Religion News Australia

Dec 1 – 8, 2019

Religion news stories from Australia

(Research: Greg Spearritt)




Tony Abbott filmed leaving the prison where Cardinal George Pell is being held (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 2 – The former prime minister Tony Abbott has been filmed leaving the Melbourne prison where the convicted paedophile Cardinal George Pell is being held, with the former Coalition leader saying he was there “visiting a friend”.

Jail for Queensland church leader who raped choir girls (Brisbane Times)
Dec 5 – A Queensland church leader whose family died while escaping from a war-torn African country could be deported after serving a jail sentence for raping and indecently assaulting young choir members.


Pope’s story in shaky hands (The Australian)
Dec 7 – (Review)  A moving true story of an unlikely bond is largely ruined by the director’s use of queasy-cam.


ACT school chaplains set to lose hours in new role leading to concerns student demand won’t be met (ABC News)
Dec 3 – Katie Pratt spends 22 hours a week working as a chaplain at a primary school in Canberra.

Islamic schools grow as parents seek a ‘safe zone’ for their children (The Age, Melbourne)
Dec 7 – Victoria’s private Islamic schools are the fastest growing schools in the state, almost doubling their population in just eight years.


Israeli court rejects appeal from Melbourne teacher accused of sex crimes (Brisbane Times)
Dec 4 – Jerusalem: A former Melbourne school principal accused of sexually assaulting female students has lost a bid in an Israeli court to stop a further psychiatric examination to assess if she is mentally fit for extradition.


Uprooted Jews should be seen as refugees, Israel says (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 4 – New York: Israel wants the United Nations to recognise as refugees hundreds of thousands of Jews who fled Arab and Muslim countries in the last century.

Jeremy Corbyn apologises for antisemitism in the Labour party (The Australian)
Dec 4 – Jeremy Corbyn has apologised for “everything that has happened” over antisemitism in the Labour party after criticism for his earlier failures to say sorry.

Angela Merkel speaks of ‘deep shame’ on first visit to Auschwitz (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 7 – Angela Merkel has expressed “deep shame” during her first visit as German chancellor to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Holocaust memorial and vowed to fight rising racism and antisemitism in Germany and Europe.

Religious Violence

Struck twice by terror, this London cathedral looks to God for answers (Brisbane Times)
Dec 2 – London: On the stone pavement outside Southwark Cathedral, a modest flower arrangement sits below a printed message of hope for those who have come here seeking answers to the inexplicable.

‘Atrocity of the century’: Uighur activist urges Australia to take tougher stance against China (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 7 – A leading Uighur activist, Rushan Abbas, has urged Australian MPs to take a stronger stance against the Chinese regime, while backing controversial comparisons between the state’s authoritarianism and Nazi Germany.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi heads to The Hague for genocide hearings (ABC News)
Dec 8 – Myanmar leader and Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has departed for the UN’s top court in The Hague to defend the country against charges of the genocide of its Rohingya Muslim minority.


Sword-wielding butchers slaughter thousands of animals to honour Hindu goddess Gadhimai in Nepal (ABC News)
Dec 4 – Thousands of animals were killed on the first day of a religious festival in Nepal, as Hindu devotees gathered to honour the goddess Gadhimai.

Microsoft and Amazon targeted by faith groups in immigration fight (ABC News)
Dec 7 – The mossy courtyard of a gothic revival church in Brooklyn has little in common with a Microsoft office, but Silas Berkowitz’s conscience has led him here.


AFP arrest alleged Sydney Islamic State recruiter over radicalisation of teenagers (ABC News)
Dec 4 – Federal police have arrested a 21-year-old Sydney man they allege was an Islamic State (IS) recruiter who tried to radicalise teenagers into carrying out politically motivated violence.

Also: Sydney terror arrest: jihad film posted as raids loomed (The Australian)
Dec 4 – An alleged Islamic State supporter arrested after downloading a guide to attacking people with knives and other weapons shared war-scene videos marked “Soldiers of the Khilafah” (caliphate) just hours before counter-terrorism police took him into custody.

Also: Alleged IS supporter and terror plotter kicks out at cameraman outside court (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 5 – A Sydney man accused of pledging allegiance to Islamic State, downloading information about knives and blunt instruments and attempting to recruit teenagers to his alleged extremist ideology will remain behind bars until at least December 17, when his lawyer says he will apply for bail.

As a Muslim Mariam lives the ‘five before five’ — and finds meaning and balance as a death doula (ABC News)
Dec 8 – “I collided head on with a truck, the car caught on fire. It was a huge emergency operation,” says Mariam Ardati.


With Bible in hand, Scott Morrison salutes hostage Timothy Weeks’s victory of faith (The Australian)
Dec 4 – With a Bible the Prime Minister had just handed him sitting on his lap, freed Taliban hostage Timothy Weeks told Scott Morrison his faith had given him strength to survive more than three years in shackled captivity.

Angus Taylor rejects Naomi Wolf’s ‘outrageous’ claims about Oxford story (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 5 – Embattled Energy Minister Angus Taylor is digging in after feminist author Naomi Wolf accused him of telling a false story about her time at Oxford, saying her allegations are “deeply offensive” and “outrageous”.


Freed Taliban hostage Timothy Weeks says he never gave up hope (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 1 – Freed Taliban hostage Timothy Weeks says he never gave up hope he would be rescued during three “long and tortuous” years in captivity in Afghanistan.

Rugby Australia ‘doing what’s right’ in defending Folau lawsuit: Castle (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 2 – Chief executive Raelene Castle says she has no doubt Rugby Australia is doing “what’s right” in defending the $14 million lawsuit brought by controversial ex-Wallaby Israel Folau.

Also: Rugby Australia and Israel Folau settle legal dispute over sacking (ABC News)
Dec 4 – Rugby Australia has apologised to Israel Folau as part of a confidential settlement reached over the former Wallabies player’s sacking.

Also: Folau settlement saga over but bitter taste remains (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 4 – (Opinion: Peter FitzSimons) And so it is over.

Also: Most stunning claim in Israel Folau settlement with Rugby Australia (
Dec 4 – (Opinion: James Matthey) Izzy for real?

Also: Folau: Rugby’s apology vindicates me (The Australian)
Dec 4 – After Rugby Australia’s apology, Israel Folau says he is ‘looking forward’ to the Morrison government passing laws protecting the right to religious expression.

Also: No one is happy but there are lessons to be learnt from Folau saga (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 8 – (Opinion: Editorial) Rugby Australia’s decision to settle the unfair termination case brought by Israel Folau has ended a painful episode for the sport but it seems no one is happy.

Australians respect religion (The Australian)
Dec 3 – Majority believe respecting religion is important ‘even when others find them offensive’.

Far-right extremist Phillip Galea found guilty of plotting terror attacks in Melbourne (The Guardian, Australia)
Dec 5 – A Melbourne man has been found guilty of plotting terror attacks against “left wing” targets including Trades Hall and creating a handbook for would-be attackers.

‘Searched for weapons?’: Church of Scientology upsets neighbours with new security measures (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dec 8 – The Church of Scientology has been accused of blocking access to public parklands and intimidating residents with security guards and guard dogs.

My experience travelling to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the most contested places on earth (ABC News)
Dec 8 – (Opinion: Erwin Renaldi) One of the oldest cities in the world and filled with heritage sites, Jerusalem has for centuries been captured, divided, conquered, destroyed and rebuilt many times over by various empires and nations to this very day.