The head of the Scottish Episcopal Church says the Church is “deeply distressed” at the offence caused by the reading of a passage from the Koran in a Glasgow cathedral.
The comments of the Church Primus, the Most Rev David Chillingworth, follow criticism that Islamic verses were read during an Epiphany service.
In his blog, he also condemned the abuse received by St Mary’s Cathedral.
Police are investigating offensive online messages aimed at the church.
Category : Inter-Faith Relations
The head of the Scottish Episcopal Church says the Church is “deeply distressed” at the offence caused by the reading of a passage from the Koran in a Glasgow cathedral.
“The decisions which have led to the situation in St Mary’s Cathedral are a matter for the Provost and the Cathedral community but the Scottish Episcopal Church is deeply distressed at the widespread offence which has been caused. We also deeply regret the widespread abuse which has been received by the Cathedral community.
“In response to what has happened at the Cathedral, the Scottish Episcopal Church will bring together all those who are involved in the development of interfaith relations. Our intention will be as a Church to explore how, particularly in the area of worship, this work can be carried forward in ways which will command respect. Our desire is that this should be a worthy expression of the reconciliation to which all Christians are called.”
The flaw in his approach is that while the Muslims who chose the reading seem to have been only too aware of the differences, and chose to declare them in their Koranic reading during the Christian worship, the Provost, on the other hand, appears to have been unaware.
When asked if he had known what the passage of the Koran said about Jesus, how it denied what Christians hold central to their faith, he “declined to comment further”.
This was not, then, “a dialogue about the ways we differ”. It was not even a strategy of parity. If there had been a conversation in which he had said, “Let us insert into each other’s worship and prayers readings from our sacred scriptures which confront and contradict each others’ faith”, how would the Islamic community have responded? We will never know, because the exercise was not actually the one he claimed it to be.
Read it all from Gavin Ashenden.
But Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester condemned the reading and called for discipline against those involved.
“The authorities of the Scottish Episcopal Church should immediately repudiate this ill-advised invitation,” he said in a statement.
He also called for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to publicly distance the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion from the event.
” Christians should know what their fellow citizens believe and this can include reading the Qur’an for themselves, whether in the original or in translation. This is not, however, the same thing as having it read in Church in the context of public worship,” he said.
Read it all from Christian Today.
So while Christians ask, “What would Jesus do?” Jews ask, “What does Jewish law say?” That’s completely understandable from a traditional Jewish perspective, and it is often praiseworthy. But, I wish Jews would learn from their Christian cohorts and ask directly, “What would God say?” Just as the Prophet Micah did by asking, “What does God require of us?”
Christmas and its celebration of the birth of Jesus compels me to think about the concept of a messiah. I am grateful to my Christian neighbors and friends. Through their religious holy day, I am better able to confront and clarify my own religious convictions and theological certitudes.
Like a brightly lighted Christmas tree, Christianity dispels a lot of darkness, theological as well as moral. In its glow, it challenges Christians and non-Christians alike to consider that which is transcendent, eternal and greater than us all. Merry Christmas indeed.
The scale of religious persecution around the world is not widely appreciated. Nor is it limited to Christians in the troubled regions of the Middle East. A recent report suggests that attacks are increasing on Yazidis, Jews, Ahmadis, Baha’is and many other minority faiths. And in some countries even more insidious forms of extremism have recently surfaced, which aim to eliminate all types of religious diversity.
We are also struggling to capture the immensity of the ripple effect of such persecution. According to the United Nations, 5.8 million MORE people abandoned their homes in 2015 than the year before, bringing the annual total to a staggering 65.3 million. That is almost equivalent to the entire population of the United Kingdom.
And the suffering doesn’t end when they arrive seeking refuge in a foreign land. We are now seeing the rise of many populist groups across the world that are increasingly aggressive towards those who adhere to a minority faith.
Rashad Ali is a British Sunni Muslim who devotes most of his life to combating extremism and urging young co-religionists to reject the siren voices of jihadism. At the risk of making himself unpopular with some members of his community, he actively assists the government’s efforts to counter hard-line Islamism. He works mostly in his own country but also follows the Muslim scene in many other places.
Like many others working in his field, he is convinced that recent events in Syria have made his life much, much harder. Whether in Britain or in Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia or Morocco (all countries he has visited recently), he finds that ordinary Sunnis are appalled and angry over the suffering of civilians in east Aleppo before and during the collapse of the rebel stronghold.
The news has made them furious with Russia, which claims inter alia to be deploying its fighter-bombers in support of local Christians; angry with Iran and the Shia Muslim militias that it sponsors in Syria; and disappointed with Western countries for doing nothing to restrain the Russo-Iranian coalition. A common grievance, says Mr Ali, a fellow of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, is that Western consciences are moved by the plight of ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Kurds or Yazidis or small Christian sects, but indifferent to ordinary Sunni Arabs.
The world’s largest IslamÂic nation is Indonesia, where Muslims represent a large majority of a population of some 250 million. Christians make up about 10 percent of that number, and relations between the two faiths have on occasion been rocky. Matters reached their worst in the late 1990s, a time of economic crisis and the collapse of the long-standing military dictatorship. During the chaos, Christian minorities in regions like Sulawesi were subjected to ethnic cleansing and Chinese ChrisÂtians in major cities were targeted for violence and mass rape.
In large part, these crimes resulted from economic grievances””Chinese merchants were targeted as scapeÂgoats. Active Islamist terror movements also appeared, with ties to al-Qaeda. For some years, IndoÂnesia seemed to epitomize Muslim-Christian tensions at their most alarming.
Subsequently, conditions have improved enormously, or rather, reverted to traditional norms of tolerance. Although Christians must be very cautious about any attempts at evanÂgelism, congregations worship openly, and Indonesia is now home to some spectacular megachurches.
The most encouraging manÂiÂfestation of improved attitudes is Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is commonly known by his Chinese nickname, Ahok. Since 2014, Ahok has been governor of the nation’s capital, Jakarta, a city with a population of 10 million, with some 30 million in the larger metropolitan region.
The UK today became the first country to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.
Theresa May said that the definition “means there will be one definition of anti-Semitism ”“ in essence, language or behaviour that displays hatred towards Jews because they are Jews ”“ and anyone guilty of that will be called out on it.”
The definition states: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The term was agreed during IHRA Plenary meetings held in Bucharest from 23-26 May this year. IHRA Chair, Ambassador Mihnea Constantinescu, stated at the time that by adopting a working definition, “the IHRA is setting an example of responsible conduct for other international fora and hopes to inspire them also to take action on a legally binding working definition.”
A search for somewhere convenient for Friday prayers has led to an unusual joining of two communities.
Every Friday, St Paul’s Anglican church in Beaconsfield, just outside Western Australia’s port city of Fremantle, hosts Muslim prayers in its community hall.
Fittingly, the hall was the original church.
Read it all (and there is a video also).
It’s very difficult to understand the things that impel people to some of the dreadful actions that we have seen over the last few years unless you have some sense of religious literacy. You may reject and condemn it ”“ that’s fine ”“ but you still need to understand what they’re talking about.
And in order to understand, religious people in Europe must regain the ability to share our religious vocabulary with the rest of the continent. If we treat religiously-motivated violence solely as a security issue, or a political issue, then it will be incredibly difficult ”“ probably impossible ”“ to overcome it. A theological voice needs to be part of the response, and we should not be bashful in offering that.
This requires a move away from the argument that has become increasingly popular, which is to say that ISIS is ”˜nothing to do with Islam’, or that Christian militia in the Central African Republic are nothing to do with Christianity, or Hindu nationalist persecution of Christians in South India is nothing to do with Hinduism. Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution.
Today at Lambeth Palace ”˜In Good Faith’, a new Christian-Jewish dialogue project, was launched. This is a joint initiative of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations, Ephraim Mirvis. Modelled on their own well rooted friendship, this partnership programme will ensure Priests and Rabbis based in close geographical proximity will be encouraged to explore mutual concerns and opportunities for shared action together, initially for the next year.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis explained their vision and hope for the programme and its place within their respective understandings of the role of faith in society.
Archbishop Justin said: “It is in the everyday conversations, the grassroots initiatives and the building of local bridges between Christians and Jews, our synagogues and churches, that we will see real change and the hope for a divided world and nation”¦.. I am so grateful to you for signalling hope when the temptation is to succumb to world-weary cynicism, pessimism, defeatism and even despair.”
In an interview with CNN earlier this year, Adeeb Joudeh, the current keeper of the key ”” an old, cast-iron object that’s a foot long ”” considered his family’s hereditary task to be a metaphor for religious tolerance.
“For me, the source of coexistence for Islamic and Christian religions is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,” he said.
His counterpart, Wajeeh Nuseibeh, described the vital role of these two Muslim families in Jerusalem to the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005.
“Like all brothers, they sometimes have problems,” he said, referring to the feuding Christian sects. “We help them settle their disputes. We are the neutral people in the church. We are the United Nations. We help preserve peace in this holy place.”
Pretending that the refugee crisis is going to disappear is “futile, foolish”, and turning vulnerable people away from the UK “simply shifts the burden to those less able to bear it”, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams has warned.
He was speaking at a multifaith gathering at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London, on Monday, to mark the release of an open letter to the Prime Minister, signed by more than 200 religious leaders, some of whom were also in attendance (above). It calls on the Government to accommodate more refugees in the UK more quickly, and, in particular, to reunite families that have been separated by conflict.
“The pace in responding to the refugee crisis seems very slow,” Lord Williams said. “We have had months of discussion on the subject of reuniting children with parents, and as yet have remarkably little to show for it.”
Our visit to Syria has been attacked in the Press for giving a “war criminal” (that is, Bashar al-Assad) a photo opportunity and a tool for propaganda. In fact, it was a pastoral visit to the people of Syria, especially Christians, who have suffered so much at the hands of jihadist extremists.
Their ancient churches have been destroyed, they have been killed in their own homes and driven out of their ancient communities. Anna (not her real name), who still speaks the Aramaic of Jesus as her native language, told us of how the rebels (some belonging to the so- called “moderate opposition”) dragged out her brother and cousin and shot them dead before her eyes for refusing to convert to Islam. They then shot and wounded her, leaving her for dead.
This is why the leadership of all the churches in Syria, including Syrian Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, Armenian and Evangelical is unanimous in its opposition to the extremists and in its advocacy of peaceful change in the land.
But the law left critics, including some Christian lawmakers, embittered, warning that it will maintain Christian’s second-class status. The Coptic Orthodox Church, to which most Egyptian Christians belong, had at first opposed the bill but later backed it””and critics say it bent to heavy government pressure.
Under the law passed Tuesday, Christians must apply to the local provincial governor when they want to build a church.
The law stipulates that the size of the church must be “appropriate” to the number of Christians in the area. According to an official supplement to the law, the governor should also take into account “the preservation of security and public order” when considering the application.
The law “empowers the majority to decide whether the minority has the right to hold their religious practices,” said Ishaq Ibrahim, a top researcher in the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
We are not told which officials in which diocese have issued this warning, but it is advice which needs to be ignored. To heed such guidance is to surrender to fanatical Islamists; to conceal one’s Christian faith out of fear of the consequences; to hide one’s light under a bushel in order not to provoke some hot-headed Muslim extremist to combat.
Easy for someone to say who’s not in danger of being a target, you may say. But what have we become if we relinquish the vestments of our national faith out of fear of the adherents of another religion? What is ceded? Who is appeased? Where is the victor and who is the vanquished?
People from all faiths, backgrounds and traditions have come together today as a show of solidarity at a multifaith service at the Anglican Parish of Gosford.
The service was led by Central Coast Anglican Archdeacon Rod Bower and also featured the Islamic Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, local Buddhist leader Gen Kelsang Dawa and Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson.
It was organised as a response to the protest by a group of right-wing extremists from the Party of Freedom who posed as Muslims and stormed a sermon by Gosford Anglican priest Father Bower recently.
There’s been a lot of negative campaign language about Islam this election season””calls for banning Muslims from entering the US and for patrolling Muslim neighborhoods. But there are also serious attempts to oppose anti-Muslims rhetoric. Correspondent Kim Lawton reports on efforts in Nashville, Tennessee to counter hateful speech by building personal relationships between Christians and Muslims. She talks with Rev. Josh Graves, pastor of an evangelical megachurch and author of How Not to Kill a Muslim: A Manifesto of Hope for Christianity and Islam in North America, along with Muslim community leaders who are participating in the bridge-building efforts.
Could the jihadists inspired by Islamic State stoop any lower? Father Jacques Hamel was 85 years old. His young attackers reportedly attempted to behead him in front of the altar of his church. They failed in that but succeeded in killing him and in proving, once again, that an evil is stalking the continent and it is willing to plumb any depths in its attempts to terrorise and enslave us.
Christians in other parts of the world will not have been surprised at the blood spilt in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen. Some feel that we, in the West, have turned our backs on their sufferings. “We feel forgotten and isolated,” complained Louis Sako, the Chaldean Archbishop of Baghdad: “We sometimes wonder, if they kill us all, what would be the reaction of Christians in the West? Would they do something then?”
While estimates of the global scale of religious slaughter and harassment differ wildly, there is enough evidence to suggest that religious persecution is widespread and growing. The Open Doors charity is a respected and relatively cautious chronicler of persecution and it estimates that an average of 322 Christians are killed every month as a direct consequence of their faith, while 214 churches or Christian properties are demolished, burnt down or in some way destroyed. Overall, Open Doors records, Christians are subject to 772 acts of violence ”” including beatings, abductions, rapes, arrests or forced marriages ”” each month.
Read it all (requires subscription).
As for Mrs May, she recently (in her old job as home secretary) raised secularist hackles by the emollient terms in which she announced an 18-month enquiry into the operation of Islamic family law in Britain, led by a distinguished Muslim academic, Mona Siddiqui. The adjudication of divorce and inheritance matters by “sharia councils” does pose a dilemma for many liberal-democratic governments. On one hand, Britain (unlike France) allows people to bequeath their property to anybody they choose, and if they choose to make a will on Islamic principles that is formally speaking a free exercise of this entitlement. On the other, a person who grows up deep inside a traditional Muslim sub-culture may feel under overwhelming pressure to accept the adjudication of family affairs on Islamic lines, so there are questions about how free the choice really is.
For secularists (and for Christians of a more militant hue), Mrs May spoke too mildly when she responded by suggesting that the only problem lay in the abuse of a phenomenon which was in itself neutral or benign. What she said, inter alia, was: “Many British people of different faiths follow religious codes and practices, and benefit a great deal from the guidance they offer. [However] a number of women have reportedly been victims of what appear to be discriminatory decisions taken by Sharia councils, and that is a significant concern.”
Secularists immediately retorted that some aspects of Islamic family law (for example giving a woman half the inheritance rights of a man, and making it much easier for a man to initiate divorce) are intrinsically discriminatory; the problem lies in the rules, not in their unfair application.
But for someone of Mrs May’s background, there can be no rush to judgment. More than her secularist colleagues, she finds it self-evident that some groups in society can find comfort in “codes and practices” as well as texts, rituals and traditions which seem alien to outsiders.
Leaders of Britain’s main faith communities have united in condemning intolerance amid mounting reports of xenophobic and racist abuse in the wake of the EU referendum result.
The Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, the Catholic archbishop of Westminster, the chief rabbi and senior imams have all spoken out against division and expressions of hatred.
In Brussels, the United Nations human rights chief said he was deeply concerned about reports of attacks on minority communities and foreigners. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein urged the UK authorities to prosecute those responsible, saying racism and xenophobia were “completely, totally and utterly unacceptable in any circumstances”.
Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava: “All dharmas [truths, or religions] are equally valid.” Indians often cite this noble maxim, which was popularized by Mahatma Gandhi, and the country’s constitution remains firmly secular and democratic. In recent years, though, the country’s religious outlook has darkened to the point that minorities””including both Christians and Muslims””face dangers of severe persecution and violence.
The fact that that threat receives little attention in the West says much about our stereotypes of other world religions. If we saw a situation where tens of millions of Christians were being similarly maltreated by a Muslim regime, Western media and policy makers would speak out vigorously. But when the enemies of religious liberty are Hindu, members of a faith that Americans idealize, the public silence is deafening.
Although India’s ChrisÂtians do not represent a large proportion of the country’s vast population””only about 3 percent””they number about 40 million, comparable to the larger European nations. India’s Christians suffer from multiple disadvantages, especially because so many derive from people of low or no caste or from tribal communities on the margins of Hindu society. Official reluctance to accept the reality of conversions makes it difficult to assess the true extent of Christian numbers.
A growing number of Muslim refugees in Europe are converting to Christianity, according to churches, which have conducted mass baptisms in some places.
Reliable data on conversions is not available but anecdotal evidence suggests a pattern of rising church attendance by Muslims who have fled conflict, repression and economic hardship in countries across the Middle East and central Asia.
Complex factors behind the trend include heartfelt faith in a new religion, gratitude to Christian groups offering support during perilous and frightening journeys, and an expectation that conversion may aid asylum applications.
Read it all and don’t miss the great picture.
More recently, Notre Dame historian George Marsden ”” a self-described “Augustinian Christian” and so something close to an evangelical, whatever that still means ”” has argued in his book “The Twilight of the American Enlightenment” that religious traditionalists and secularist liberals can avoid a great deal of acrimony by defenestrating the midcentury idea of a “neutral” public sphere and instead adopting what he and others have termed “principled pluralism.” More recently still, in his new book “The Fractured Republic,” the scholar and journalist Yuval Levin, a Jewish social conservative, has counseled both religious conservatives and secularist liberals that they can repair our dysfunctional politics by comprehending the implications of this one essential truth: that American society is no longer the consolidated unit it once was but a diffuse assortment of subcultures.
True, many religious social conservatives still think it’s their duty to take America back, their disposition expressed in the fierce eloquence of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). But many do not. Many have finally given up on the whole idea of a culture war or are willing to admit they lost it. They are determined only to remain who they are and to live as amiably and productively as they can in a culture that doesn’t look like them and doesn’t belong to them.
In time, this shift in outlook may bring about a more peaceable public sphere. But that will depend on others ”” especially the adherents of an ascendant social progressivism ”” declining to take full advantage of their newfound cultural dominance. I see few signs of that, but I am hopeful all the same.
This isn’t the headline in most of the UK media, for some reason, which appears to prefer singling out Muslims and hijabs. There’s nothing quite like a bit of Islamomania in a morning to go with your toast and marmalade, is there? ”˜Top EU court adviser backs workplace Muslim headscarf ban”˜, says the BBC. ”˜EU’s top judge backs workplace ban on headscarves”˜, writes the Independent. ”˜Senior EU lawyer backs workplace ban on Muslim headscarves”˜, proclaims the Guardian., above a picture of Muslim women wearing sky-blue burqas (which the Guardian calls a ”˜headscarf’) emblazoned with the stars of the EU flag. ”˜Top European Union court adviser says employers should be allowed to ban Islamic headscarves”˜, says the Evening Standard, while the Express goes with: ”˜Bosses can ban Muslims wearing headscarves at work”˜.
It’s left to the Telegraph to take a more equitable and accurate approach to headlines: ”˜Bosses can ban headscarves and crucifixes, EU judge says”˜, they write (noting that ”˜crucifix’ sounds a bit meatier than ”˜cross’ in the spectrum of hallowed bling). But even this doesn’t extend to kippahs, tichels, turbans or karas. Why not just say: ”˜Bosses can ban religious clothing and jewellery in the workplace’? Or does that leave hanging the fuzzy question of facial hair? Should hirsute tendencies be exempt? If so, why?
The legal opinion (HERE in full) was issued by Juliane Kokott, an Advocate General to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), in response to clarification sought by a Belgian court on what precisely is banned under anti-discrimination laws, following the dismissal of a receptionist who refused her employer’s request not to wear her hijab at work.
A distinguished man of religion stood up on May 26th in one of London’s most prestigious locations. He urged his listeners (who were mostly co-religionists, but also included great-and-good figures from many other faiths) to ponder some of the dilemmas of our times: for example, should society’s future direction be left to the free interplay of goods and ideas, or should the state take the leading role in healing our collective wounds? The answer, he concluded, was both approaches were deeply flawed. Neither the market nor the state would save the Western world unless its citizens rediscovered a sense of the common good rooted in deep cultural memories.
What’s so unusual about any of that, you might ask. Isn’t that the kind of stuff you would expect a religious leader to say? Actually, it is rather unusual for a Western champion of faith to strike that note in a public forum, and the interesting question is why.
As it turns out, the religious leader in question featured in Erasmus quite recently, but his receipt of one of philanthropy’s most renowned awards (the Templeton Prize, which acknowledges those who “affirm life’s spiritual dimension”) seems a good enough reason to mention him again. He is Lord Jonathan Sacks, a former chief rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth and prolific author, most recently on religion and violence.
The Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Stanley Ntagali, has warned against syncretism ”“ the practice of merging different religious beliefs. The warning came after a prominent Christian politician made a public visit to her ancestral shrine to give thanks for her re-election ”“ a practice in line with the country’s traditional religions.
“We value our ancestors because we are connected to them by the relationship we have,” Archbishop Ntagali said. “But, we must always trust only in God. We no longer need to go through the spirits of the dead because Jesus is our hope and protector. He alone is the way, the truth and the life, as Jesus says in John 14:6.
“The Church of Uganda condemns syncretism,” he said, as he urged bishops and clergy to “use this opportunity to proclaim the sufficiency of Christ crucified to meet all our needs, and to work pastorally with Christians to apply this glorious truth practically in their lives.
Christian morality is being ushered out of American social structures and off the cultural main stage, leaving a vacuum in its place””and the broader culture is attempting to fill the void. New research from Barna reveals growing concern about the moral condition of the nation, even as many American adults admit they are uncertain about how to determine right from wrong. So what do Americans believe? Is truth relative or absolute? And do Christians see truth and morality in radically different ways from the broader public, or are they equally influenced by the growing tide of secularism and religious skepticism?
A majority of American adults across age group, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status and political ideology expresses concern about the nation’s moral condition””eight in 10 overall (80%). The proportion is closer to nine in 10 among Elders (89%) and Boomers (87%), while about three-quarters of Gen-Xers (75%) and Millennials (74%) report concern. Similarly, practicing Christians (90%) are more likely than adults of no faith (67%) or those who identify with a religious faith other than Christianity (72%) to say they are concerned about the moral condition of the nation. Though measurable differences exist between population segments, moral concern is widespread across the demographic board.
Much less widespread, however, is consensus on morality itself. What is it based on? Where does it come from? How can someone know what to do when making moral decisions? According to a majority of American adults (57%), knowing what is right or wrong is a matter of personal experience. This view is much more prevalent among younger generations than among older adults.
With temperatures in the region of 40C/100F, Iraq is in a terrible way, both politically and economically. The parliament has not been meeting, there are violent protests in Baghdad, and the oil revenue is starting to dry up. Despite this, we are still working on the front line. Yesterday, Dr Sarah Ahmed, FRRME’s Director of Operations in the Middle East, gave out 25 kg bags of flour to over 1,000 Iraqi IDP families in Erbil, Northern Iraq.
Read it all and do not miss the pictures.