Religion news 19 October

Image credit: Lambeth Palace

Archbishops warn of dangerous precedent if UK breaks international law

Anglican leaders from the four nations of the United Kingdom and Ireland have published an open letter warning the government that to break international law, as proposed in the internal market bill, would create a disastrous precedent. The letter published in the Financial Times, says such a move “has enormous moral, as well as political and legal consequences” and casts doubt on the foundations on which our democracy stands. The signatories are the Archbishops of Armagh, Canterbury, York and Wales and the leader of the Scottish Episcopal Church. The House of Lords will debate the internal market bill on Monday.

Peerage snub for John Sentamu “institutional prejudice”

The Sunday Times has revealed that the former Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, did not automatically receive a life peerage when he retired in June. It is custom and practice for Archbishops to be granted life peerage immediately on retirement, as happened to John Hapgood, George Carey, David Hope and Rowan Williams. The snub has been interpreted by David Lammy MP as institutional prejudice. The new Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, who was enthroned yesterday, said he was disturbed and hoped the the situation would soon be rectified. There were 36 additional peers appointed in July. Downing Street said Dr Sentamu was not appointed “because the size of the House of Lords needs to be reduced”. Dr Sentamu has not commented.

French teacher killed for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed

Muslim leaders in France have reacted with horror at the beheading of a teacher for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Samuel Paty, aged 47, showed his pupils the cartoons in a civics class on freedom of expression. He had invited Muslims students to leave, knowing the sensitivity, but parents complained, there was a social media campaign, he was threatened and two weeks later he was killed with a butcher’s knife in a street near the school. His attacker was an 18 year old Chechen Russian, who tweeted he had committed the murder as a servant of Allah. He was shot dead by police. Defiant rallies have been held all over France as people assert their right to free expression. The French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on Twitter said the incident would strengthen the fight against radical Islam. “Our unity and our resolve are the only responses faced with the monstrosity of Islamist terrorism”. The President of the National Assembly Richard Ferrand said on Twitter: “The assassination of a history teacher is an attack on freedom of expression and the values of the Republic.”

Faith leaders support call for full employment in Britain

Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders have backed a campaign for full employment, as the economy falters due to the coronavirus. The Alliance for Full Employment was launched last month by the former prime minister Gordon Brown, who welcomed all support, saying faith groups were already highlighting the damage caused by homelessness, debt and child poverty and they had to sound a warning to prevent the Covid-19 crisis from becoming a major social and economic catastrophe. Pledging support, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the idea of work and employment as essential to human dignity is a deeply Christian concern and is rooted in the Bible from Genesis onwards.

Government money needed for UK churches supplying £billions of community aid

UK churches provided £12.4 billion worth of essential social and economic support to local communities during the 12 months to May 2020, a report has found. “The House of Good” report from the National Churches Trust, reviewed activities at 40,300 church buildings, of all denominations. It found mainly volunteer led programmes including food banks, mental health counselling and youth groups, and many community services linked to needs created by the Covid-19 pandemic. It suggested the church should be described as the ‘National Help Service’. But the report also sounded a warning that many buildings are under threat because support from government and other funding bodies is drying up and the Trust is calling on government and the National Lottery Heritage Fund to recognise this need. It said 40 per cent of church closures between 2004 – 2018 were in deprived areas.  

Sikh rallies in two British cities in support of Punjab farmers

Two rallies have been organised in England, in support of Sikh farmers in the Punjab. In Birmingham, hundreds of vehicles moved slowly through the city centre causing traffic delays. And in Southall, west London, Deepa Singh was fined £10,000 for breaching Covid-19 restrictions by organising a rally which gridlocked the streets. As well as 100 vehicles, 4,000 people came out in support. The protesters say farmers are resisting discriminatory agri-marketing laws that give control of the markets and land to corporations.

Hindus launch campaign to bolster teaching of their faith in schools

Hindus in the UK have launched a campaign “Insight” to ensure that Hinduism is taught as part of the religious education syllabus. They say the lack of awareness amongst Hindu students about their religion is leading to forced conversion, inferiority complex, bullying, psychological problems and even suicides. Lack of awareness of the faith among non-Hindus is depriving them of knowledge about one of the largest minority communities in the UK. They have compiled a survey to identify shortcomings in RE provision and will take their case to the government. An online seminar is being held this weekend.