Sunday 10 August 2014

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on 'Sunday'

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are very busy at the moment. (Their poor horses must be well and truly knackered.) Conquest, War, Famine, and Death are galloping around many countries and this morning's Sunday turned its eyes towards some of them.

Here's what happened (with, as ever, quotes from the Sunday website as headings):

1. "Last week on Sunday the Bishop of Manchester called on the Government to give refuge to Iraqi Christians. This week, as the situation for Christians and other religious minorities worsens, Cardinal Vincent Nicholls (sic) and the Archbishop of Canterbury add their voices to that plea."

This was the programme's main theme. We heard of the dreadful plight of the Yazidis and of the 100,000 Christian refugees in Erbil. William Crawley talked to Archbishop Bashar Warda. 17,000 people have arrived in his district of Erbil alone. He said they simply cannot cope with the numbers.

2. "After Canon Jeremy Pemberton became the first member of the clergy to marry his same sex partner the offer of an NHS job as a hospital chaplain was withdrawn. Bob Walker reports on the case and William asks Jeremy Pemberton if he will launch a legal challenge against the Church of England."

This is a classic Sunday story. Canon Pemberton's local bishop refused to give him a licence to act as a hospital chaplain following his marriage to a man. The BBC's Bob Walker looked at the legal issue and gave us some "strong views" on this latest "controversy". We hear from a LGBT Justice for Jeremy campaigner and from Sunday regular, Rev Colin Coward of Changing Attitude England. They both support Canon Pemberton. We also heard from Andrew Symes of Anglican Mainstream, who doesn't. He says church doctrine should not be affected by a government change of policy on marriage and believes Jeremy Pemberton's actions have been "an act of protest" and that the bishop's denial of a license was "justified". Legal eagle Joshua Rosenberg then concluded the report by saying that Jeremy Pemberton may have a case.

Finally, William Crawley interviewed Jeremy Pemberton, sympathetically.

Sunday will doubtless be following this story further. 

3. "David Willey has details of Pope Francis' forthcoming visit to South Korea."

It wouldn't be Sunday these days without something about the latest doings of Pope Francis.

David Willey pointed out that this is the first visit by a pope to Asia since 1995 and is the first of three such visits over the coming months. (Pope Francis will be off to Sri Lanka and the Philippines soon.)

Only 3% of the worlds Catholics live in Asia (though young Catholics from 23 Asian countries will be meeting the Pope in Seoul). South Korea, however, is one of Catholicism's growth points in the region. In the 1970s only 2% of South Koreans were Catholics, now it's 11% - which is some rise!

Catholicism isn't new to Korea though. French missionaries started converting Koreans in the 19th Century, but lay Koreans had already begun setting up churches there in the 18th Century, learning their Christianity from the Chinese. 

4. "Even after all these years, the news of a new Star Wars film can cause a flutter among film-goers. David Wilkinson, the author of The Power of the Force: the Spirituality of Star Wars, tells William about the theology that permeates the movies."

More war!

There's a new Star Wars film out and Thought for the Day regular Rev Prof David Wilkinson was just the man for Sunday to interview about it. (It's not Rev Prof David Wilkinson's first appearance on Sunday, and it won't be his last). The format might have been different (an interview) but the Rev Prof still sounded exactly like he does on TFTD. 

His insights? That Star Wars is good because it doesn't provide simple black and white answers, and it's better at posing questions than giving answers. Thus, Darth Vadar may be an icon of evil, but he shows how evil develops in subtle ways out of political situations. That's why we first see Anakin Skywalker in the context of an interplanetary trades dispute, he said.

We also learned that David Wilkinson doesn't like Midsomer Murders and that George Lucas calls himself "a Buddhist Methodist".

5. "The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, presents his second report from South Sudan. He describes the humanitarian effort that is underway amidst concerns that 4 million people could soon be affected by famine."

This was the second Sunday report from Rowan Williams on the grim situation in the world's newest country (independent since 2011). Over 1.5 million people displaced in the new civil war there.

"Some people outside have lost interest in it", said Rowan.

6. "Bishop Patrick Daniel Koroma of Kemema says the church in Sierra Leone is playing a vital role in helping people understand ebola and raise awareness about the virus."

From war and famine to pestilence.

Nearly a thousand people have died from the Ebola virus so far and the disease is now spreading beyond Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia into Nigeria (as if Nigeria didn't already have enough on its plate). Kenema (not "Kemema") is in eastern Sierra Leone, close to the Liberian border. Bishop Koroma said that the Church is working on the "sensitisation of the people", explaining the nature of the virus, talking to people on the radio about it.

And, yes, there are problems with politics and witchcraft to contend with too.

7. "Last week on Sunday the Bishop of Manchester called on the Government to give refuge to Iraqi Christians. This week, as the situation for Christians and other religious minorities worsens, Cardinal Vincent Nicholls (sic) and the Archbishop of Canterbury add their voices to that plea."

The Bishop of Manchester was on last week's Sunday calling for British people to get over their concerns about immigration and grant asylum to as many of the persecuted minorities in IS-controlled Iraq as is necessary. This week's Sunday amplified that call.

William Crawley talked to Justin Welby (speaking from Papua, New Guinea). Archbishop Welby, though cautious on giving an opinion on military matters, agreed that we should "open the doors" to the persecuted of Iraq. When William interviewed Cardinal Nichols, he was of the same mind too.

William also talked to Monsignor Nizar Semaan, Chaplain of the Syrian Catholic Community in the UK.

He is originally from Qaraqosh (the latest Christian-heavy Iraqi town conquered by Islamic State), and the interview with him was a moving one. He was clearly very upset and the off-the-scale brutality being perpetrated there.

It was one of those awful Radio 4 moments when William had to cut him off just as he was imploring the world not to be silent on the issue. The programme had run out of time. 


  1. I was just about to say that this Buckaroo of a programme seemed already over-burdened and all over the place..and then you say it runs out of space at a key point.
    Is this dumping ground of all things vaguely spiritual just overfilled by way of fulfilling a need to include pagans and Jedi worship?...or is the idea to water down the screaming need for some analysis of how come 2000 years of Holy Land is coming to a bloody end?
    Why not a "Special" on what`s going on in each of these benighted countries and the issues?`s as if ISIS aren`t a serious enough threat for the BBC,when there`s a grumpy gay vicar to bore us all with.
    And why no critique of Welbys call to airlift the Christians and Yazidis out of Iraq?...don`t the BBC always trumpet the joys of immigration?
    Or do they have to be Somali and Afghan nutjobs abd jihadi Muslims to get the likes of Shami and Gareth to celebrate their "passion and commitment" to ensuring the law is a bit clearer, and faith issues a bit simpler...Sharia and a veil style?

  2. This really is a clueless analysis of a programme I also listened to.


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