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Bussy-Saint-Georges, the Town with Built-in Religious Harmony

Photography Credit to Philippe Wojazer/Reuters from the Guardian.

Workmen prepare the European Regional Temple in Bussy-Saint Georges.

by Stephanie Le Bars
from The Guardian Weekly

Hugues Rondeau is the Radical party mayor of Bussy-Saint-Georges, a new town in the Paris suburbs. His taste for “ordered urban space” has led to an innovation: the multi-faith district. On a plot of land just beyond the built-up area, he has authorised the construction of several places of worship.

“Here there will be two Buddhist temples, a mosque, a synagogue, a Chinese evangelical church and an Armenian cultural centre,” said the mayor, a practising Catholic who is convinced that in a secular state the government should not turn a blind eye to religious fact. “Our 30,000 inhabitants are mostly of foreign origin with 45% from Asia,” he said. “We couldn’t deprive them of their religious practice.”

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Sports Hijabs Help Muslim Women to Olympic Success

Photography credit to Ali Jarekji/Reuters.  The Guardian.

The Iranian women’s national football team wearing sport hijabs.

by Homa Khaleeli
from The Guardian

Amid the furore over the state of undress of one of the UK’s most successful female cyclists, the increasing aceptance of sportswear that allows Muslim women to compete has garnered little attention.

Earlier this month Fifa finally overturned its ban, brought in in 2007, on women playing football with their heads covered. The decision came too late for the Iranian football team. It had already prevented them from playing in their 2012 Olympic qualifying match last year and disappointed their female fans in the football-mad Islamic Republic, where women are not allowed to watch men’s matches and headscarves are mandatory for women. But the overturning of the ban was cheered by footballers around the world, some of whom, such as Australian Assmaah Helal, wear the hijab through choice.

London 2012 is the first Olympics where women will compete in all 26 sports on offer (although still in 30 fewer events in total), and Fifa is just one of several international bodies to relax clothing rules and so allow more Muslim women to compete in the Games. It’s impossible to know how many women will be competing with their head covered this year, but they include judo player Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim and Saudi Arabian runner Sarah Attar, as well as footballers.

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July 30th, 2012 at 10:55 am

“Free food and a day off school timetable- what’s not to love?”

Photo Credit Ella Weeks

Some of Fran’s fellow pupils at Benton Park High School’s World Religions Day.

by Fran Talbot
from The Guardian

It was 8:15am. I stood, chopping melons, in a 60 year old Chinese dress. Outside, some unusually dour northern weather was doing its utmost best to turn Benton Park School into a lake.  The Year 7s were practically having to swim past the school gates and the Brazilian samba band looked incredibly nostalgic for the golden sun of Rio.

Okay, so the last paragraph sounds like the start of a low budget disaster movie, but it was in fact the start of Benton Park’s famous World Religions Day!

I love World Religions Day. It’s the crazy brain child of Benton’s Religious Studies and Philosophy department, and Head Teacher Mr Foley. Conceived four years ago in an attempt to bring cultural diversity to Benton Park, it has been a roaring success right from the start.

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July 21st, 2012 at 10:55 am

Queen Makes First Visit to Catholic Church in Northern Ireland

Photo from Press Eye Ltd.

The Queen arrives in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.

by Caroline Davies

from The Guardian

On the eve of her historic meeting with the former IRA commander Martin McGuinness, the Queen began her two-day tour of Northern Ireland on Tuesday by visiting a community that suffered one of the most notorious IRA attacks.

The Queen joined Catholic and Protestant leaders in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, scene of the Remembrance Day bombing which killed 11 people and injured 63 others 25 years ago. Crowds gathered in the wind and rain to watch her attend a service of thanksgiving in the Anglican St Macartin’s Cathedral, then cross the road to St Michael’s Roman Catholic church, where she met members of the community.

It was the first time in her 60-year reign the Queen had set foot in a Catholic church in Northern Ireland. But then this visit, probably the most significant she has made to the province, has promised some ground-breaking moments. Chief among them is the much-anticipated meeting between McGuinness, the Sinn Féin deputy first minister, and the Queen, the ultimate symbol of British rule in Ireland

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The Three Faiths Forum- Helping Children Understand

Photograph by Cathal Mcnaughton/PA

A Three Faiths Forum event in action.

by Jessica Abrahams
from The Guardian

Fifteen years ago, a Muslim scholar, a Christian priest and a Jewish philanthropist came together in London to create Three Faiths Forum (3FF), a platform for community leaders to engage with each another and break down barriers. But today, some of the most valuable work the charity undertakes is in schools, ensuring that tensions between faith communities don’t trickle down to the next generation.

Often this will simply be making sure that children of different faiths have an opportunity to meet one another or addressing a lack of knowledge about other religions; occasionally more severe problems occur. “We’re contacted by RE teachers to help when there’s been anti-Jewish, -Muslim or -Christian sentiment,” says Debbie Danon, the charity’s education manager.

Deputy director Rachel Heilbron speaks of one particularly serious case they became involved with last year. A teacher discussing the features of a church with a group of 14-year-old students at a non-denominational school in London mentioned synagogues. Some of the students complained they didn’t want to learn about “Jew stuff”. They said that Jews were dirty and smelly and that they kept money under their hats. As the situation escalated, some of the children began banging on the tables, chanting: “Kill the Jews, kill the Jews.”

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