Dr Abel Ugba is member of the Centre for Religion and Public Life and Teaching Fellow in Sociology at the University of Leeds whose work focuses on media, religion, migration and international development. This is the second piece for his ongoing MoR column for the Religion in Public blog.
In November, Muslims distributed roses, France proposed changes to secularism law, CoE bishops advised priests on gay worshippers, communion wafer was linked to flu, thieves committed unholy acts in temples and churches, and Asia Bibi remained in Pakistan many months after her reprieve from jail.
Muslims in Dunfermline hand out roses and message of peace: Aiming to engage more with the public, Muslims in the Scottish town of Dunfermline have distributed roses to passers-by and espoused Islam as a religion of peace. The occasion, organised by Dunfermline Central Mosque and As Siraat,also marked the community’s celebration of the birthday of Prophet Mohammed. Ajaz Mohammed of the Central Mosque said: ‘We find that people do not realise that we celebrate the Prophet’s birth, just like Christians at Christmas for Jesus’, except that Christmas or December 25 has a lot more to do with paganism than Christ or Christianity.
(Dunfermline Press– November 28)
Religious groups worry as France tinker with law that separates state and religion: French interior ministry officials are adamant that the proposed amendment to the Law of 1905 would not blur the line that separates the state and religion, but that hasn’t stopped various religious groups from worrying about it. The amendment would bring the legal status of Mosques in line with that of other major religions. Until now Mosques in the country have mostly been registered under the Law of 1901 that regulates cultural associations. The new status comes with financial advantages, for example, Mosques would enjoy tax exemptions on donations and bequests – like other religions. However, their financial conduct would come under greater scrutiny from the state and they – and other major religions – could be required to re-certify every five years. Critiques say that the proposed change is really aimed at making it easier to monitor the movement of monies among Muslim groups. The French Council of the Muslim Faith [CFCM] is unhappy, among other reasons, because there has not been sufficient consultation on the issue. Joel Mergui of the [Israelite] Central Consistory [of France] is worried about ‘the collateral effects that might result from reorganising a religion.’
(BBC Monitoring Europe– November 28)
Church of England bishops offer advice on gay worshippers to priests: Four Church of England bishops have advised priests to refrain from asking probing questions about worshippers’ sexual or gender preference and from offering ‘faith’ as a cure for homosexuality. They said their initiative would fill a void till 2020 when the CoE is expected to offer official guidance. The bishops of Oxford, Dorchester, Buckingham and Reading said: ‘We have received many requests for guidance and we are convinced that remaining silent on these issues is not serving the church well.’
(The Times– November 24)
Think twice before you dip the wafer, churches told: Dipping wafers into wine and offering them to worshippers could spread flu and allergic reactions, the Bishop of Manchester, Rev David Walker has warned. Advising priests to jettison the practice during the winter months, he said: ‘When a wafer is given into the hands of a communicant it may become contaminated by germs lying on the skin. Intincting the wafer then introduces those germs directly into the wine. There is also the possibility of finger tips inadvertently dipping into the liquid.’
(The Times– November 26)
Thieves visit temples and church: Audacious thieves raided two Hindu temples in London one week apart and stole money and relics. The first theft took place on November 9 at the Shree Swaminarayan Temple in Willesden Lane, and the second on the 13th in at Shri Kutch Satsang Swaminarayan Temple in Westfield Lane. Collections taken during the Diwali celebrations and three images that had been at the temple in Willesden since it opened in 1975 were stolen. The temple authorities stated: ‘We have faith that all three Hari Krishna idols will return home. In the meantime please pray for their safe return.’
(Harrow Times– November 17)
Meanwhile, the 13thcentury All Saints Church in Offord Cluny in Cambridgeshire was visited by thieves who stole its lead roof estimated at £100,000. Churches have experienced an average of 37 metal thefts a month, states a November 20 report in the Metro.
The faithful pitied by all, but wanted by none: Months ago Asia Bibi, who had been condemned to death for blasphemy and locked up in Pakistan for eight years, got a reprieve. The long battle that culminated in her release exacerbated religion tension in Pakistan and claimed the life of an official who openly supported her fight for freedom. Following her release, governments and human rights groups in the West rejoiced, but irate zealots burnt effigies of her in public places in Pakistan and threatened her supporters with death. There were calls for Asia and her family to be given a safe passage to safety and security in the West. At first it seems many governments were eager to offer a refuge, but many months have passed and Asia is still ensconced in Pakistan, fearful for her life and those of her family members. Asked by MP Zac Goldsmith during PMQs whether she had actually “personally intervened” to stop the United Kingdom from offering sanctuary to Asia Bibi, Theresa May said the ‘prime concern’ was the safety of Asia and her family and then advised Goldsmith to stop believing ‘everything he reads in the papers.’ Or promises made by politicians!
(BBC, November 29)
Written By: Dr Abel Ugba
Image Credit: Alan Creech @Flickr