In defence of Benedict Cumberbatch: I'm glad he's bothered about refugees

Michael Buerk has decided to get sniffy about Benedict Cumberbatch and Emma Thompson's interventions on behalf of Syrian refugees. I'm guessing from his comments that he would be equally dismissive about Angelina Jolie and George and Amal Clooney's latest involvement. 

Buerk's justification for the sniffiness is that he is, of course, a seasoned war reporter.

"As a superannuated war reporter myself I'm a little sniffy about celebs pratting around among the world's victims"

Buerk's defining moment as a journalist was reporting on the famine in Ethiopia in 1984. I still remember sitting in our family living room and hearing his solemn tone as he described the scale of the tragedy. I had a huge amount of respect for him then which was only renewed several years later when my wife and I were caught in a crisis situation overseas and became reliant on the accurate reporting of the BBC world service.


So I am disappointed by Buerk's sensational and superficial comments, especially as we could be on the same page with a distaste for our celebrity-soaked culture. It made me sniffy last week when reporters focused on what the Duchess of Cambridge was wearing when she attended an event overshadowing the fact that she was supporting a crucial campaign to reduce knife crime through mentoring of teenagers.

I am pleased and delighted that Benedict Cumberbatch is trying to harness his huge media following to help shine a light on the biggest humanitarian disaster our world is currently facing. While the debate about Brexit means that politicians are unwilling to offer any help in the refugee crisis, I commend movie stars for breaking the stereotype that they are only interested in themselves.

Buerk's actual critique was:

"I hate it when feather-bedded thesps pay flying visits to the desperate to parade their bleeding hearts and trumpet their infantile ideas on what 'must be done'."

This seems pretty harsh criticism, especially as I am sure that Michael Beurk enjoys the luxury of a warm and expensive comfortable bed, and has based his own career on bringing media attention to the troublespots of the world.

I would not support Cumberbatch or Thompson to run for office and handle the UK's foreign policy or suddenly become the voice of BBC current affairs, but I do want to commend them for using their position and power to draw attention to a real problem. To call people to action on the refugee crisis is personally costly. They risk losing fans which in turn could lose them roles. Cumberbatch used his voice to encourage his friends to support Save the Children which has all the local expertise anyone could ask for in dealing with the child refugees. Therefore the criticism that these actors are using this crisis as an opportunity to increase their fame and "trumpet infantile ideas" is an awkward position for a journalist to take.

I have far more issue with those of us who are willing to let this crisis unfold and not do anything about it. So Michael, although I am grateful for your outstanding journalistic career I wonder if we should save our sniffiness for the apathetic and ambivalent and cheer on anyone willing to use their voice to try and bring an end to the biggest world crisis of our time.

Dr Krish Kandiah is a Contributing Editor to Christian Today and founder and director of Home for Good.