Religion news 9 February

Image credit: Al Madina Mosque

Muslim community in Coventry engulfed in deaths from covid-19

An Imam from Coventry has told his local paper that members of his community are “dropping like flies” due to Covid 19. Imam Shaykh Nabeel, of the Al-Madinah Mosque told CoventryLive that the situation is much worse than the first coronavirus wave. The figures tell their own story: 15 deaths in one week in January and more than 40 bodies stored in the mosque morgue, now at full capacity. He said the mosque’s 30-strong team are “on their knees” dealing with funeral preparations in a ritual involving washing the body, enclosing it in a shroud and burial as soon as possible afterwards. But the sheer volume of deaths is leading to congestion at cemeteries – on one occasion, there were three burials in five hours. The Imam is urging everyone to keep to the rules, stop socialising and take up the vaccine.

MPs vote on genocide and trade rules

MPs will be asked once more to vote today on whether British courts should have the power to declare a country guilty of genocide, which would enable the government to sever trade relations. The measure would impact trade with China, which is accused of human rights abuses against the mainly Muslim Uighur population.  This is the second  time the Commons will have the opportunity to vote – last time it rejected the proposal, after hearing it would run counter to the separation of the courts and elected politicians.  Yesterday, the BBC reported that  barristers at Essex Court Chambers said there was a very credible case that the Chinese government was carrying out the crime of genocide against the Uighur people.

The RMC zoom briefing today at 1200 is on this subject, with guests Rahima Mahmit,  from the World Uighur Congress; Professor William Schabas, professor of nternational  law at Middlesex University, and of human rights law at the universities of :Leiden and Galway; Dr David Landrum, Head of Advocacy and Public Affairs for Open Doors UK and Ireland. contact

Bishop deeply concerned at response to Jarel Robinson Brown’s tweet

The Bishop of London Sarah Mullaly has stepped into the simmering row over the way the Rev Jarel Robinson Brown has been treated, since he tweeted that the nationwide clap for Captain Sir Tom Moore was an example of the “cult of white British nationalism”. He apologised and deleted the tweet but was subject to racist abuse and death threats on social media. The Diocese of London’s stern rebuke, that the tweet was “unacceptable, insensitive, and ill-judged” is itself now being criticised by his supporters for heavy handedness. Now on day five of the story, the Bishop has issued a statement saying she is concerned that BAME clergy and ordinands have been deeply affected by recent events, and by the Diocese’s response. She said her primary concern had been to ensure that Jarel Robinson-Brown received immediate pastoral support in the face of the most appalling racist and homophobic abuse, also noting that he had acknowledged the tweet was ill-timed and pastorally-insensitive.

Church’s unrecognised contribution to society tested in survey

A survey to discover the importance and role of church buildings in the aftermath of the pandemic has been launched by the Centre for the Study of Christianity & Culture at the University of York. Backed by the Association of English Cathedrals and the National Churches Trust, it invites comments on how the buildings can aid spiritual support and offer practical help going forward. It follows an earlier  survey from the Centre, on the role of buildings during the pandemic, highlighting that churches often make an unrecognised contribution to wellbeing from cradle to grave, promoting social cohesion.

Pope to visit senior Shiite cleric on visit to Iraq

The schedule for the Pope’s visit to Iraq from 5 – 8 March has been announced.  He will meet senior civic and religious leaders including the President and Iraq’s senior Shiite Muslim cleric, Ali al-Sistani. His itinerary will also include a pilgrimage to the plain of Ur, the home of Abraham, and visits to Mosul and Erbil, where he will celebrate mass in a stadium. In Baghdad, he will visit the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation and the Chaldean Cathedral of Saint Joseph. The Pope is 84 and this is his first visit away from Rome for 16 months.

Ugandan Jews fight for recognition in Israel

The Ugandan Abayudaya community, conservative Jews by conversion, are fighting for the right to be recognised in Israel. They owe their origin to the influence of a military leader 100 years ago, and now number 2,000, observing customs such as keeping the Sabbath, eating kosher food and attending the synagogue. At the heart of the dispute is the case of Yosef Kibita, who is seeking Israeli citizenship after living in Israel for two years. This has been denied because his conversion to Judaism did not occur in a recognised community.  Business Insider reports that lawyers in Israel are due to claim citizenship for a Jewish convert from a Guatemalan community, regarded as a test case.