Category : Other Faiths

(AP) Germany: Over 2,700 antisemitic incidents reported in 2021

A group tracking antisemitism in Germany said Tuesday it documented more than 2,700 incidents in the country last year, including 63 attacks and six cases of extreme violence.

In a report, the Department for Research and Information on Anti-Semitism, or RIAS, said the coronavirus pandemic with its anti-Jewish conspiracy narratives and the Middle East conflict with antisemitic criticism of Israel were the main drivers of the 2,738 incidents it documented.

The incidents include both criminal and non-criminal incidents, the group said.

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Posted in Germany, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(JC) Vicar accused of antisemitism faces removal from Church of England at disciplinary hearing

A vicar accused of sharing a platform with a Holocaust denier and promoting antisemitic material online is facing removal from the Church of England.

The Rev Dr Stephen Sizer is facing 11 instances of alleged antisemitism, as outlined yesterday at the opening of a Church disciplinary hearing – the first of its kind to be held in public.

He denies the allegations or the claim that he is any way antisemitic.

The Clergy Disciplinary Measure against Dr Sizer, 68, follows a complaint from the Board of Deputies to the head of his current diocese, the Bishop of Winchester, who referred him to the ecclesiastical professional hearing.

The vicar had been banned by his former diocese from using social media for six months in 2015, but still continued to make “deeply offensive” and “unpleasant” antisemitic pronouncements, the hearing in London heard.

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Chinese police told to shoot Uighurs who try to escape camps

Uighur prisoners in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang are to be shot on sight should they try to escape from “re-education” camps where they are said to be arbitrarily detained, according to leaked police documents.

A cache of police files allegedly obtained by hackers and shared with foreign media also reveals the faces of nearly 3,000 people, including children, who appear to have been detained because of their religion.

According to the BBC, the official files outline an internal police protocol that “describes the routine use of armed officers in all areas of the camps, the positioning of machineguns and sniper rifles in the watchtowers and the existence of a shoot-to-kill policy for those trying to escape”.

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Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Telegraph) Marriages in places of worship hit record low

A couple’s wedding day is traditionally considered one of the most important in life, but churches have become increasingly spared from hosting nuptials.

Marriages in places of worship have hit a record low, new figures revealed on Thursday, accounting for less than a fifth of all ceremonies for the first time.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released data on marriages in England and Wales in 2019, analysed by age, sex, previous marital status and civil or religious ceremony.

It found that in 2019, religious ceremonies accounted for less than one in five (18.7 per cent) of opposite-sex marriages, a decrease from 21.1 per cent in 2018 and the lowest percentage on record; for same-sex marriages, 0.7 per cent of marriages were religious ceremonies.

Researchers said that the reason for the decline was down to “couples choosing to live together rather than marry, either as a precursor to marriage or as an alternative”.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(CNN) Akanksha Singh+Roshan Abbas–In the world’s largest democracy, ‘looking Muslim’ could cost your life

When, as journalists, we prepare for a job, we think carefully about our questions, locations and equipment. But for one of us, documentary photographer Roshan Abbas, there is an added consideration — how much of his true identity to reveal.

Abbas, co-author of this article, is a Muslim man in India. A country where, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s watch, Muslims are being vilified and evicted from their homes, their freedom of religious expression stifled.

It’s oppression Abbas has experienced firsthand, choosing not to wear a kurta — a loose, collarless shirt — that might point to his identity as a Muslim, when traveling the country for work.

The decision is cautionary. In public spaces, there looms a sense of uneasiness. Mob lynchings of Muslims who look visibly Muslim have arisen in the past.

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Posted in Hinduism, India, Islam, Religion & Culture

After 800 years, Church of England apologizes to Jews for laws that led to expulsion

The Church of England on Sunday apologized for anti-Jewish laws that were passed 800 years ago and eventually led to the expulsion of Jews from the kingdom for hundreds of years.

A special service held at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford was attended by Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and representatives of Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to mark the Synod of Oxford, passed in 1222.

The synod forbade social interactions between Jews and Christians, placed a specific tithe on Jews, and required them to wear an identifying badge. They were also banned from some professions and from building new synagogues. The decrees were followed by more anti-Jewish laws, and eventually the mass expulsion of England’s 3,000 Jews of the time in 1290.

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Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) John Wilson–A Not-so-Secular Age

I recently received review copies of two books on the same day. The first, a galley of a book to be published by Eerdmans near the end of July, was Encountering Mystery: Religious Experience in a Secular Age, by Dale C. Allison, Jr. The second, just out from Hurst, was Beyond Belief: How Pentecostal Christianity Is Taking Over the World, by Elle Hardy. The fortuitous juxtaposition was ironic, of course, but more than that, it was very close to my heart. Like you, I expect, I have seen an ever-increasing number of articles and books intimating a radical shrinkage of “religion,” ranging from Ryan Burge’s The Nones to recent provocative columns by Philip Jenkins (to mention just two examples from a vast field). And behind this, of course, we must acknowledge the enormous, though to me still unaccountable, influence of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age.

I will not issue any predictions. Many years ago, the admirable Joseph Ratzinger foresaw a radical shrinkage of the church, suggesting that, difficult as this passage might be, it could be purifying. I don’t know for sure what the future, even the “near future,” holds in this respect, but I do know that—for the moment, at least—we do not remotely live in a “secular age.” Imagine my surprise when, as I began to read Encountering Mystery, I discovered that Allison himself, despite the subtitle affixed to his book, also does not believe that we live in a “secular age.” On the contrary, and how strange. Whence then the framing? Perhaps that is why the superb scholar and memoirist Carlos Eire describes Encountering Mystery as a “marvelously daring book.” It is just that, describing many experiences (a few firsthand, many recounted by others) of the numinous, the mystical, the supernatural. I hope in due course that you will read it yourself. Nor, it’s important to add, are such experiences limited to Christians; see, for example, Susannah Crockford’s Ripples of the Universe: Spirituality in Sedona, Arizona.

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Posted in Books, Pentecostal, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(CT) I Left the New Age Behind When I Read the Old Testament

As someone with an intense curiosity about world religions, I frequently listened to Christian radio, as well as stations specializing in Buddhism, Hinduism, shamanism, Celtic goddess worship, and several other types of spirituality. Hungry for answers, I searched far and wide.

In January 2015, I was driving along a Hawaiian road while listening to the Scottish-born pastor Alistair Begg on the Christian Satellite Network. Begg was giving an expository sermon called “Itching Ears.” It was about 2 Timothy 4, where the apostle Paul writes that in the end times, people will want their itching ears tickled by false teachers who offer false hope (v. 3). I could tell he was describing people just like me.

God used Begg’s sermon to convict me for the first time in my life. His words pierced my stony heart, and I felt ashamed of my false teachings. When I got home, I told my husband, Michael, that I wanted to start attending a real Christian church. He readily agreed.

After a lifetime of involvement in Christian Science and New Age practices, it took time to clear away the cobwebs of false belief. I realized that I did not trust God to provide for my needs. So instead of prayer and trust in the Lord, I continued relying on divination cards, astrology, psychic readings, horoscopes, and crystals.

Reading the entire Bible changed everything.

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Posted in Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theology: Scripture

(RNS) In LA, ‘Atheist Pirates’ remove religious signs from public streets and overpasses

Standing atop an approximately 8-foot-high ladder, Evan Clark tugged at a sign tightly nailed to a utility pole on the intersection of Echo Park and Bellevue avenues, just beyond the 101 freeway ramps.

The sign quoted John 14:6, and as Clark spun and pulled it to loosen it from the pole, a man in a car shouted, “The way. The truth. The life!,” quoting the words from the Bible verse emblazoned on the placard Clark was trying to take down. The man, Clark said, likely assumed he was placing the sign, not removing it.

“People put a lot of passion behind these signs and their messages and ideas about Jesus and God,” Clark said. “I don’t like to be confrontational about any of that. I just wanted to do this as a casual thing to keep our streets secular.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Atheism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(First Things) Algis Valiunas–Nihilism For The Ironhearted

For Leopardi, unlike Shelley and Keats, nature provoked no ecstasies, so he might seem an Olympian mind of an antique cast, icy, sublime, and forbidding. Yet in a crucial sense he was a Romantic rather than a Classicist. Whereas Sophocles saw the world steadily and saw it whole, Leopardi beheld his own pitiable self wherever he looked. What he touted as the rarest magisterial vision of the world exactly as it is was in fact the special pleading of an unfortunate whom nature had selected for a very hard time. Rather than a disinterested neo-pagan sage, he was a soul in torment, who could not forgive the Creator for his deformity and loneliness, and therefore preferred to cut God out of the picture altogether, replacing him with immemorial philosophic abstractions such as cruel Nature and inexorable Fate.

This does not mean that Leopardi was not a great artist and an intellect to reckon with. His principal artistic persona, the spirit who negates and who takes pity on human beings for the agonies they must suffer, is the most straightforward of nihilists, alluring in his clarity of vision and unwavering fortitude. In the closing lines of Leopardi’s best-known poem, “La ginestra, o il fiore del deserto” (Broom, or the Flower of the Desert), he addresses the only plant to grow on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius and praises its good sense as against human folly: “Far wiser and less fallible / than man is, you did not presume / that either fate or you had made / your fragile kind immortal.” Men choose to live within reach of the volcano’s devastating eruption because they are foolish, whereas the broom lives and dies there because it can’t do otherwise. “And unresisting, / you’ll bow your blameless head / under the deadly scythe” of the lava flow. To know your place in the world is to recognize that nature can snuff out your life in one terrifying instant, and when that time comes, men are as helpless as the broom. Acceptance—of sorrow, boredom, failure, and death—is the hardest part of wisdom.

It is of course Nietzsche who urges his readers to build their houses on the slopes of volcanoes, to live dangerously and say yes to life no matter how awful it gets. Leopardi’s is the more honest nihilism, the purest distillation of nothingness. Accepting one’s own particular portion of the universal lot is a far cry from love of life. Whereas Nietzsche preaches the supreme wisdom and moral excellence of amor fati, loving your fate so intensely that it seems entirely the working of your own will, Leopardi sees nothing to love even in the fate of the man who is clear-sighted and strong enough to gaze imperturbably upon life and death stripped to their hideous core. Leopardi’s is the more severe teaching, offering no hope of transcending Christian transcendence (in Erich Heller’s phrase) as do Nietzsche and his acolyte Rainer Maria Rilke in their glamorous prospectus of free-spirited modernity. One sees in Leopardi what godless life really is.

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Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Eschatology, History, Other Faiths, Philosophy, Theology

(NYT) As Officials Look Away, Hate Speech in India Nears Dangerous Levels

The police officer arrived at the Hindu temple here with a warning to the monks: Don’t repeat your hate speech.

Ten days earlier, before a packed audience and thousands watching online, the monks had called for violence against the country’s minority Muslims. Their speeches, in one of India’s holiest cities, promoted a genocidal campaign to “kill two million of them” and urged an ethnic cleansing of the kind that targeted Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

When videos of the event provoked national outrage, the police came. The saffron-clad preachers questioned whether the officer could be objective.

Yati Narsinghanand, the event’s firebrand organizer known for his violent rhetoric, assuaged their concerns.

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Posted in Hinduism, India, Islam, Language, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Economist) Hindu bigots are openly urging Indians to murder Muslims

All hindus must pick up weapons and conduct a cleanliness drive,” bellowed a Hindu priest at a three-day “religious parliament” in north India last month. Another speaker fired up the large crowd even more crudely: “If a hundred of us become soldiers and kill two million of them, we will be victorious.” By “them”, she meant India’s 200m Muslims.

Those priests baying for blood are not isolated bigots. Under the Hindu-nationalist government of Narendra Modi, the world’s most populous democracy has seen a growing wave of intolerance. In Gurgaon, a satellite city of Delhi, Muslims have been denied the use of open space to pray because it “offends sentiments”. They have also been denied permission to build mosques. Elsewhere Muslims accused of transporting cattle for slaughter, or of being in possession of beef, are sometimes lynched. Muslim businesses are boycotted. In recent months young Hindu radicals have persecuted high-profile Muslim women by creating apps to “auction” them off.

Muslims are not the only target of Hindu chauvinism. In Varanasi, a Hindu temple town, posters warn non-Hindus to stay away. Attacks on Christians, a tiny minority, have risen in recent years. Last week, after Mr Modi, the prime minister, was briefly delayed on an overpass in Sikh-majority Punjab, people associated with his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) warned darkly of a repeat of 1984, when thousands of Sikhs were killed in pogroms after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. In an index of societal discrimination against minorities compiled by Bar Ilan University in Israel, India scores worse than Saudi Arabia and no better than Iran. It is impossible to know the number of hate crimes in the country: independent trackers were shut down in 2017 and 2019, and the government stopped collecting data in 2017.

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Posted in Hinduism, India, Islam, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Deseret News) ‘We can change the air that abusers breathe’: How faith communities are addressing domestic violence

They looked like the poster couple for faith and family. He was a successful professional, who provided for his wife and children and led them in prayer. She was a stay-at-home mom with a leadership position in their religious community. They seemed to exemplify how great a life rooted in belief could be.

But behind closed doors, Amy, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym, endured years of spiritual abuse as her husband turned aspects of her faith against her.

Shortly after they married, Amy says, her husband became obsessed with the idea that she wasn’t telling him the truth about her past. He forced her to pray with him about it. Constantly. He insisted she share with him every detail of her unmarried life.

After these discussions, he would manipulate and coerce his physically and emotionally exhausted wife into having sex. Only later did she realize the pattern amounted to sexual abuse, though he claimed he was driven by love and a desire to make their relationship perfect and eternal.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Islam, Judaism, Marriage & Family, Men, Mormons, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Violence, Women

Faith leaders warn of risk to vulnerable posed by Assisted Dying Bill

The three faith leaders highlight the risks and dangers entailed in the provisions of the Bill and the ‘real-life’ practical inadequacies of its proposed safeguards.

The common good is not served by policies or actions that would place very many vulnerable people in more vulnerable positions, they warn.

They appeal for people of all faiths and none to join with them through the ‘common bond of humanity’ in caring for the most vulnerable in society.

In contrast to the Bill, the faith leaders call for measures to make high-quality palliative care available to all at the end of their lives.

The aim of a compassionate society should be ‘assisted living’ rather than an acceptance of assisted suicide, they note.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(NPR) Eddie Jaku, Holocaust survivor and self-proclaimed happiest man on Earth, dies at 101

Despite his experiences, he refused to let loss or hate consume him.

“I do not hate anyone,” Jaku said. “Hate is a disease which may destroy your enemy but will also destroy you in the process.”

Choosing kindness and tolerance was also the premise of Jaku’s memoir, The Happiest Man on Earth, which he published last year at age 100.

Jaku was also part of the group of survivors that co-founded the Sydney Jewish Museum in 1992, and volunteered there for the past three decades, according to a remembrance from Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

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Posted in Australia / NZ, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Judaism

(Unherd) Giles Fraser–Our spending on longevity research belies our faulty understanding of death

Death was once — potentially, at least — an expression of some ultimate triumph. Now it is the bitter failure of our technology. And whatever we spend on it, no amount of money will overcome this gap.

Death, then, is the political issue we are not talking about. Even after the pandemic, when the daily death figures were broadcast on every news broadcast, we continue to say little about death other than making the uncritical assumption it is always to be avoided.

And so we are sleepwalking into a state of affairs in which the young will resent the elderly for the burden they place upon them. Of course, we should support the generous funding for social care. What we ought to be challenging is whether the medical technologies that are keeping us alive for ever longer complement our understanding of what human existence is for.

But I see little appetite for that. In a secular society, we have few intellectual or cultural resources to challenge the pervasiveness of more-ism. And to live deeper, more meaningful lives is not the same as living longer ones.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Death / Burial / Funerals, Economy, Eschatology, Science & Technology, Secularism

(PRC) Muslims are a growing presence in U.S., but still face negative views from the public

An unprecedented amount of public attention focused on Muslim Americans in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. Muslim population has grown in the two decades since, but it is still the case that many Americans know little about Islam or Muslims, and views toward Muslims have become increasingly polarized along political lines.

There were about 2.35 million Muslim adults and children living in the United States in 2007 – accounting for 0.8% of the U.S. population – when Pew Research Center began measuring this group’s size, demographic characteristics and views. Since then, growth has been driven primarily by two factors: the continued flow of Muslim immigrants into the U.S., and Muslims’ tendency to have more children than Americans of other faiths.

In 2015, the Center projected that Muslims could number 3.85 million in the U.S. by 2020 – roughly 1.1% of the total population. However, Muslim population growth from immigration may have slowed recently due to changes in federal immigration policy.

The number of Muslim houses of worship in the U.S. also has increased over the last 20 years. …

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Religion & Culture

(NYT) For a Second Year, Jews Mark the High Holy Days in the Shadow of Covid

The leadership at Central Synagogue in Manhattan had big plans this year for the Jewish High Holy Days: After celebrating via livestream during the pandemic last fall, they rented out Radio City Music Hall for a grand celebration.

But the spread of the Delta variant has upended those plans. Now, they’ll still use the 5,500-seat music hall, but only at 30 percent capacity. And everyone must show proof of vaccination and wear masks.

“In some ways, last year was easier to plan because it was so absolutely clear we would be gathering virtually,” said Angela W. Buchdahl, the synagogue’s senior rabbi. “This year we certainly expected all the way until early July that we would be able to be in person for this year’s High Holy Days.”

Many congregations plan their celebrations for the High Holy Days, which are among the most important dates in the Jewish calendar, months in advance. But the recent surge of coronavirus cases has driven synagogues across the New York region — home to the largest concentration of Jews outside of Israel — and around the country to address safety concerns they had thought had been rendered moot by the arrival of the vaccines.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Judaism, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–To Lead is to Listen

“If only you would listen to these laws…” (Deut. 7:12). These words with which our parsha begins contain a verb that is a fundamental motif of the book of Devarim. The verb is sh-m-a. It occurred in last week’s parsha in the most famous line of the whole of Judaism, Shema Yisrael. It occurs later in this week’s parsha in the second paragraph of the Shema, “It shall be if you surely listen [shamoa tishme’u]” (Deut. 11:13). In fact, this verb appears no less than 92 times in Devarim as a whole.

We often miss the significance of this word because of what I call the fallacy of translatability: the assumption that one language is fully translatable into another. We hear a word translated from one language to another and assume that it means the same in both. But often it doesn’t. Languages are only partially translatable into one another.[1] The key terms of one civilisation are often not fully reproducible in another. The Greek word megalopsychos, for example, Aristotle’s “great-souled man” who is great and knows he is, and carries himself with aristocratic pride, is untranslatable into a moral system like Judaism in which humility is a virtue. The English word “tact” has no precise equivalent in Hebrew. And so on.

This is particularly so in the case of the Hebrew verb sh-m-a. Listen, for example, to the various ways the opening words of this week’s parsha have been translated into English:

If you hearken to these precepts…

If you completely obey these laws…

If you pay attention to these laws…

If you heed these ordinances…

Because ye hear these judgments…

There is no single English word that means to hear, to listen, to heed, to pay attention to, and to obey….

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Posted in Judaism, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT front page) ‘They Have My Sister’: As Uyghurs Speak Out, China Targets Their Families

She was a gifted agricultural scientist educated at prestigious universities in Shanghai and Tokyo. She said she wanted to help farmers in poor areas, like her hometown in Xinjiang, in western China. But because of her uncle’s activism for China’s oppressed Muslim Uyghurs, her family and friends said, the Chinese state made her a security target.

At first they took away her father. Then they pressed her to return home from Japan. Last year, at age 30, Mihriay Erkin, the scientist, died in Xinjiang, under mysterious circumstances.

The government confirmed Ms. Erkin’s death but attributed it to an illness. Her uncle, Abduweli Ayup, the activist, believes she died in state custody.

Mr. Ayup says his niece was only the latest in his family to come under pressure from the authorities. His two siblings had already been detained and imprisoned. All three were targeted in retaliation for his efforts to expose the plight of the Uyghurs, he said.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(RCR) Asma T. Uddin–Defend Religious Liberty for All Despite Our Differences

I recently attended the inaugural Religious Liberty Summit hosted by the Religious Liberty Initiative at Notre Dame Law School, where attendees’ religious differences were obvious even to a casual observer. At this leading Catholic university, I watched a Jewish Rabbi praise a Mormon author. And as Rabbi Dr. Soloveichik spoke, I glanced up and saw an Elder from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a Catholic cardinal, and a notable Protestant leader sitting side by side. I saw secular agnostics and devout believers — reporters, advocates, and pundits. For all the differences in that room, there was a comfortable warmness, academic and earnest. It was apparent that the leaders who had gathered there shared an understanding that religious freedom is about our individual dignity as human beings and the demands of conscience.

Sitting inside that Catholic university, I remembered “Dignitatis Humanae,” Catholicism’s definitive 1965 document about religious liberty: “The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power.” The document also argues that free will — free search — is foundational: “The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth.” Religious liberty as a whole is at risk when a society embraces the idea that some searches for truth are invalid because of where they lead.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(WSJ) The Religious Leaders on the Front Lines of Mental Health

The Rev. Edward Cardoza estimates that the volume of calls, messages and texts from members of his St. Mark’s Episcopal Church increased 20-fold over the past year. Most read something like this: “I’m sure you’re really busy and don’t have time, but if you do, would you have time for a conversation?”

People who had been sober for 10 or 15 years worried they might start drinking again. Some mentioned suicide. Couples who rarely argued were yelling at each other.

When the church resumed in-person services June 13, a new tension emerged: surprisingly angry reactions from some members to any pandemic-related safeguards that remained in place. Other clergy he talked to have seen similar levels of acrimony.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Stress

(NYT) As a Family Is Mourned, Canada Grapples With Anti-Muslim Bias

With coronavirus restrictions still in place in much of Canada, many families have taken up going out together for evening strolls. On Sunday, however, a pleasant walk became the scene of a deadly attack by a motorist who used his truck to kill four members of a family in London, Ontario, and injure a boy who is now an orphan. They were targeted, the police said, because of their Muslim faith.

Along with grieving, the deaths have prompted anger and demands for government action against bigotry and violence toward Muslims.

“Even after this, there are still people saying that Islamophobia doesn’t exist,” said Mohamed Salih, a member of London’s City Council. “The challenge and a reality we must face is that far too often in our city, there is Islamophobia. It’s something we’ve known for far too long.”

On Tuesday night, the province of Ontario temporarily lifted pandemic rules banning large gatherings to allow thousands of people to gather for a memorial outside the London Muslim Mosque to remember the Afzaal-Salman family. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended.

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Posted in Canada, Islam, Religion & Culture

(DW) Antisemitism in Germany: ‘As Muslims, we must tackle this’

Eren Guvercin, the founder of the Muslim Alhambra Society in Germany, which promotes international understanding, isn’t surprised by the video. Antisemitism among Muslims in Germany becomes visible occasionally, and most commonly when violence in the Middle East escalates. “But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in quieter times as well,” he said.

Antisemitism is a central ideological component for a number of extremist Islamist organizations, Guvercin explained, and these also try to promote it in more moderate Muslim communities. “This is something we have to deal with as Muslims first and foremost. But often this fails because the problem cannot even be named.”

Clearly antisemitic slogans were shouted in some cases, conceded Bulent Ucar, a professor of Islamic theology at Osnabrück University. “There are good arguments against Israel’s policy of occupation and dispossession, which is against international law,” he told DW. “But there are also polarizing actors, who are loading this political dispute in the Middle East with antisemitism, and then trying to transfer it to Europe. This is not at all acceptable. There is no justification for Jews in Germany to be threatened and harassed. That’s inexcusable and a total no-go.”

Orkide Ezgimen, who heads the Discover Diversity project at the Kreuzberg Initiative against antisemitism in Berlin, agrees that different motivations were on display at the demonstrations. There was criticism of Israel’s actions against the Palestinians but also a lot of potential for aggressive behavior, some of which include antisemitic sentiments. “These reference German history, such as the Holocaust,” she said. “That is clearly antisemitic. Of course, in a democracy one has the right to demonstrate against the policies of another country — but not in all forms. In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you have to distinguish very clearly between legitimate criticism and antisemitism.”

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Posted in Germany, Judaism, Psychology, Religion & Culture, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle

(Guardian) Minister condemns ‘deeply disturbing’ rise in antisemitism in UK

Robert Jenrick has condemned a “deeply disturbing upsurge in antisemitism” in recent years and said the government will name and shame local authorities that have failed to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of the problem.

The communities secretary criticised incidents over the weekend in which a rabbi was beaten up outside his synagogue in Chigwell, Essex, and occupants of a convoy of cars in north London allegedly shouted antisemitic abuse.

Jenrick said the government would take “robust action” to root out antisemitism, pointing out that it had been an early adopter of the IHRA definition of antisemitism. He said he would be writing to other authorities to do the same.

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(ABC Aus.) Michael Jensen–Sydney’s almost unnoticed Archbishop-elect: The challenges facing Kanishka Raffel and the Anglican church

He must lead his churches, then, in a concerted effort in prayer and repentance. There can be no priority higher than this. It would be a grave mistake to put evangelism above this, since evangelism is powerfully effective when there is evidence that people really live as if the gospel is true. In the past, we’ve been too triumphalist, too presumptive. The grace of our message has not always been matched by the grace of our welcome.

Kanishka must lead them in a return to the Word of God. Martin Luther once said, with typical exaggeration, “the ears alone are the organ of the Christian”. The Christian church is a listening church. It is found wherever the Word of God is preached. Where Jesus is declared to be Lord, and where people gather to hear it, there you find the Spirit of God active — not only there, but certainly there. When the people of God are seeking the voice of God in the pages of the Bible — when they hear themselves addressed by him from above — then there is hope.

The Archbishop must encourage us to be local communities of loving welcome. The “action”, as it were, is not in the bishop’s office or in committee rooms. The faith is not a matter of reports by theologians. It lives in the congregations that gather Sunday by Sunday, worshipping God and hearing him address them. Archbishop-elect Kanishka has written of a visit he made while holidaying to a small congregation, unimpressive by normal standards and few in number. And yet, he wrote later that he saw there “the stunning beauty of the gathered people of God”. It is my experience that people who are you might think the least likely to find a spiritual home in an Anglican Church in Sydney do so when they find that the hospitality they experience is for real.

But there must also be a courageous and prophetic engagement with post-Christian culture. The great Swiss theologian Karl Barth once said that sermons should be written with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. The Bible gives us eyes to see what is really in the newspaper. But it is also the case that news may help us to see better what is in the Bible. The mistake that many American evangelicals have made is to imagine that political and cultural means are the way to pursue or to defend the kingdom of God — mostly in alignment with the political right. That is a fool’s errand. It leads to an idolatry of political power, as was seen the Trump’s presidency. It shows no faith in the ultimate Lordship of Jesus, who is the church’s only Lord.

But neither should the church simply follow the spirit of the age. Its calling is not to provide a chaplaincy to contemporary narcissism. It finds laughable talk of “getting with the times” or “history being on our side”. It does not pursue relevance, as if that were anything worthwhile. It outlasted Rome: it will surely outlast Atlassian.

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Posted in Adult Education, Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(NYT front page) China Targets Muslim Women in Push to Suppress Births in Xinjiang

When China’s government ordered women in her mostly Muslim community in the region of Xinjiang to be fitted with contraceptive devices, Qelbinur Sedik pleaded for an exemption. She was nearly 50 years old, she told officials. She had obeyed the government’s birth limits and had only one child.

It was no use. The workers threatened to take her to the police if she continued resisting, she said. She gave in and went to a government clinic where a doctor, using metal forceps, inserted an intrauterine device to prevent pregnancy. She wept through the procedure.

“I felt like I was no longer a normal woman,” Ms. Sedik said, choking up as she described the 2017 ordeal. “Like I was missing something.”

Across much of China, the authorities are encouraging women to have more children, as they try to stave off a demographic crisis from a declining birthrate. But in the Xinjiang region, China is forcing them to have fewer, tightening its grip on Muslim ethnic minorities and trying to orchestrate a demographic shift that will diminish their population growth.

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Posted in Children, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Women

(CW) New Sydney Anglican archbishop ‘gladly trusts in Jesus’

A convert to Christianity from Buddhism, Archbishop-elect Raffel is the first person from a non-European background to hold the position. He’s the 13th leader of the Anglican Church in Sydney since Bishop Broughton was first appointed in 1836.

“I’m humbled and somewhat daunted by the responsibility given me by the Synod,” he said in a statement. “We believe that the Lord works through his people — both in making this decision and in enabling the Archbishop to fulfil his role. Like every Christian, I gladly trust in Jesus.”

Aged 56, and born to Sri-Lankan parents in London, Mr Raffel and his family emigrated to Australia from Canada in 1972. He and his wife Cailey have been married for 32 years and have two adult daughters.

He has been the Dean of Sydney for six years, previously leading a large Anglican church in Shenton Park in Perth for 16 years. He has been described as a gifted preacher and communicator who at the age of 21 underwent a conversion to Christianity after reading the lines from St John’s Gospel: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day”.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Buddhism, Ecumenical Relations, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews Steve Bruce’s new book ‘British Gods: Religion in Modern Britain’

Steve Bruce, Professor of Sociology at the University of Aberdeen, is a leading proponent of the secularisation thesis. Religion has been in decline in Britain for 150 years, he argues, and there is little reason to think this process is going to be halted. Religious believers will not find his new book a comforting read but it does have lessons to teach us. Members of the Church of England concerned with evangelism and church growth would do well to read it.

Bruce is adept at dismissing those who have argued in defence of the persistence of religion. Grace Davie has spoken of vicarious religion in which a small proportion of the population are seen as carrying out religious activities on behalf of a larger number of people who are not directly involved. The role clergy often play when disaster strikes could be seen as an example of vicarious religion but Bruce argues clergy are candidates to act as honest brokers because they no longer have religious significance. ‘Like eunuchs working in a harem,’ he writes, ‘the clergy are invited to play significant social roles because they are impotent’.

For many Christians the charismatic movement is an important sign of renewal. Bruce argues this has not brought many new members into the churches. Most of those who have been at attracted were already Christian. Only 1 per cent of those who attend Alpha courses have not at some time been regular church goers. Bruce sees dangers for Christianity in the way the charismatic movement prefers feelings over doctrine and moves away from a distinctive culture of church architecture, liturgy, dress, ritual and hymns. In some ways it represents a secularisation of Christianity. Examining New Age beliefs and practices Bruce, correctly argues, they are not widespread enough to take the place of Christianity.

When it comes to new African or West Indian churches, Bruce maintains that their language and style is too alien to enable them to be effective carriers of the gospel to the white, British population. He may have a point here but he is mistaken in arguing that church growth in London is only fuelled by the immigration. The Diocese of London has seen significant growth and John Wolfe has analysed why this has happened. David Goodhew has also written of growing churches in London and elsewhere but Bruce nowhere refers to his work.

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Posted in Books, England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(NYT) Building a Mosque in France, Never Easy, May Get Even Harder

As the temperature hovered around freezing, hundreds of men trickled into a former slaughterhouse on a recent Friday. In the overflow crowd outside, scores more unfurled their prayer mats on the asphalt as the imam’s voice intoned through loudspeakers.

The old slaughterhouse has served as a temporary mosque for the past 21 years for many Muslims in Angers, a city in western France. Construction on a permanent home has stalled since last fall when the City Council unanimously rejected a proposal by Muslim leaders to hand ownership of their unfinished mosque to the government of Morocco in return for its completion. Local members, after donating more than $2.8 million, were tapped out.

Building a mosque in France is a tortuous endeavor at the best of times. Members tend to be poorer than other French people. Turning to foreign donors raises a host of concerns — both inside and outside Muslim communities — that are coming under intensifying scrutiny with President Emmanuel Macron’s new law against Islamism, which is expected to get final approval in the Senate in coming weeks.

Complicating matters for Muslims has been France’s principle of secularism, called laïcité, which established a firewall between state and church. While the government regards itself as strictly neutral before all faiths, the law effectively made the state the biggest landlord of Roman Catholic churches in France and the guardian of cultural Roman Catholicism.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Islam, Religion & Culture, Secularism