Sunday 18 May 2014

Pope in the Holy Land, Oz refugees, Roger Scruton, aggrieved Muslims, 'Hallelujah', business ethics, Baha'i & homophobia and the C of E

Was this morning's Sunday as bad as I feared? Here's what happened.

1. Edward looks ahead to Pope Francis' upcoming historic and politically sensitive visit to the Holy Land with Vatican Correspondent for the Irish Times Paddy Agnew.

We got the background to the trip from Paddy Agnew: The Pope is going at the invitation of the Patriarch of Constantinople and visiting "Israel, Jordan and Palestine". He will go to the banks of the Jordan, the Church of the Nativity, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Yad Vashem, and refugee camps "in Palestine". 

Ed wondered: What about the Pope's safety? What about anti-Christian attacks?

That was the cue for Paddy Agnew to talk about anti-Christian attacks by Jewish groups - "price-tag attacks by ultra-orthodox Jews". 

Ed asked him to explain the "price-tag attacks" some more, and Paddy said they involved the spraying of Christian sites with anti-Christian slogans.

The Pope is taking a rabbi and a Muslim professor from Argentina with him, old friends of his.

This was as bad as I feared.

2. Phil Mercer reports on the Australian Church leaders calling for a wholesale review of the way the government treats asylum seekers in the offshore processing centre in Papua New Guinea.

Given Phil Mercer's past bias on this issue, I expected the worst here. 

We heard first from a 21 year old Sri Lankan refugee telling his story of flight from Sri Lanka. Phil asked him about his "frightening" boat journey and about how he felt about his time in a detention centre ("very upset"). Phil was getting us primed emotionally.

Then came a Sri-Lankan born pastor who said he was "in no doubt" the Australian government's policy is "inhumane". Phil led him on, asking him if it "shames this wealthy country".

Then came Misha Coleman  from the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce saying the policy is "unfair", that people shouldn't worry about Muslims, and that there's been a"culture of fear" since 9/11.

The sop to impartiality came with the contribution of Gerald Henderson of the Sydney Institute, a "conservative think tank", who defended the policy on the grounds that it saves lives, saving the would-be immigrants from from drowning.

But then there was a prayer for refugees and Phil's closing lines left us with the message that the policy risks making Australia look bad.

A biased report for sure, but at least there was a creditable conservative voice included. That doesn't always happen in Phil Mercer's immigration reports.

This was almost as bad as I feared.

3. Edward talks to philosopher Roger Scruton about his new book The Soul of the World and asks him about his defence of the Anglican Church.

Edward invited Roger Scruton to attack "the usual suspects", Richard Dawkins & Co. 

"I have a great respect for Dawkins", replied Prof. Scruton.

Still, he disagrees with his "evangelical" brand of atheism, and rejects "triumphant" science and "nothingbutery" [the Mona Lisa is nothing but pigments, chemicals, etc.]

Ed asked him if his affection for the Anglican Church was "fairly conventional", but Roger Scruton defended stable belief and the Anglican Church's "respect for the mysteries" and "easy-going, relaxed attitude" towards spiritual beliefs.

I could have done with more of this.

4. As the National September 11 Memorial Museum opened this week Edward talks to Matt Wells about the row over a museum film some say unfairly links Islam and terrorism.

The row here concerns a film called, 'The Rise of al-Qaeda', and astonishingly some Muslim groups - and supportive politicians and academics - are up in arms about it because it uses the word "Islam". 

They dislike the fact that the film says that "Islamists" were behind the 9/11 attacks because the "Islam" part of "Islamist" could make people connect the two words together and make them think (Allah forbid!) that Islam is somehow associated with violence whereas, as we all know, Islam is a religion of peace. We heard from a Muslim activist making that very point (Islam is about peace) and claiming that the film could be "offensive to Muslims".

Matt Wells put that side of the argument and then challenged Joe Daniels, the 9/11 Memorial president over the issue, pressing him the "offence" issue. 

Matt then reflected that there are "acute sensitivities" among the Muslim community and "extremists who vilify the whole religion of Islam".

So far, so typical Matt Wells reporting; however, in a closing shaft of reason, Matt did say that he feels there's been an "overreaction here".

This was almost as bad as I feared.

5. As a nun continues to power her way through the Italian version of musical talent show The Voice, Father Ray Kelly, an Irish Catholic priest who's own interpretation of Leonard Cohen's "Halleluja" went viral on YouTube last month, tells us what it's like juggling a vocation and a music career.

I've watched this video too, and it's delightful.

During a wedding ceremony, Father Ted Ray suddenly put on a background track and starting singing the Leonard Cohen song, with words adapted to welcome and bless the couple being married and, my goodness, what a wonderful singer he is! (Great song too, of course).

The couple didn't know he could sing, and it was a surprise to them.

They e-mailed him shortly after to thank him, and told him he was a huge hit on YouTube. 

The video achieved 34 million hits before being removed. (Why was it removed?)

Ed talked with him about the singing nun in Sicily who's doing well in a TV talent show there, then recalled The Singing Nun from the 1960s.

Sony and Universal are speaking to him and he's now in the process of finding a manager.

His bishop [Brennan?] asked him about how many hits he'd got, and replied "Ah bless!" when Father Ted Ray told him.

I do hope he'll record My Lovely Horse at some stage. 

6. How do you rebuild trust in business? Kevin Bocquet reports on a new plan to do just that with 'do unto others as they would do to you' at its heart.

Ah, yes, business ethics - that perennial Sunday theme! 

The Institute of Business Ethics has called for multinationals, etc, to sign up to a moral code - "global ethical standards, based on scripture". We heard from Simon Webley of the IBE arguing this case, but we also heard from Sunday morning Radio 4's 'only right-winger in the village', Richard D North of the Institute for Economic Affairs, "a free-market think tank", pouring sceptical cold water on the idea, along with a couple of other 'talking heads' who added further caveats.

The result was a surprisingly balanced report, even if the choice of theme in the first place suggests bias.

7. An Iranian cemetery which is the resting place of ten Baha'i women who refused to recant their faith in 1983 is being demolished by the country's Revolutionary Guard. Edward talks to a member of the Bhai community in Britain whose sister is buried in the cemetery.

We heard from the brother of one of the ten women (aged between 17 and 57) executed by the Iranian regime in 1983, martyrs who refused to recant. 

There have been over 200 executions of Baha'i in post-revolution Iran. There are employment bans, their kids are excluded from schools, etc. (Iran is an apartheid state!) The persection even seems to have intensified since cuddly President Rouhani came to power. 

We're lucky not to be Baha'i in Iran.

8. The Archbishop of Canterbury has published guidance on tackling homophobia in Church of England schools. But how does the church square this message with its opposition to same-sex marriage? Rev Jan Ainsworth and Bishop Alan Wilson discuss.

We heard first from Stonewall's Luke Trill, who welcomes Justin Welby's move, then came the debate with Rev Jan and Bishop Alan [strongly pro-same sex marriage.]

It is on areas of social attitudes that Sunday's liberal bias really comes into its own, as here. Edward Stourton pursued Luke Trill and Alan Wilson's point that the guidance doesn't square with the Church's opposition to same-sex marriage and that that opposition is a problem, and pursued it will some vigour, repeatedly re-asking it, interrupting and challenging Rev Jan and putting words into Bishop Alan's mouth. ("I think that's exactly right", said Bishop Alan at one point, reacting to an Ed Stourton question to him). 

Edward Stourton conducted this interview in such a one-sided way that bias is the only explanation.

This was even worse than I'd feared.

Still, the sun is out again, so enjoy your Sunday - even if you don't enjoy their Sunday.


  1. Sorry - I posted this comment under the wrong blog item.

    Phil Mercer's one of those reporters who simply have no idea how to deliver a script, consistently stressing the wrong words, etc. This type was very popular with the BBC about 20 years ago (in fact, I think an inability to modulate the voice properly was a specific requirement): I thought the breed had more or less died out, but Mercer's an obvious throwback that they must have dredged up from the depths of the Pacific.

    From your description, this morning's edition sounds like it was pretty grim fare, but fair do's - unless one's a card-carrying member of the Revolutionary Guard the item on the Baha'i cemetery demolition sounds like it was some serious reporting.

  2. Sad that the BBC is so biased that they did not report the following story on Sunday.
    Christians protest Pakistan’s travel ban to Israel.

  3. Usual slop of red herrings that passes for "religious broadcasting then".
    The BBC really need a stale buffet table solely devoted to "business ethics"-to "gay marriages" to "green issues"...and let the rest of us concentrate on OUR religion...not their milksop parody of one.
    1. The notion that Jews might endanger the Pope when he goes to the Holy Land...JEWS! contemptible. Talk about projection?...avoiding the REAL danger to Christians(and Jews, too of course)...spineless, gutless Stourton.
    2. No Boko Trojan Horse follow up? if the BBC would even dare to tell us about them in a religious setting.
    3 9/11 Museum?....beneath contempt...which(of course) is why the BBC choose to serve it up to us.
    4. Those brave Christians in Pakistan wanting to go to the Holy Land?...bravery beyond measure-but no BBC comment whatsoever.
    5. Death sentence for a Christian woman in Sudan?...nothing further to discuss, according to the BBC!...spineless and disgusting omission.
    6. Immigration-funny isn`t it when Australia is liked( Gillard green crap, smoking packets)...and when it`s in actually CARING about who comes into their country. Put it on the buffet table this one!
    7. Scruton?...can`t get enough of this great man-one of the last of the breed!
    And yet again-thanks for listening so the rest of us don`t have to!


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