The BBC on Lebanese Christians
Today's Middle East section of BBC News Online features the article "Lebanese Christians: Life and Faith," a series of viewpoints from six young Christians in Lebanon. Slightly hidden are a series of pictures of "Christian life" in Lebanon taken by one of the interviewees.
It's interesting, but like anything of its ilk, is more about feelings and perceptions than anything else. The voices they sample are generally moderate, and all are young-- the oldest subject is 33. It's obviously not representative, but on the other hand, since there is no "objective" companion piece on Lebanese Christians (though there is an entry for Lebanon in the BBC's country-by-country guide to Christians in the Middle East), it probably presents a more accurate overall picture of Christians in the country than if a broader range of perspectives had been included. The BBC may disagree with this assessment, however-- the article includes the following disclaimer: The readers' panel has been selected from as wide a cross-section of people as possible and may not be representative of wider public opinion. Seriously? As wide a cross-section of people as possible?
About a week ago, BBC news published another article on Christians in the Middle East with virtually no mention of Lebanon. As lebanon.profile may remember (he was the lucky one who got to hear me bitch about it), I found this exclusion pretty disingenuous. The article was about "beleaguered Christians," and I suspected that the Lebanese experience was omitted in order to bolster this idea of absolute beleaguerement.
How do you guys feel about the BBC's recent focus on Christians in the Middle East? Is there an agenda here? It is timely-- and theoretically appropriate-- because of Christmas, but that also gives me greater concern over the general tone of the articles. Many readers who are not particularly observant Christians-- arguably a majority in Britain-- may feel far more sensitive at this time of year to the idea of oppressed Christians in the Holy Land. One of my hugely oversensitive alarm bells went off when the "Are you a Middle East Christian?" Have Your Say item first appeared almost two months ago. I didn't like the idea that Christians were been segregated out, regardless of whether the portrayal would ultimately be positive or negative, whether Christians would be cast as victims or oppressors, etc.
I guess I just think it's more productive to emphasize commonality than difference. However, the BBC's primary audience is obviously not the Middle East, so there is of course something to be said for basic awareness and coverage; many readers may be only vaguely cognizant of the fact that there is religious diversity in the region at all. Nonetheless, I feel the BBC would do well to include a few pieces highlighting cooperation, coexistence, and unity in this series before its completion.