Faith Leaders condemn media culture driving people to “spectacular” violence and rudeness to secure press attention “The angriest voice wins…..” Sir Jonathan Sacks, 30 April 2007
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Posted: May 03 2007

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May 3 2007 (Jewswire.com) - Faith Leaders condemn media culture driving people to “spectacular” violence and rudeness to secure press attention

A discussion at the British Library this week featuring four of the most pre-eminent faith leaders of the UK from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, chaired by Lord Melvyn Bragg, saw the broadcaster and panellists condemn the media for contributing to prejudice through its “dangerous” failure to report on religious dialogue, preferring instead to emphasise rifts between communities, creating a world in which people need to become spectacularly violent or rude in order to gain a hearing for their cause.

Lord Bragg voiced strong disappointment at how faith is sidelined in public debate in the media and in particular that mainstream radio broadcasters were not interested in broadcasting the Faith Leaders’ discussion “What does it mean to live with faith in 2007?”, held at the British Library on Monday 30th April, to herald the opening of its exhibition Sacred: Discover what we share which showcases the world’s greatest collection of Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy books.

The panel comprised: Most Reverend Kevin McDonald, Catholic Archbishop of Southwark; Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth; Moulana Mohammad Shahid Raza, Director of the Imams and Mosques Council UK and founder trustee of the British Muslim Forum; and Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Lord Bragg said: “It seems to me that a forum like this sort of discussion, across faiths… not only deserves to be but really should be, needs to be, part of the general broadcasting culture.

“I don’t only think it’s a loss, I think it’s a danger….. It’s dangerous, because the very idea of four people coming from different faiths sitting around and talking to each other intellectually, honestly, trying to work things out, is something that many people in this country think is impossible to envisage.

“…[They think that] there is no dialogue, that people can’t talk to each other, that the differences are so big. The differences are big but so are the convergences, and so I hope this [public discussion] might be a start-off or a pointer in the direction of more talk, more engagement of this sort, because I think it’s dangerous to do without it, because when there’s ignorance, there’s rumour and confusion.”

Responding to Lord Bragg’s comment, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks also blasted out at the failure of the media to report on good news concerning inter-faith discussion resulting in people having to be spectacularly rude or violent to win a hearing for their case.

He said: “Where we are currently situated, in Europe, in Western civilisation, is more dangerous, Melvyn, than you fear. Here we are, we have spent an hour and a half, Jews, Christians, Muslims, sitting together in friendly discourse, sitting on the same side of the table, something that any previous generation in our history would have regarded as impossible and here it is happening, and it’s great news, and nobody wants to know.

“And what do they want to know? They want to know something that resembles the public spectacles of Rome in its decadence, they want to throw Christians to lions, or lions to Christians, and so the voices that gain resonance in our culture and in the media are extreme secularists or religious extremists. And they’re very comfortable with one another because the extreme secularists can point to the religious voices and say they’re fanatics and the religious extremists can point to the secularists and say they’re totally atheist decadents…etc, etc.

“And in a culture like that, the angriest voice wins. And the only way you win a hearing for your case is either to be spectacularly rude or spectacularly violent. And that is the world that the media creates and people who are either very rude or very violent know exactly how to use it to gain a hearing. The danger that that represents is unbelievable and it is serious.”

10 minute MP3 files of the extracts above are available through the press office and the discussion in full can be heard via the British Library website: http://www.bl.uk/podcast

Lord Bragg also asked the panellists to discuss what unites and divides the great religions of the book - Protestant and Catholic Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The panellists debated questions such as, ‘What unites and divides people of faith today? ‘Is Jesus a polarizing figure?’ and ‘Why is it important for Christians to spread the world of the Gospel and do Jews and Muslims seek to convert other people to their faith?’ The panellists also took questions from the audience.

The British Library’s groundbreaking exhibition, Sacred: Discover what we share (to 23 September), sees exquisite and rare examples of Jewish, Christian and Muslim sacred texts from the Library’s collections - considered to be the greatest in the world – presented side by side, for the first time.

For more information, please contact Rona Levin at the British Library Press Office: 020 7412 7111 or rona.levin@bl.uk

EDITORS NOTES

Sacred is open to 23 September 2007, every day. Admission to the exhibition is free and timed tickets are in operation. Advance booking is recommended. Bookings can be made by calling 01937 546546, in person at the British Library, or online at http://boxoffice.bl.uk For more information on the Sacred exhibition at the British Library, please call: + 44 (0)20 7412 7332 or visit: www.bl.uk/sacred

The British Library is the national Library of the United Kingdom. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive research collection. Further information is available on the Library’s website at www.bl.uk

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