BBC reports on failed Ethiopian prophet; why not report on Christian miracles or on Christians suffering?

From Wikimedia Commons
From Wikimedia Commons

The BBC reported a news story at the weekend about an aspiring Ethiopian ‘prophet’ who had been arrested after failing to bring a dead man back to life. Whilst this is certainly a newsworthy and interesting story, it begs the question why does the BBC not also report on stories of miracles which do happen to Christians, or of the suffering of Christians around the world?

The news story concerned one Getayawkal Ayele who, having read the biblical account of the raising of Lazarus from the tomb and persuaded the man’s family to have him exhumed, had tried to revive the corpse of Belay Biftu by laying on top of him and yelling repeatedly, “Belay, wake up!” — very much following the methods of both Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-37), howbeit there is no indication that they felt the need to yell.

However, why not tell stories of people who genuinely are healed, apparently miraculously?

In its daily prayer letter for Friday 13th July, which you can find here, the Barnabas Fund — a reliable news outlet which checks its facts as far as possible — reported on the apparently miraculous healing of a 13-year-old girl in Nepal after a Christian woman, Soniya, had prayed for her.

“Correlation famously doesn’t imply causation. Because Person A prayed for Person B to get well, and Person B then got well, it does not logically follow that Person B got well because Person A prayed. For all that, however, the unprovability of the miracle does not mean that the miracle did not occur.”

No more details were given by the Barnabas Fund about the people involved, obviously to protect them. I appreciate that, even knowing the identities of those involved, it may not be possible either scientifically or historically to prove the miracle occurred: there simply might not be adequate documentary evidence that the illness was ever present.

And of course, correlation famously doesn’t imply causation. Because Person A prayed for Person B to get well, and Person B then got well, it does not logically follow that Person B got well because Person A prayed.

For all that, however, the unprovability of the miracle does not mean that the miracle did not occur.

It is true that skepticism may be the ideal starting point. Historical credulity has led to all sorts of crazed and superstitious practices, not least the witch-hunts in England in the seventeenth century and Pope Gregory IX’s demonization of black cats.

Yet, if this or other reported miracles are at least credible and can be supported by evidence (though not provable), one wonders that the BBC takes no interest in these. Given the prevalent assumption in Western society, viz., that because miracles don’t happen every day while you’re standing in the chip shop queue, ergo they don’t happen: I for one would be most interested to read a credible account of a miraculous healing in a respected, and supposedly unbiased news outlet.

What about the suffering of Christians worldwide?

Not only does the BBC seem oddly silent on possible miracles achieved through prayer, but even more glaringly on the suffering of Christians around the world.

Of course, certain figures such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai have received a great deal of media attention around the world, including on the BBC. And rightly so; Malala’s story is an heroic one, and the work to which she has committed herself — the education of girls around the world — is admirable.

“The BBC seems to have a blind spot when it comes to the suffering of Christians.”

However, the BBC seems to have a blind spot when it comes to the suffering of Christians.

On 14 April 2015 the Barnabas Fund reported the tragic story of 14-year-old Nauman Masih, a Pakistani Christian who was murdered on his way to the tailor’s shop in Lahore where he was an apprentice. When asked by two boys what was his religion, and confessing that he was a Christian, the boys then threw Kerosene oil on Masih and torched him. He died in hospital four days later.

Not a word on this from the BBC.

Or again, a great deal of attention has been paid in the UK media (including the BBC) to the tragic plight of the Rohingya people who have had to flee their native Myanmar (Burma). Significantly less attention has been paid — including by the BBC — to the plight of the mainly Christian Kachin people also of Myanmar. Until the Guardian actually brought this issue to the attention of people in the UK, we were reliant once again on the Barnabas Fund’s website to tell us what was really going on in the world.

Scan the BBC News home page today (23 July) and you will find stories relating that “R Kelly denies sex allegations in song”; “10 of the biggest Comic-Con reveals”; and, “Drag teen banned from school talent show” (revealing what seems to be a favourite campaign cause of the supposedly neutral BBC); also a longer read about one woman’s horror dental treatment.

A composite image showing some of the stories on the BBC News home page on 23 July.
A composite image showing some of the stories on the BBC News home page on 23 July.

Without wishing to deny or belittle the undoubted genuine trauma which Natalia Guerrero went through with her dentist, I question whether any of these stories are more newsworthy than the horrific examples of Christian suffering I have mentioned above — not to mention the thousands more such stories which occur around the globe every year.

Christianity: ‘the great unmentionable’?

Is it actually the case that the BBC (especially online) is so concerned to appear ‘balanced’ and ‘neutral’ as per its remit, that it sticks its head in the sand whenever newsworthy examples of Christian suffering occur — lest it be seen to be ‘favouring’ the representation of Christianity?

“In spite of its being the religion of the downtrodden in so many parts of the world, Christianity is still viewed by many in the UK as ‘the establishment,’ and the BBC prides itself on being radical, inventive, cutting-edge, even anti-establishment in a way that commercial channels simply can’t.”

Its shocking paucity of online coverage of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation last year was a fine example of this tendency.

After all — and in spite of its being the religion of the downtrodden in so many parts of the world — Christianity is still viewed by many in the UK as ‘the establishment,’ and the BBC prides itself on being radical, inventive, cutting-edge, even anti-establishment in a way that commercial channels simply can’t.

So although lurid stories of failed Ethiopian prophets are fair and good to represent — and the BBC did today remind us (quite rightly so) of the sorry story of former Bishop of Lewes and Bishop of Gloucester Peter Ball, convicted in 2015 of sex offences — it seems the BBC feels the need to gag itself lest it say anything positive about Christianity.

It really does appear to be ‘the great unmentionable’ at Broadcasting House.

 

 

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