‘Borat’ donates $100,000 to church because of an act of kindness

The actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, whose film Borat at 2 has just been released, has donated $100k to a church attended by the kindly grandmother Jeanise Jones, who featured in the film. She thought she was being filmed for a documentary but was drawn into the plot to babysit Borat’s ‘daughter’, who was treated like a pet and about to undergo plastic surgery. She showed genuine sympathy and kindness and was so upset at the story that the church prayed for the girl. Now Sacha Baren Cohen says he will donate $100,000 to her church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Oklahoma City. 

Cathedral redundancies as income plummets

The Church Times has investigated the effect of Covid19 on Cathedral finances and subsequent job losses among lay staff. It says Westminster Abbey is preparing to make 20 per cent of its staff redundant after income collapsed; Chichester has closed its café and temporarily the shop as it statrts consultation on job losses;  At Truro one fifth of its 40 lay staff have been told that they face redundancy;  Ely Cathedral has already made redundancies; Durham is consulting staff over the risk of redundancy or reduced hours and  Peterborough has laid off two staff.  Twenty cathedrals have received grants from the Government’s £1.57-billion Culture Recovery Fund and a proportion of a £10 million grant from the Heritage Stimulus Fund will go towards cathedral projects.

Sikh charity offers help for 10,000 homeless in London alone

The NishkamSWAT (Sikh Welfare Awareness Team), based in Southall, has offered 55,000 meals for the homeless at Trafalgar Square during the lockdown. Teams offer healthcare, recovery projects and food for the homeless in 21 areas, with provisions provided by Tesco in partnership with FareShare, the food redistribution charity. The charity says the number of people in need has increased during the pandemic and it is distributing 3000 meals weekly.