TV and RADIO
THE CENTENARY of the first Christain martyrs in Uganda prompted BBC Religious Affairs correspondent Rosemary Hartill to visit the country and report on the current state of the Christian Churches. Walking Through Fire: The Story of Christians hi Uganda was broadcast in two parts.
The first programme, broadcast last week, gave a clear account of Uganda's religious and political development over the past hundred years.
There were stories of the arrival of the first missionaries, including the unfortunate Bishop who decided to approach his new diocese from the east instead of the usual southerly route, and fell foul of an ancient legend telling that strangers from the east would bring misfortune.
He was killed before he reached his destination. Most of the missionaries were more successful and there are very large Catholic and Anglican communities in Uganda today.
The first Christian martyrs were burned to death, but died singing, expressing the wish to fly faster to join the Lord.
Death, distress and martyrdom are by no means hallmarks of a by-gone age in this country. The rule of terror imposed by Idi Amin, the problems under the second Obote government, the coup of 1985 and the guerrilla victory earlier this year have all left scars in Uganda.
Throughout these difficulties, the Church has had a role to play, a role which it has not always played well. Under Amin, Catholic and protestants split. Rival missionary groups had passed on their prejudice to the converted.
Under Obote, the Anglican leadership was criticised for not speaking out against the atrocities committed by the army.
Despite these failings there is a powerful feeling of hope and optimism and dedication among Christian workers today.
The Churches are helping in practical ways with medical care and teaching. At one centre there was instruction on how to build latrines. Women were given lessons in childcare and shown how to prepare boiled water, salt and sugar to give to babies who became dehydrated and how to recognise the signs of dehydration.
The Catholic Church in particular has been responsive to African music, including it in the liturgy in accordance with post Vatican II thinking.
Reconciling African custom with religious practice is still a problem. There is widespread polygamy in a country where women outnumber men as so many men were killed in the wars. The role of women and the issue of women priests is a live topic.
One Anglican Bishop has ordained three women and Rosemary Harthill went to visit one of them. The transport to her parish was a bus provided by the Mothers Union.
The Anglican and Catholic churches fry to work together, but a new missionary is arriving in Africa, and having great success.
The Seventh Day Adventists, and Pentecostalists have also set , out to search for souls.
Last Sunday evening on Radio 4 was packed with some powerful poetry. In the space of a few hours we were treated to Chesterton, Yeats and Oscar Wilde. A beautiful interpretation of G K Chesterton's Battle of Lepanto was read by Anthony Powell. It was a sensitive and elegEnt performance which lost none of the rousing qualities of the poem.
Half an hour later we were with W B Yeats when Mike Harding continued his walking tour of the west coast of Ireland with a tour to County Sligo where he visited some of the places which inspired so much of Yeats's work.
We were drawn into the beauty and history of the place through the judicious use of quotations from Yeats poetry which were woven in with the sounds and sights of the walk. This became a literary ramble in a magical place. "Prison Poetry" then opened with The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde. After Chesterton, Yeats and Wilde, the contemporary poets of Britain's prisons on whom this programme focussed, were unfairly overshadowed.
Saturday September 20. In Perspective Radio Four, 7.45. An aspect of the weeks religious news presented by Religious Affairs Correspondent Rosemary Hartill. Evening service, Radio Four 10.15. The Good Book Radio Four 10.30. In the twelfth part of this excellent series presented by Brian Redhead, he looks at visions of the last things, death and judgement. There is also a discussion on the conflicts which have grown out of the Bible the arguments between believers who use the Bible as a polemical weapon. Repeat Thursday 10am.
Monday to Friday Daily Service, 10.45 am. Five different school choirs will be singing in the Daily Service to be held at St George's Church, Brandon Hill, Bristol.
Frank Field is on holiday