Religion news 16 February

Learning the lessons of slavery to save the planet

The church should learn and apply lessons from its historic engagement with slavery, to address contemporary questions around ethical investments and the ecological crisis, according to the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. He was speaking at an online event to commemorate the founding of the missionary society USPG, the United Society for Partnership in the Gospel. He said any review of history enables a better understanding of current events as lessons are learned. He observed that, just as the institution of slavery was embedded in the global economy, investment in fossil fuels is built into today’s economic systems, so history shows that could also change. Full write up here

More than 250 Charedi vaccinated in north London

The Jewish News reports that more than 250 members of the strictly-Orthodox Charedi community took part in a mass vaccination after Shabbat on Saturday. Volunteers from Hatzola and health professionals administered the vaccine in a four hour session, attended by the minister responsible for vaccinations, Nadhim Zahawi. The community has been under the spotlight for well documented breaches when hundreds attended multiple weddings in the lockdown.

Myanmar protests unite faith groups

Buddhist monks in Saffron robes, spirit worshipers, Hindus, Muslims, Catholic priests and nuns have joined protests across Myanmar against the military coup, calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the return to democracy. The Union of Catholic Asian News said hundreds of Catholics marched on the streets of Yangon on Sunday, holding placards and reciting prayers and the rosary. The army seized power in the early hours of 1 February after detaining elected leaders. Myanmar has a Christian population of just 6 per cent – the majority religion is Buddhism.

The “rascal” voices of church critics

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written a robust defence of the Church of England to counter harsh criticism in the pages of the Spectator. In a signed article, they say “There are rascally voices around who want to undermine the church – it was ever thus”. They argue that the CofE has been on the front line burying the dead, comforting the bereaved, feeding the hungry and praying for the nation. There is no plan, they say, to demolish the parish network and they make clear that the closure of some churches with the planting of new communities is centuries old.

Buffer zone outside Ealing abortion clinic extended for three years

An order to prevent pro-life activists from gathering within 100 metres of an abortion clinic in Ealing has been extended for three years. Ealing Council approved the plan after a public consultation. The activists  have denied accusations that they intimidated women arriving for abortions. The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has advocated strongly for a “national solution whereby ‘buffer zones’ are established outside all premises which provide abortion services.” Ealing Times story here

Crackdown on Jehovah’s witnesses in Russia

Reuters reports that a Russian court has sentenced a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to 7.5 years in prison, as investigators in Moscow open a new criminal investigation into the group. They were  branded an “extremist” organisation by a Russian court in 2017 and ordered to disband. Since then, the report says authorities have detained hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses and convicted dozens on extremism charges. Reuters story here. Fact sheet on Jehovah’s Witnesses here

Everything you need to know about Shrove Tuesday – including the recipes

It’s Shrove Tuesday, a Christian calendar event, the day before Lent which leads up to Easter. Traditionally it’s the last day of indulging in food that might be given up as a sacrifice in the 40 days of Lent. Helpfully, the United Reformed Church has produced information explaining the festival and – especially handy today – how to make pancakes. “Shrove Tuesday: pancakes and prayers” here