A pastor of a Welsh Baptist church staged a four-day protest against the BBC in April. Revd Peter Cho of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Newbridge, Caerphilly, took issue with a BBC television programme which, he felt, unjustly stereotyped Christians as racist.
The broadcast in question was an episode of Panorama (the BBC’s current affairs documentary series) entitled Is the church racist? It featured testimonies from several individuals claiming to have experienced racism within the Church of England.
Revd Cho – South Korean by birth – took offence at what he perceived to be a one-sided, indiscriminate documentary which implied racism was part-and-parcel of church life across the UK. He told ETthat the programme also ‘over-emphasised the negative experiences of members of minority ethnic groups’.
After lodging a formal complaint with the BBC, Revd Cho felt compelled to express his grievances in a more direct manner.
He had a large sign imprinted with the words, ‘BBC must apologise to churches and Christians after Panorama misrepresents all of us as racist’, before catching a train from South Wales to Central London.
Overnight accommodation had been arranged with a Korean pastor in London known to Revd Cho. During the next four days, Peter displayed his sign peacefully outside BBC Broadcasting House.
Reactions were mixed. ‘As soon as I began my protest,’ Peter recalls, ‘one passerby became angry and claimed that I was wasting my time – that the Panorama episode was right, and that Christians were indeed racist.’
‘A security guard also came over and asked who I was and why I was there. Upon learning how far I’d travelled and the nature of my protest, he said: “You must really be serious about what you want to say here!” “Yes I am!” was my reply.’
Why did Peter feel so aggrieved by the documentary? ‘It was because the way the BBC portrayed Christians was a groundless denial of a fundamental characteristic of all believers – love for one’s neighbour, irrespective of race.
‘To be clear, I wasn’t there to deny the culpable and tragic incidents of racism in the Church of England. We all need to tackle racism whenever and wherever we encounter it.
‘The point I wanted to make was that the BBC was wrong to stereotype the whole church and all Christians as racist on the flimsy basis of a few incidents within the Church of England.’