Sunday, January 01, 2006

My Interview on Radio 5 Live's "Weekend News" programme on Christmas Day

Richard Evans: Seven minutes past four now on BBC Radio 5 Live. Now the Queen in her speech today was talking about how in 2005 there were lots of man-made disasters like war and terrorism as well as natural disasters like the tsunami and hurricanes. One place which became infamous after the July the 7th Bombings was Beeston in Leeds, when it was revealed that two of the London bombers were from there. The Revd Neil Bishop is a Methodist minister in Beeston, and he joins us now. Good afternoon to you. Merry Christmas.
Neil Bishop: Good afternoon, Richard. Happy Christmas to you.
RE: Did you watch the Queen's Speech?
NB: Yes I did.
RE: What did you make of it?
NB: Well I thought actually it was very inspiring and I thought that the way she ended her speech chimed in with the very strong feeling of people in Beeston, actually, in July - which was that we weren't going to let the bombers, some of whom as you know, unfortunately, came from our neck of the woods - we weren't going to let them have the last word. We were going to show that actually people of different faiths can work together in friendship and peace, and that's what we were doing actually before July and that's what we've carried on doing.
RE: Because you're involved in this group, aren't you, called Faith Together?
NB: Faith Together in Leeds 11. Yes. Leeds 11 is the postcode that covers Beeston and Holbeck, which was where some of the bombers did come from. It's an area where there's quite a large number of Muslim people living alongside people of other faiths. It's not an area where people live in segregated communities. We all live together and actually we get on very well and we actually think that we have a much more exciting and interesting life, because of our proximity to one another, than people who live in communities that are more sort of monochrome.
RE: Now I know you're a Methodist, so he's not one of yours, but did you hear the Archbishop of Canterbury's address today?
NB: Well I know that he was speaking about forgiveness.
RE: Forgiveness, yes.
NB: I haven't heard it.
RE: Yes, that was something that struck a lot of people this year, wasn't it - the dignity of Anthony Walker's family and that of the Witchells as well?
NB: Yes, I mean obviously I was very impressed by them. I mean I couldn't comment on that because I think really it's up to the victims of crime and the victims of the bombings, for instance, whether or not they feel able to forgive. Certainly what we feel, though, is that we have got to work together and we've got to show that Christianity and Islam actually are about peace. They're not about causing harm and destruction.
One of the things that we did this year at the Hamara Centre, actually, that was at the centre of the storm in July, we organised an Iftari meal, that's the meal at the end of the fast each day in Ramadan, where people of all faiths were invited to come along and then there was an auction to raise money for the the earthquake in Kashmir, because I mean that's another of the things that the Queen mentioned which has brought us together, working together to raise money for the victims.
RE: It's a time for reflection, Christmas, for many people. What difference do you think the bombings that happened this year have made to life in Beeston?
NB: Well we were determined that they weren't going to make a difference and so far they haven't.
RE: But they have, haven't they? It's changed people's perception in a lot of ways.
NB: It was a wake up call, in a sense. It was a reminder that actually there are some people in the community who do feel disconnected from everybody else and it gives us an extra sense of urgency, in for instance reaching out to try and work with young people and with children as well. One of our projects works with very young children actually. So starting young, starting by getting people of different faiths together and helping them to understand one another and to see that we don't have to be separate, we can work together. So yes, it was a wake up call in that sense but people were good friends in Beeston before the bombing and some Muslim people were anxious because they thought that after the bombing maybe attitudes would change, but they haven't because if they had changed the bombers would have begun to succeed.
RE: What did you make of the Queen's comment that it's a year in which humanity seemed to turn against itself?
NB: Well I mean, sadly, every year some parts of humanity do turn against one another. The Christian message, as you know, is that it's possible for people - with the help of the Holy Spirit - to rise above that and actually to begin to work together to build the kind of world that God wants.
RE: Well thanks for talking to us and merry Christmas again.
NB: No, it's a pleasure. Happy Christmas to you both. [Richard Evans and his co-presenter.]

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