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Of Course 'Songs of Praise' Should Broadcast From a Calais Migrant Camp

07/08/2015 11:36 BST | Updated 07/08/2016 10:59 BST

I never thought I'd see the day I would write a passionate defence of Songs of Praise. But following the announcement that the BBC show is going to broadcast an episode from the migrant camp nicknamed the 'Jungle', it's actually happened.

The show, which visits different Christian places of worship to broadcast services, will travel to a makeshift church set up at the camp in Calais, where thousands of migrants desperately escaping persecution, genocide and war in their own countries are currently living.

To me, this seems like a brilliant way of humanising the crisis. It's easy to simply refer to the "migrant crisis", "influx of migrants" or *cough cough David Cameron* a "swarm" of migrants - but these these are human beings with (often harrowing) stories to tell.

We're living in a time when it's acceptable to make jokes about dead migrants (I'm looking at you, Daily Mail cartoon) and suggest all sorts of delightful ways of dealing with migrants, from shooting them to bricking them up inside the Channel Tunnel. So perhaps going to Calais and having a proper look at what's going on in a proactive and positive way couldn't hurt?

To be honest, when I think of Songs of Praise, I imagine it being watched mainly by grannies eating their Sunday dinner. I don't really think of it as something edgy or even particularly relevant and I'm a Christian myself.

As the role of the BBC has been debated in recent months, some people have argued that the corporation is behind the times and perhaps even irrelevant. And they've been saying it for decades about the Church.

Don't get me wrong, I don't exactly think Aled Jones is going to be bunking down in a tent for the night during filming. But by visiting the Jungle, Songs of Praise are getting in there and engaging with one of the most pressing issues in the news today.

Christians are not supposed to sit in their pews praying all day, cloistered away from the real world. They are called to roll up their sleeves and get involved. If I'm going to get all scriptural on you then just take a look at the big man himself. Jesus spent his time among the poor, the untouchables, the outcasts - which to me seems to be exactly what the thousands of desperate migrants in Calais seem to have become to many.

If a programme about Christianity can even get slightly on board with the same stuff He was doing, then I'm all for it. And one look at Twitter tells me plenty of others are too, whether they're Christians or not.

I can't say I ever thought I'd find myself agreeing with a Ukip politician (especially given their track record on attitudes towards migrants) but I found the party's deputy chairman, Suzanne Evans, made quite a good point. She tweeted: "You know what? If Jesus was here today I think he'd be visiting this church too." I can't help but agree.

The Daily Mail and some of its readers seem to be outraged at the show's use of the licence fee to fund the filming in Calais. I'm not being funny but it's got to be spent on something hasn't it? Why is a segment on a church cricket club in Devon any more valid use of licence fee than exposing the desperate plight of people escaping horrors you and I probably can't imagine in our worst nightmares? What would you rather we spent the money on? Doing something different and perhaps even (shock horror) helping people is exactly what I want my licence fee to go towards.

Watching Songs of Praise isn't exactly part of my normal TV schedule. But I'll be tuning in to see them broadcast from Calais. And I have a sneaking suspicion a lot of other people, both Christian and non-Christian, will too.