The decision by BBC producers to film an edition of Songs of Praise from the refugee camp in Calais known as the ‘Jungle’ is an important move to try to humanise an issue that has previously been primarily dealt with through the language of “swarm” and covered 100’s of pages of our newspapers with negative images and many false arguments. Many of these have originated in the words of our political leaders. That some politicians are prepared to speak negatively about the situation in Calais is perhaps no surprise, bearing how challenging this issue is. What is disappointing is that so few have been willing to stand up and reflect the views of myself and many others who believe that these refugees who are fleeing wars and conflicts which we have helped precipitate or supported deserve to be heard. Well done BBC and Songs of Praise for taking this stand, let us hope this decision will be the start of a trend of filming in places that are not popular places to go. Perhaps in due course we will have segments from groups of Travellers who meet to worship, and perhaps groups such as Safehaven in Brighton which is a gathering of people who are Street Homeless.
This show is not the first time Songs of Praise has been filmed outside of the UK, I can recall watching a previous edition filmed with expatriates and holiday makers in a European location. Despite this, the radical decision by the BBC has upset at least one Member of Parliament. Andrew Rosindell MP has a track record when it comes to the EU, immigration and the BBC who once accused him of failing to declare an all expenses paid trip to Gibraltar, following which he asked numerous questions in the House of Commons about the Island. Speaking yesterday Mr Rosindell said “This is an insensitive thing to do. We are facing a grave crisis. The BBC should be careful not to start looking as if they are making political points out of this.” Despite this reaction Mr Rosindell has shown himself more than willing to make political points out of religion. In January 2012 a Romford branch of the Conservative Christian Fellowship was formed and the speaker at this inaugural meeting was their local MP. Mr Rosindell is recorded as having spoken about the importance of building a bridge between the Christian community and the Conservative Party. Perhaps he would now prefer that this bridge is one that carries traffic one way only?