Religion news 20 October

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Archbishop Welby says country should act “justly and honestly” and not break international law

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told the House of Lords that the country’s Christian heritage calls it to act justly and honestly: “We cannot do so if we openly speak of breaking a treaty under international law reached at properly on which peace in part of the UK relies”. He was speaking in a debate on the internal markets bill and said the needs of regions and nations must be reflected in all of the nation’s relationships if the union is to survive. The reputation of the nation would suffer great harm if law breaking were pursued: “Politics must be more than the exercise of binary, raw majority power unleashed. It exists to seek truth, to bring diverse peoples together in healthy relationships”. He said the Church of England was all too clearly aware of the shame from failing morally, “let us not make the same mistake at national level”.   

Places of worship in Wales close for two weeks

Places of worship in Wales will be forced to close for two weeks from this Friday, as part of the emergency lockdown to stem the escalation of the coronavirus. This includes Remembrance Sunday (8 November) and further clarification will be issued regarding remembrance services. The rules will, however, allow clergy to enter their sacred building and broadcast acts of worship.  The Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, said “These holy sites have a huge hold actually on people’s minds and hearts and I would just want to urge people to re-engage with social media, life streaming and other ways of remaining in contact.”

Millions of pounds needed to repair 40,000 UK churches

The National Churches Trust launched its report on the social value of churches, with a warning that urgent action is needed to maintain and repair the 40,300 church buildings in the UK. In an online briefing, the Trust said the National Lottery Heritage Fund once gave £50m a year to church buildings, but this has reduced to £10-12m. A scheme giving grants to cover the VAT cost of repairs, will cease in March next year.  The government has given £10m to 60 churches and cathedrals as part of the Culture Recovery Fund, but the Trust says more money is needed to safeguard buildings at the heart of community life.  

CofE safeguarding to be overseen by group independent of bishops

Church of England bishops have agreed that a new independent body – not the bishops – will oversee safeguarding in the future.  The House of Bishops meeting on Monday also agreed that an independent panel will be set up to approve support packages for survivors. The IICSA report, with damning conclusions on the church’s actions on safeguarding issues, was accepted and once more, an unreserved apology was issued to victims and survivors. The Church Times quotes the lead bishop on safeguarding, Jonathan Gibbs, that bishops should not be in control of safeguarding because they are not professionally qualified and there is an element of structural conflict of interest.

Muslim associations raided in France

French police are investigating 51 Muslim associations following the beheading of Samuel Paty, a history teacher who showed controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to his class. Dozens of homes of suspected Islamists have been raided. The suspected killer, an 18 year old Russian born Chechen man, was shot dead by the police. He had posted a message on twitter, since taken down, that he was acting in the name of Allah.  Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, from Paris,  said the teacher was a martyr for freedom of speech, and he called on mosques in France to pray for the teacher on Friday.

Pulling of exhibition by Jewish artist angers Tate Modern

An exhibition to honour the Jewish artist Philip Guston has been pulled because his depictions of racism require  “additional perspectives and voices”. The Jewish Times reports that the decision has sparked fury. It was due to open at the Tate Modern in London and tour art galleries in Washington, Houston and Boston. One painting features Ku Klux Klan members wearing robes stained by the blood of their victims. Guston’s art was fuelled by his anger at the antisemitism suffered by his father who fled the pogroms in Odessa.

Nurses deliver Covid-19 instruction in a London Hindu temple

Nurses have delivered Covid-19 infection prevention training at a Hindu temple in Alperton, Brent, north west London. The Kilburn Times reports that Alperton recorded a 79 per cent death rate from the virus between March and May – the highest proportion in the country. Key festivals of Navratri and Diwali are due in the next few weeks and the nurses stressed basic control measures of masks, social distancing and handwashing.