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tv   Dateline London  BBC News  April 21, 2019 11:30am-12:01pm BST

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scotland, across scotland, northern ireland, hello, this is bbc news. england and wales in the mid 20s. i'm martine croxall. into the evening, places will be the headlines: dry, departures will fall away with a little bit of mist and fog. for 160 people have been killed, easter monday, we will lose this and hundreds more injured after eight seperate explosions weather front i should see more sunshine across the north west, a at churches and hotels in sri lanka. christian worshippers in three bit of hazy cloud moving northwards, churches were targetted — as they gathered to celebrate easter. there were blasts at four hotels — so bit of hazy cloud moving northwards, so sunshine will be hazy at times, nine foreign nationals are among those who have died. another one day to come, temperatures into the mid 20s. pope francis has condemned tippett is beginning to fall away, the attacks at an easter mass in the vatican, increasing amounts of showers and saying he is close to the christians hit by ‘mourning thunderstorms. temperatures are and pain‘ this easter. selling closer to the seasonal norm 00:00:35,911 --> 4294966103:13:29,430 by the the main easter celebrations in paris will be held at the church of saint eustache following monday's devastating fire at notre—dame cathedral. deaf children, who can't use standard hearing aids or implants, will be offered cutting—edge brain surgery to help them hear, says nhs england. now on bbc news dateline london,
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hello and welcome to dateline london. i'm carrie gracie. this week, it's easter weekend for two billion christians — the world's biggest group of religious believers. in the early 21st century, our world is becoming more religious, not less. muslims are not far behind christians in numbers. in third place come more than a billion hindus. then buddhists at about half a billion, with folk religionsjust behind, and smaller groups including sikhs and jews bringing up the rear. surveys suggest more than 84% of all humans identify with a religious group. so in today's programme, we focus on how religion
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impacts our world. my guests — catherine pepinster, former editor of catholic weekly newspaper, the tablet. african affairs analyst dr vincent magombe, nesrine malik, of the guardian newspaper, and canadian writer and broadcasterjeffrey kofman. welcome to you all. i started talking about religious affiliations, let's quickly go round the table. muslim. christian, practising catholic. catholic with a little bit of an african touch. i'm jewish but culturally, not practising. let's deal with why religion is still so powerful in our world. catherine, do you want to start? there are various reasons for the individual. having a religion means people's search for meaning is perhaps fulfilled, they find values and community and hope. for many, it is about the fact of life is not all that there is, for individuals religion
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matters greatly. history means religions, some religions have become huge institutions and that is a whole other ball game. jeffrey, as a no longer practising jew, do you find that you find it surprising religion is still as powerful as it is? people search for a commonality and community and i would like to believe that we all, in some form, whatever our values, seek to follow our better angels and i think religion helps people do that, at its best. christianity is receding in north america and europe, it is going elsewhere, islam, however, is the fastest
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—— growing elsewhere. islam, however, is the fastest growing religion, why do you think that is? the first is demographics, islamic generally overlaps with countries where there is a high birth rate, there is an additional element that has been the case for, as far as i can remember, when i first realised it, was probably 30 years ago, islam was also the only religion that was growing, not due to demographics, but due to conversion, there is a high degree of conversion to islam. i think in some areas it's because islam tends conversion, there is a high degree of conversion to islam. i think in some areas it's because islam tends to, for example on the indian subcontinent, tends to be adjacent to several other religions so there is intermarriage and lots of conversion because of intermarriage. the second thing is i think there is a very powerful and effective proselytising element to islam, lots of funding behind lots of the religious schools and mosques and they do outreach into the community. which brings people into the religion. vincent, africa, almost in a class of its own in terms of
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people's commitment to their religion. whatever religion that is. the thing is, in africa you have to look at it from the historical perspective. when christianity came we had our own religions and own courts and things that are still there, we go to church, i am a very strong catholic, i go to church, but outside, where nobody sees me, i will still be worshipping my gods. worshipping what god? traditional african gods. how do you do that? the nature of african religions is not like your religions when you go to church and things like that, african religions are functional.
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if you go to nigeria, have a god for war, a god for when children are born, there is some religious things you do, very functional. when you harvest your produce, they will worship some god or goddess. african religions are very functional in nature and perhaps that's one of the reasons they were very quickly overpowered by christianity, they were very organised, they put us into catholic schools and churches as children and told us, your story about the beginning of the world, the purpose of your earth, it's not right. and they gave us christianity. in christianity, with all these ten commandments, it's a very good thing, i look at africans as broken people, i would rather want to see we can become christians and worship but we should also be very free to worship our gods.
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in the modern way, to make more functional type of benefits. i would take issue with the notion religion is on the rise globally. these are figures coming from pew research, this is what it suggests but it may not be the whole story. i covered latin america for ten years for abc news and 50 years ago more than 90% of latin america, the largest concentration of catholics, identified as catholic, today it is around 59%. in some latin american countries it is less than 50%. i remember whenjohn paul ii died i was in mexico city and we did a series of stories about the roman catholic church in latin america, and what i found was you have one priest with aparish of 50,000 people. the numbers are impossible to reconcile.
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there was this spiritual drift, inevitably because of that, not to mention modernity itself. and the rise of evangelical and fundamentalist and pentecostal in place. but, in fact, in latin america the fastest growing religious sector is the people who identify as not religious. i'm glad you came to that because in the same research i mentioned 84% telling the surveyors they are believers and 16% are non—believers, a significant proportion, even under those numbers, why do you think some people are susceptible to religious belief and organisation and others not?
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modernity has allowed people to drift and question, it's easy for others to find other gods and other ways to get values or to abandon values. when the world was small and we did not travel, our community was a very narrow and we wanted to be part of it and that has been fractured by globalisation and the last 100 years. the question that comes to mind when you posit that question is a person like me still in shock, i've been here for 20 something years but i cannot understand is happening with this europe, in the west, in the uk... north america and europe, which are declining in religious belief. yeah, you brought this religion to us, you brought christianity... ididn't... western society brought these religions to us but how come today nigeria is exporting missionaries to britain, to europe? when i go to churches, some churches are very vibra nt and whatever, but others you go and you just wonder where are the people? the young people out there roving around, they don't know it's sunday, in africa they are still praying
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and it is still growing. it is a problem vincent raises, a question for european religious leaders as well, when they look at the figures and by some predictions china will be the biggest, the largest number of christians which is an openly atheist society, a communist society, they have the largest number of christians. the thing vincent has mentioned, his experience of people coming into the uk and other countries in an increasingly secular europe is in turn those people are a benefit to the churches because they help fill the pews but they are also a challenge to secular society because of the values they bring with them which are not always quite the norm, as secular britain has them. then he mentioned china and it makes one wonder the extent to which religions thrive when under pressure because of course we are seeing the growth of christianity in china at the same
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time as the chinese government is trying to suppress it. it is one of the biggest areas of religious growth for christianity. do they thrive because that faith means something to them and they are holding on to it? that brings us to another big question, and i want to pose it in a way to all of you which is presumably religions will thrive when religious leaders and organisations tackle the huge challenges of the time for individuals and society. let me throw this one to you, do you think the current faith leaders are addressing the big issues and where do you think they are succeeding and where are they failing? they are succeeding and it is a chicken and egg answer. they are succeeding and i think this ties into your earlier they are succeeding and question, religions tend to thrive, in my experience, when there is a
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network, when there is a ready—made lattice of community and framework of people because religion does not thrive when it is just individuals, atomised individuals. that's why it's growing in africa and china, in areas where globalisation has not yet completely fractured the extended family unit. and so sometimes it is a good thing when people get the chance to question religion or think about religion in ways that are notjust overlapping with their family or networks, they become more intelligent about it. to answer your second question, which is how, is it because of leaders, i'm not entirely sure. i think leaders, in my experience, tend to manipulate religion for more political purposes, they tend to define it through their own eyes. i struggled a lot growing up in saudi arabia with how saudis
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interpreted islam, which which is quite hardline, not the more symbiotic african islam that i grew up with, which was borrowing from arab and african influences. so i think it tends to thrive more when the grassroots or the firmament for the grassroots is there, rather than when it is imposed or manipulated from above. you can get a synthetic sense of religious growth in the religious leaders but i think that is more of a political organisation rather than a spiritual one. and yet, catherine, the catholic church, there is a religious organisation with a very clear principle of leadership, in the past couple of days in the run—up to easter, pope francis washing the feet of prisoners, his easter message, so much about the poor and the miserable and the deprived, it is the framing of social and economic and political life which is very much about the needs of the powerless.
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since the growth of communism in the 19th century and the development of marxism the catholic church has striven to offer the world teaching that focuses very much on society, and it has something within its teaching code social sin and that's obviously rooted in what christ says and the gospels. —— called social sin. one thing that intrigues me about where we are at with the catholic church in the wider world at the moment is what pope francis has to say about climate change, for example, reconciliation, bringing people together from south sudan recently in the vatican, or poverty or peace, many people, including non—catholics, find that attractive, but what they do not find attractive are religious leaders trying to say something to them about their own personal sexual morality, certainly in the west, that is completely out the door for so many. we have this almost schizophrenic approach to religion, what religion is saying
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in a more global area is many people find it attractive but in the personal people do not like it. i would think, as a questioning catholic, not because i do not believe, i am questioning how catholicism has grown into the world and whether it is actually dealing with the challenges of modernity. i cannot understand that today the catholic church still says priests should not marry. why not? and nuns? these are some of the issues i think need courage and we've seen different popes come, some very traditionally orientated, some more modernistic, and perhaps they need to address those issues. that's the distinction between
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cultural religious religions that allow more cultural practice, likejudaism, and i look upon myjewish friends and i kind of envy them because they get all the comfort of the religion without any of the didactic problems or the soul—searching or the guilt. i think there is less space, actually, in a very institutionalised religions such as catholicism that has lost a lot of goodwill with child abuse issues because it is an institution, corporate structure, at the end of the day, i think the problem with that is when there is no, when there is little space for one to become a
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cultural muslim or catholic orjew, then it becomes a zero—sum game. there is definitely an issue in islam where you cannot think one should try and be a cultural and see what is comforting from there, because it has these very hard—line rules on apostasy and leaving religion etc, then any soul—searching becomes burdens with this issue of leaving your religion, which is not necessarily... jeffrey, why don't you deal with the question of not when the individual struggles with their failure to adjust or their institution, their religious organisation, but when the organisation you belong to fails to live up to its own values, which we've seen quite a lot. clearly, in the usa, the evangelicals, who represent about 18% of the population in the us and more than 80% of whom voted for donald trump, the largest percentage of evangelical support of any
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president, more than george w bush, who himself was born again. and you try to reconcile donald trump's behaviour and what he has said in his attitudes towards women and the coarseness and the things that are shocking in that man, and how people can do that. the evangelicals will say, but he is delivering what we want, he is clamping down on abortion, clamping down on all the things we value, we want to see, and has put two very conservative judges on the supreme court, it isa triumph for us. the other side would say at what cost? have you sold your souls to win this? there is no way this man is a paragon of any religious value of any mainstream religion or any marginal religion, for that matter. that is this huge hypocrisy. we have this interesting rise of this young candidate in the democratic race, pete buttigieg, who is 37 years old,
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from indiana, practising episcopalian, openly gay and a veteran, army veteran, who has the most extraordinary resume and who is trying to now take back the notion that all religious conservatives are republicans, saying, there is a current of social progressiveness that is part of christianity and i want to speak for that. historically that existed in the us but gradually dissipated over the past a0 years. questions of all the overlap between religion and politics and people's agendas, vincent. the best time i've had this year was when the catholic church in congo, drc, led the revolution that forced the president to give up, he was trying to go for many years, that is what we need. that's when i talk about the church and the leaders of the church addressing modern—day problems, that is a very clear area.
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in africa where we have lack of democracy, dictators going for hundreds of years until they die, refusing to go, the church can play a crucial and critical role. are you talking, this is another socially progressive church of the dispossessed kind of thing? it was the catholic church in drc, we have the catholic church, sometimes they speak in so many other countries, often they are quiet, it depends what they want to do. apparently the pope blessed them and said that's a very good thing, go ahead, you are doing the right thing. i think we should have it as a norm you are addressing issues of poverty and all those things. the church can play a big role in challenging the lack of democracy.
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catherine, when religious organisations fall short of their own values, for the catholic church, this has been a very significant problem, an organisation which is, what are the conditions in which an organisation does not live up to its values? we have seen the catholic church not living up to its values when it comes to child abuse, it has been on a global scandal. it has wounded and scarred it in terms of its reputation, shattered it in many ways. in that sense, that is a church that has not lived up to its own values and its reputation and is going to have to rebuild. and many people have
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been very alienated by what has happened. so it is a question of the church losing many members have walked away because of this and lives that have been ruined. it has got to find a way forward and it's taking a very long time to do that. there are some places where the catholic, to talk about the conditions in which religious leaders can play a constructive role in a society is politically, socially, economically, some theocracies seem to become intolerant of alternative religions and in other societies muslims and christians seem much more able to live alongside each other, i don't know if you can put your finger on the conditions which make it possible for different religious organisations to cohabit and cooperate. in my experience it is almost always political, almost always if there has been a politicalfigure who has agitated and increased splits between them. i grew up in sudan,
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which had a large coptic minority when i was there and remember growing up with coptic friends, we would go to church when they had the ceremonies, and i had no idea this was any sort of sectarian issue. when a sharia government came into power in 1989, we began to see prosecution of coptic people because it was useful —— persecution. to the government to create an exclusive view of what the senior religion is, which was islam, according to their view. so we saw hundreds of years of peaceful coexistence disappear within ten, 15 years, the coptic community disappeared in that period in sudan. and so, you hear stories as well from my parents and grandparents about the coptic family down the road, the hindu or sikh family that moved from india 300 years
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ago andi think it's incredible because it was never in my experience after this government. and so i think where religions grew organically and cohabited without the national figure at the top wanted to project a certain view of the nation, that has been largely successful, not to deny there has been sectarian issues, but they do tend to get worse when there is a politicalfigure. we are running out of time and i do want to just look briefly at the future. to a moment when humans are possibly not the most intelligent species on the planet because we're so used to thinking ourselves as the smartest, we make tools, run rules, and with al, some look forward and say maybe there will be a messiah in the future and who will be all seeing, all hearing, as a believer
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you will be able to speak to them and they will listen to you, i don't know if any of you want to deal with that al god. i think our mobile phones have become, not for the better, have become the gods of so many. they create this sense, fault artificial sense of community and sense of belonging and also the sense of polarised, echo chamber of values which is causing such troubles today are reinforcing stereotypes and not challenging our own assumptions. very interesting point. it is the century—old conflict between science and religion. whoever will be more strategic, tactical, address issues for humanity will win. i'm therefore not surprised in societies like here where people are so advanced with their mobile phones and everything, they start losing the other side of religion. one last question, just a sentence
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from each of you, an easter message. two words — get off—line. my easter message comes from that incredible photograph from notre—dame of the interior of the cathedral, dark, rubble everywhere, all the burnt wood from the roof and a cross glowing in the middle, so my message is there is a light that shines in the darkness. may the god that we know or we don't know help us to liberate countries. we live in a pluralistic society religion, where we tolerate and support and protect religion, but that comes with the cost of tolerating people who disagree, and it is not ok to enter a pluralistic society like the uk to cherry pick what parts of society you want. i hear you all. thank you all forjoining us today.
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that's it for dateline london for this week — we're back next week at the same time. goodbye. it has been a bit of a chilly start the day with mist and fog but most of that has a clue and we are looking at a glorious afternoon for easter sunday and attempted reaching the low to mid 20s. we have had hazy sunshine in scotland and northern ireland. elsewhere there is widespread sunshine. a bit cooler around the coast but inland highs of around the coast but inland highs of around 23 to 2a may 25 celsius.
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cooler across the north—west corner. the rain more gradually clear back into the atlantic during tonight and we head into easter monday is a bit ofa we head into easter monday is a bit of a chilly start and early mist and fog clears and then widespread sunshine and another one day with temperatures reaching the low to mid 20s celsius. it all changes as we had to choose and wednesday temperatures begin to all as atlanta glows move in. this is bbc news, i'm martine croxall. the headlines at 12. 160 people have been killed, and hundreds more injured after a wave of explosions at churches and hotels in sri lanka i see this as a serious situation aimed at destabilising the country and the economy. christian worshippers in three churches were targetted as they celebrated easter. find out who is responsible behind this act. and also to punish them, mercilessly, because only animals can of behave like that.
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there were blasts at four hotels — the uk's high commissioner says some britons are believed to have been caught up in the attacks
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