Religion news 27 January

Image credit: Rochester cathedral

Archbishops call on the nation to pray as UK Covid-19 deaths reach 100,000

The archbishops of Canterbury and York have called on the nation to pray in the face of the enormity of Covid-19 deaths. Yesterday the total surpassed 100,000, meaning the UK has the highest number of deaths in Europe and the fifth highest in the world. Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell suggest people should set aside time at 6pm each day to pray. They say that 100,000 is no abstract figure: it represents individual people who loved and were loved. They acknowledge that poorer communities, minority ethnic communities and people living with disabilities have been affected disproportionately. But they say the example of the NHS and carers, together with the vaccine, gives cause for hope.

Light a candle to commemorate the Holocaust

People are being encouraged to light a candle this evening to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on 27 January, 1945, where one million Jews were murdered. One particular theme this year is the plight of the Muslim Uighur population in northwest China, with reports of enforced deportation and abuse. Another theme is to combat false information that denies the Holocaust, by reminding people of the US President Dwight Eisenhower, who urged people to record the atrocity, to guard against future denials and distortion of the truth.

Leader of Prevent programme review immediately criticised

The government has appointed William Shawcross to review the controversial Prevent programme, which seeks to stop religious radicalisation. It encourages public bodies such as schools and the health service, to report people at risk of extremism, but critics say it discriminates against Muslims, and so the government has committed to a review. Within hours of his appointment, The Guardian reports that the Muslim Council of Britain said he was “singularly unfit to be a neutral and fair assessor” based on his previous comments about Islam and Muslims as chairman of the Charity Commission and director of the Henry Jackson Society.

Inquiry into ‘abhorrent’ treatment of women in Northern Ireland church institutions

An independent inquiry will be held into mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland, following a report commissioned by the Stormont government into the church-run institutions. It found a third of women were under 19 and some as young as 12. They had been subjected to sexual crime, including rape and incest. The report describes the abhorrent conditions in which the women were kept, forced to engage in hard manual labour while heavily pregnant, and their babies taken away for adoption. First minister Arlene Foster said this was a significant wrong, which society must acknowledge and the truth must be uncovered.

Ban lifted on former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey

An order preventing the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey from officiating in the church has been lifted after investigators concluded he was not a safeguarding risk. He was banned after it was alleged that he failed to pass on a report about abuse committed by the John Smyth, who attacked boys attending an evangelical Christian camp for young people. An inquiry found Lord Carey had seen the report and not acted upon it, but he said he had not been told of Smyth’s conduct. Smyth died in 2018.

Sikh farmers’ protest wins support in a London back garden

Farmers protesting in India against new farming laws, which they say will destroy their livelihoods, have stormed the Red Fort complex in Delhi. The protest, which includes many Sikh farmers from the Punjab, began last month and protesters have been camping on the streets. A group broke free from the prescribed route of a rally, to scale the building. The protest has won support from Sikhs throughout the world and in London, two Sikh men have camped out in a tent in their garden in the freezing cold for three weeks, in solidarity.