Religion news 16 September

Image credit: Sybil Ruscoe Media

Archbishop says trust local communities to tackle coronavirus

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is urging the government to resist controlling people’s lives from the centre in the fight against coronavirus, and trust local communities instead. In a Daily Telegraph exclusive, Justin Welby and the Bishop of London Sarah Mullaly, warn that living with coronavirus over the winter months “will only be sustainable – or even endurable – if we challenge our addiction to centralisation and go back to an age-old principle: only do centrally what must be done centrally”. They say the Anglican church is embedded in local communities through its system of parish churches and during the pandemic, local communities, councils and churches have played the most important delivery roles of all. “While the guidance and direction may come from central authorities, those local structures that have been implementing, organising and responding in their own immediate communities are in many ways the heartbeat of the response to the pandemic”. The Telegraph says a source close to the Archbishop said he was deeply concerned about the impact of the ‘rule of six’ on the vulnerable, the needy, the poor and the elderly, especially at Christmas. The restriction on social gatherings was issued by the Prime Minister last week, enforceable by law.

Swale council sacks chaplain because ‘politics and religion don’t mix’

The mayor of Swale borough council in north Kent has announced that it will no longer engage a chaplain to open meetings with prayer, because of equality and diversity concerns. The Mayor, Councillor Paul Stephen (Independents Alliance), said “employing the services of just one faith was not in-keeping with the equality and diversity motion”. A council insider told Kent Online that the decision had been taken because the general view at the council was that “religion and politics don’t mix”.  The outgoing chaplain, Rev Fr Colin Johnson , a former journalist, said he was outraged by the decision. “I’ve never heard such rubbish in my life. I will be taking this up with the new Bishop of Dover the Rt Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin. She was chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow. I bet she wouldn’t agree politics and religion don’t mix.”

New Muslim charity to support converts to Islam in Britain

A charity has been set up to offer support to people converting to Islam in Britain. The Convert Muslim Foundation says there has been significant growth in the number of converts over the past 20 years. It has launched a survey with the Muslim Council of Britain to understand the extent of  support offered by mosques at present, such as education, social gatherings, mentors, retreats and gift packs.  The objective is to establish a comprehensive database of convert care provision in mosques and Islamic organisations across the UK.

700 orthodox Jewish pilgrims stranded at Ukraine border

Around 700 orthodox Jewish pilgrims from Belarus are stuck at the border with Ukraine while trying to reach the city of Uman. They are on their way to pay homage to the Hasidic Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who died in 1810. Thousands make the visit to his grave each year, but coronavirus restrictions have led Ukraine to close its borders. The Associated Press reports that the Belarusian government is offering to help Ukraine set up a “green corridor” for the pilgrims to get to Uman and back to Belarus.

Black church leaders demand apology for “racist” Trump campaign ad

Leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church are demanding an apology from the Trump campaign for an ad which shows Joe Biden surrounded by black church leaders, kneeling in the sanctuary of a black church. The frame is followed by a slide that read “Stop Joe Biden and his rioters” , then an audio clip of Vice President Mike Pence saying “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America”. The Religion News Service reports that church leaders say the ad is racist and encourages viewers to see black church leaders and their congregations as “thuggish rule breakers”.