Senior Church of England cleric praises journalists and programme-makers

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A senior Church of England cleric has praised journalists and TV and radio programme-makers for their work "in the search for truth."

Opening the prestigious Sandford St Martin Awards for the best in programmes about religion, ethics and spirituality, Dr Mark Oakley, Dean of Southwark, celebrated the work of creative people working in the media.

He emphasised the important role of "journalists, reporters, filmmakers, and writers who are passionate and fearless in the search for, and the sharing of truth."

Dr Oakley described the current global context as "a time when we have never had so many words but never been so disinclined to believe them, a time when the boundaries between facts and opinions and lies, are publicly disappearing, and a time when there is heightened self-promotion coupled with a low self-awareness."

Speaking to the audience at Southwark Cathedral, London he pointed out, "When many are trying to be examples of power, our journalists and creatives must show the power of example. And that's why we're here tonight, because they do."

Dr Oakley, an award-winning author of books on poetry and spirituality, explained, "These awards are important because they celebrate work that helps people understand the philosophical, historical, political, and emotional intricacies of religion and ethics.

"There is much around at the moment that would prefer dishonest simplicity to an honest complexity, but the work we acclaim this evening refuses that impatient temptation."

The Sandford St Martin Trust described the entries for this year's awards as "a showcase for the excellence of UK creatives producing content that explores belief and ethics.

"Whether it is through cutting-edge journalism, creative storytelling or societal impact, they prove that the audience for good religiously literate content and in-depth exploration of ethical issues is more diverse and more engaged than ever before."

Winners of the awards presented this week included a radio celebration of Christmas in war-torn Ukraine, a TV documentary about the debate around assisted dying, and a TV investigation into a Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York.

The award, voted for by readers of the best-selling magazine Radio Times, went to TV programme 'The Holy Land and Us.' The two-part documentary explored how several families' histories were impacted by the founding of the state of Israel in 1948.

Author and broadcaster Tom Holland received the Sandford St Martin Trustees' Award "In recognition of his contribution to the greater public understanding of religions and their role in contemporary and historical human experience."

The Sandford St Martin Trust "promotes thought-provoking, distinctive programming that engages with religion of all faiths, ethics or morality." It believes "the media have an increasingly important and challenging role to play in interpreting what happens in the world, and that through their work, they can promote understanding, increase tolerance, and help build community."

Rev Peter Crumpler is a Church of England minister in St Albans, Herts, UK, and a former communications director with the CofE.