EU Referendum

At school we’re going to have our own EU Referendum vote on 23rd June.

Do you know if you’re going to vote to remain in the EU or leave it?

If you’re undecided, here are some easy links to help you understand all the pros and cons:

  • Newsround is often a good place to start if trying to get your head round a difficult topic. It has a few useful pages to help you understand the topic.
  • Most news websites have special sections dedicated to the EU referendum. When you’re reading be aware of possible bias as most newspapers have an opinion of whether Britain should stay or go. The Guardian tries to shine a light on some of the claims made by Brexit or Remain groups. The Independent has plenty of articles about the division currently faced by the people of Britain. The Daily Mail has numerous articles too, though it’s less easy to find them all in one place, you’ll have to search for them. The Daily Mirror is my last link for you, with a plethora of articles and even a quiz for you to fill in so you can find out whether you should vote remain or leave.

What British Muslims really think

A TV programme on Wednesday evening on Channel 4 might be worthwhile watching for our GCSE RS students. Channel 4 commissioned face-to-face, at-home interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 Muslims across the UK between 25 April and 31 May 2015 so they would be able to report on what British Muslims really think. Obviously a thousand is no where near the actual number of Muslims living in Britain (2, 706, 066), but as  a survey it is found to be enough to be representative. The Guardian has reported in quite some depth about the TV programme’s findings but I still think watching it would be worthwhile.

A few interesting facts were unearthed by the survey:

  • The research suggests that 86% of British Muslims feel a strong sense of belonging in Britain, which is higher than the national average of 83%.
  • A large majority (91%) of the British Muslims who took part in the survey said they felt a strong sense of belonging in their local area, which is higher than the national average of 76%.
  • However, when asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed that homosexuality should be legal in Britain, 18% said they agreed and 52% said they disagreed, compared with 5% among the public at large who disagreed.
  • 39% of the Muslims surveyed agreed that “wives should always obey their husbands”, compared with 5% of the country as a whole.

MP’s imply that trade is more important than human rights

In 1948 after the horrors of World War Two had finally been brought to an end the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations in Paris. It was the first time that human rights would be universally protected for all people and was a huge milestone in world history.

But today British ministers are being criticised for their words and actions which seem to imply that trade with countries such China, Saudia Arabia and Egypt is more important to Britain than pressing these countries on their human rights abuses. Examples are when in October, Sir Simon McDonald, the Foreign Office’s most senior civil servant, said human rights was “not one of our top priorities” and comments made by Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood, who has said he could not remember whether he had raised human rights during a visit to Egypt with a business delegation.

The saddest thing is that with all these comments the impression is given to British people that trade is more important than human rights when actually the British foreign office has been taking huge action on protecting human rights too. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said improving human rights was a “core function of the Foreign Office” and a special fund for human rights has been doubled.The UK actually supports over 75 human rights projects in more than 40 countries.


For some up-to-date stories about human rights battles around the world make sure you check out Amnesty International‘s website. The global movement exposes human rights abuses and then fights for the UDHR to be followed by protesting, writing letters and raising awareness of issues with governments and the public. Its founder Peter Benenson said: “Only when the last prisoner of conscience has been freed, when the last torture chamber has been closed, when the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a reality for the world’s people, will our work be done.”

Natural evil battering Britain

Natural evil, suffering caused by nature, is currently battering large parts of Britain with high winds and heavy rainfall resulting in flooding and electricity cuts.

Read on the BBC how the government tries to respond to these natural disasters with flood organisations giving people flood warnings to they can be ready for danger and how people are on the ground ready to respond to any serious risks to life.

Who’s to blame for this kind of suffering?

Can God exist when people suffer in a world he supposedly created?

Shouldn’t God be omni-benevelent, omniscient and omnipotent so natural evil wouldn’t exist?

Are humans actually to blame for siting their towns and villages in areas prone to flooding like on river banks or coastal areas?

ISIS in Syria Update

Year 9 students are just starting to learn about terrorism and fighting for religious beliefs. After one lesson on ISIS they might understand more than other students this weekend’s stories about ISIS.

In Palmyra (Syria) the Syrian government have been doing air strikes against ISIS fighters. Reports say that hundreds were injured and twenty six Islamic State fighters killed. The name Palmyra might ring a bell as it’s been in the news for the temple which was just recently destroyed by ISIS. The temple Baal Shamin was blown up by ISIS even though it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Baal Shamin

In other news about Syria and ISIS this weekend there have been telephone meetings between the US and Russia about the two sides involvement in financially supporting groups. Russia has been providing military weapons to the Syrian government (and President Assad) whilst the US and UK had been supporting rebel groups trying to depose (get rid of) Assad. British officials have said that Russia’s involvement complicated matters.

A Summer of Fun in London

There are so many amazing exhibitions and special events which are due to take place this summer in London that you truly have an array of exciting learning opportunities there for the taking.

Here are some examples but I’d recommend that you check out Time Out London  to get a better idea of what you can do.

TATE BRITAIN – British Folk Art is on until 31st August 2014, costing £14.50 for adults and £12.50 for children. You will discover the extraordinary and surprising works of some of Britain’s unsung artists in the first major exhibition of British folk art.

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Steeped in tradition and often created by self-taught artists and artisans, the often humble but always remarkable objects in this exhibition include everything from ships’ figureheads to quirky shop signs, Toby jugs to elaborately crafted quilts. I went with my seven year old daughter and we both found it a real eye opener to often unmentioned British culture and history. Why don’t we learn about this in school?

TATE MODERN – Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is a hugely popular exhibition which is on until 7th September, costing £18 for adults and £16 for children. Henri Matisse is a giant of modern art. This landmark show explores the final chapter in his career in which he began ‘carving into colour’ and his series of spectacular cut-outs was born.


The exhibition represents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see so many of the artist’s works in one place and discover Matisse’s final artistic triumph. Like all art exhibitions it isn’t just about the Art and you get an insight into Matisse’s life in the first half of the 20th century.

BRITISH MUSEUM – The Other Side of the Medal – how Germany saw the First World War is a free display which examines a selection of medals made by artists who lived and worked in Germany between 1914 and 1919. Challenging and at times deliberately provocative, many of the medals were intended to influence popular opinion against Germany’s enemies. Others provide a more universal criticism about the futility of war and waste of human life. You’ve got until 23rd November 2014 to catch this special display.

THE CARTOON MUSEUM (35 Little Russell Street, London) – 1914 Day by Day Cartoons will be until 19th October and will see twelve cartoonists and graphic artists respond to the events that happened across the world as the world was heading to war one hundred years ago.

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Artists include Steve Bell (Guardian), Peter Brookes (The Times), Steven Camley (Glasgow Herald), Kate Charlesworth (The Cartoon History of Time), Achim Greser & Heribert Lenz (Frankfurter Allegemeine), John McCrea & Ferg Handley (Marvel/Lucasfilm & Marvel/Commando), Jon McNaught (Dockwood), Woodrow Phoenix (Rumble Strip), Zoom Rockman (The Zoom!), Posy Simmonds (Tamara Drew), Ralph Steadman (New Statesman), and Lalit Kumar Sharma & Alan Cowsill (The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Marvel).

Should David Cameron have said Britain is ‘a Christian country?’

The Prime Minister’s comments that Britain is “a Christian country” have been met with mixed responses – positive and negative. How do you feel about? Is he stating the truth so it was fine to say it, or stating something that though true shouldn’t be banded around as it will offend non-Christian Britons? Or is it even true; is Britain all that Christian anymore?

Religious groups from a variety of faiths have said they support what David Cameron said, whereas other public figures said they think his comments are divisive.

This news story hits two areas of our GCSE RE course: media freedom to report issues which might be divisive or offensive, as well as how religion affects community cohesion.