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Multifaith news

30 October 2015

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THERE has rarely been a better example of the need for a “Dislike” button on Facebook. “Congratulations: your brother has died this morning died as a martyr,” read the message posted to the family of Ibrahim Kamara after his death in Syria last year. Pain, his mother, Khadija, declared, does not discriminate between pauper and rich man.

The powerful story of Ibrahim’s radicalisation and death came at the conclusion of a programme that, for the most part, was rather anodyne. Growing Up in Multi-Faith Britain (Radio 2, Monday of last week) was one of the centrepieces of the network’s annual Faith in the World Week season. As ever, there was a poll to prompt discussion, and the news about multifaith Britain was good and bad.

Fifty-nine per cent of British adults say that children understand more about different communities today than when they themselves were children; but 46 per cent say that changing religious attitudes have led to worsening moral standards. What these figures mean, the Lord alone knows; perhaps we need another poll to ask people’s attitudes to the results of the original poll.

Nor did the inclusion of interviews with “typical” teenagers enlighten us much, although it is always encouraging to hear young people express themselves with such thoughtful tolerance.

It was left to the adults to cast a pall. Professor Adam Dinham from Goldsmiths, University of London, described how the navigation of a pluralist society by young people often led to a more intense, sometimes radical, engagement with religion; while Fr Phil Sumner, a Roman Catholic priest who specialises in community conflict-resolution, suggested that the increasing adoption of religious markers, such as the hijab, was not a sign of greater societal tolerance, but, on the contrary, an indication of an increasingly defensive stance by religious minorities.

In Jeremy Vine (Radio 2, Monday of last week), the emphasis was on mixed-faith marriages; and the lesson we learned from Trish and Tod was: If something is bothering you, go on a course.

Trish is C of E; Tod is a reformed Jew. Before they were married and had their three children, they did lots of research and joined an interfaith union with a good syllabus and supportive discussion groups. Now their oldest son is preparing for his bar mitzvah and confirmation at the same time. It helped that they lived most of this time in Chicago; now in Britain they find that there is nothing like the same support systems. Nevertheless, you had the sense that Trish and Tod were the sort of people who would make it work.

We don’t get many radio imports on British networks, what with the BBC being the world leader and all. So it was instructive to tune in to TED Radio Hour (Radio 4, Sunday), an anthology compiled by US National Public Radio of excerpts from TED talks. Think of the Reith Lectures in Thought for the Day-length chunks, and you have an idea of what TED Radio Hour is like: bite-sized ideas packaged to a theme. Last Sunday’s was the Seven Deadly Sins.

It was variable in tone and quality; but my main response was a shiver of recognition as, furtively, late on a Sunday night, we were introduced to the future of Radio 4.

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