The Eritrean priest in the Calais migrant camp who leads the makeshift church that is to be featured in a controversial episode of BBC’S Songs of Praise has refused to appear. Fears for his family’s safety back in north-east Africa, shared by other inmates, have now called into question whether the show can go ahead.
The Telegraph reports the 31-year-old priest, Hagos Kesete, and his Eritrean/Ethiopian congregation at the Calais migrant camp church do not want their faces to be shown on television. Although previously quoted as saying he is “excited” about his proposed television appearance, he and his camp mates fear governments in the countries they have left behind may recognise them. Kesete said:
“People have a problem. They don’t want cameras. If our government sees us on camera, maybe our family will have a problem. I have so many reasons I cannot say. I have fear inside. I am not happy to speak on video.”
BBC television’s flagship religious programme, first seen in 1961, is broadcast to millions across the globe, so the prospect of it engangering lives in Eritrea is not beyond belief. Open Doors, the international ministry which campaigns against Christian persecution, reports the ruling regime has arrested 138 believers and church leaders as part of a crackdown on non-traditional protestant Christians.
According to a report recently released by the United Nations, Isaias Afewerki‘s dictatorial government is responsible for “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” including torture. The country boasts a vast standing army which is staffed through conscription. With military service amounting to little more than slavery, thousands of conscription age are reported to have fled.
The Calais migrant camp housing the church is the one known as ‘Jungle Camp’. At 5,000 migrants and growing it supplies many of those who attempt nightly to cross from France to Dover. Kesete himself claims to have tried to cross to Britain every day since he arrived around a month ago.
Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell believes the decision to film at the Calais migrant camp is “an insensitive thing to do”. He told The Sun newspaper:
“We are facing a grave crisis. The BBC should be careful not to start looking as if they are making political points out of this.”