This supposedly wonderful, eye-opening documentary went out on Channel Four in April. It carried a strong message: the British Empire was racist, and the killing at Jalianwala Bagh one hundred years ago, in 1919, was a massacre of people because of the colour of their skin. The presenter, Sathnam Sanghera, denied the killing was in self-defence. And he thinks it’s time for an apology from the British Government for past racism.
I studied the Jalianwala Bagh incident for A-level decades ago. Even then it was clearly presented as a massacre. The only thing in the film that surprised me was that Sathnam was able to find anybody at all who questioned that. It was a massacre, and it was an imperialistic massacre. Does Sathnam know how the English were treated by the Normans after 1066? How the Scots were treated by the English (and wealthy Scots) in the Highland Clearances? How the Irish were treated by the British when Ireland was part of the Empire? How the Germans were treated by the Allies after World War Two? About the fire-bombing of Dresden? About Bloody Sunday?
Everybody in the events above, and countless others, had the same colour skin. Call it Imperialism, Conquest, Man’s inhumanity to Man, Sin, call it what you like; we certainly don’t need to invoke racism to account for this behaviour. And we don’t need white people in the UK to feel guilty about things that were done before they were even born. To call this approach drivel is almost a compliment to it. Apart from being yet another example of Politically Correct tub-thumping, it is a reprehensible distraction from the real problem. And that problem is not what anyone did in the past, but the violence and mistreatment that continues today in so many areas. Syria, Yemen and Libya are just three ongoing situations where the UK Government has a hand. The Churches, as ever, remain silent and comfortable.
The media points people away from the truth all the time. This film is only one more example of that ongoing process of misdirection. Jesus did not command us to “Love your enemies if they are a different colour.” It was the universal application first three words that He used. And He didn’t talk about brooding over the past, He meant now.
If Sathnam Sanghera makes another documentary perhaps he’ll do something more useful. He could censure the British Government for its involvement in Yemen, or its failure to get tough with the Burmese Government over the Rohingya. You hardly need to be a Christian to see the logic in that. Which touches on another issue: simply, when people who profess Christianity fail to get aroused by present abuses or violence, it represents a double failure. First, a failure of their basic humanity, and second, a failure of their professed Christianity.