Religion news 11 February

Image credit: @HAJRA_AAA

Church should concentrate on people at the coalface says former bishop

The former Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali is the latest to comment on a leaked report outlining continuing discussions over the impact of financial pressures from the pandemic, including reorganisation of church structures and clergy roles. In the Telegraph, he said the church should concentrate on church members at the coalface of church life rather than “lengthy, costly and far-fetched” allegations of safeguarding. The criticism follows a string of articles in the past week, concentrating on the church’s financial difficulties and concluding that these are a result of bloated middle management in the dioceses.

Is there a campaign against the Church of England? asks Andrew Brown

Christians Against Poverty founder leaves after 25 years

John Kirby, the founder of Christians Against Poverty, is leaving the organisation after 25 years. He told Premier Christian Radio that the charity, which works with people trapped in debt, helps them to budget and negotiates with creditors, also offers spiritual guidance and more than 10,000 people have become Christians.

As he prepared to leave, the charity launched a campaign urging the government to raise the debt relief order limit to £50,000 to help thousands of people avoid bankruptcy and offer a path to debt relief. The charity says nine million people in the UK are unable to deal with their debt and the relief order is less expensive than a bankruptcy order.

Christian girl, 12, kidnapped and forced to convert and marry in Pakistan

A 12-year-old girl from a Christian family was chained up in a cattle pen in Pakistan for more than six months after being kidnapped and forced to marry, The Guardian reports. Her father said she had been forcibly converted to Islam, kept as a slave and forced to work with a chain attached to her ankles. He said police threatened him for being a minority Christian. Police said there was no evidence the girl had not consented to the marriage and that a medical report said she was 16. The Guardian linked to a 2019 report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which says an estimated 1,000 Christian and Hindu women are abducted and forcibly married every year.

Fashion industry should have better understanding of ‘modest dress’

A university study is appealing for the fashion industry to better understand women’s desire for modest fashion, to help policy-makers work towards social cohesion and interfaith relations at home, and to aid business interests abroad. The project, from the University of the Arts London says modest dressing, where more of the body is covered, has been seen as a concern only for women within religious communities, either a personal expression of choice or oppressively imposed. But they have found that it is not only a consideration for religious women and communities but also for wider society, rooted in different religious traditions. They want to develop new ways to understand flashpoints about religious dress for UK interests at home and abroad. Read the study here

The church is not doing enough to tackle climate change say young people

Research from the charity Tearfund suggests that nine in 10 young Christians are concerned about climate change, but only one in 10 think their church is doing enough to address it. The report, Burning Down the House: How the church could lose young people over climate inaction, outlines a survey of 630 young people aged 14-19, and thoughts from focus groups for 18 to 23-year-olds. Many young people said their faith compelled them to care for the planet and were concerned at the impact of climate change on the world’s poor.  The majority had not heard it spoken about in a sermon or addressed by church or youth leaders.

Labour appoints antisemitism advisory board

Nine people have been appointed to Labour’s antisemitism advisory board, which was one of the recommendations of an action plan following the Equalities and Human Rights Commission report into the handling of antisemitism allegations in the party. It will develop educational material and build an independent complaints system to deal with disciplinary cases. The Jewish Chronicle reports that the members are  Mark Gardner, chief executive of the Community Security Trust; Marie van der Zyl, president, Board of Deputies of British Jews; Adrian Cohen, a trustee of the Jewish Leadership Council; Baroness Royall;  Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon; Dame Margaret Hodge;  Jewish Labour Movement chairman Mike Katz; Natascha Engel, a trustee of the Antisemitism Policy Trust; and David Evans, Labour’s general secretary.