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Sept. 11, AIDS, Forgiveness, Christmas: Themes of NCC-Related Programs
Set to Air on Major Broadcast Television Networks in December

            November 21, 2001, NEW YORK CITY – The Sept. 11 tragedies, AIDS in Africa and America, the Christmas story, and the heartrending, difficult journey toward forgiveness are the themes of four broadcast network television specials presented by or in cooperation with the National Council of Churches and set to air in December.

            Three were produced in cooperation with the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission (IBC), which includes the NCC, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Broadcast Communications Group of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Jewish Theological Seminary.  The fourth, the NBC-TV Christmas special, is presented by the NCC.

Because the participating groups rotate their access to the network slots from year to year, it is unusual for four NCC programs to appear in a single season, much less in a single month.  

Dates indicated for each program are the dates the networks will feed the specials to local affiliates.  Each affiliate decides whether to air the special and when.  “Requests from the viewing public for stations to carry the special religious programs are helpful in encouraging them to clear their schedules and to air the programs in popular viewing times,” said Dave Pomeroy (, NCC Director for Electronic Media.

Details on the four programs follow:

  • “Ngone’s Story: A Tale of Africa’s Orphans,” produced by United Methodist Communications for the National Council of Churches, focuses on a teenager in Senegal whose father has died of AIDS and whose mother is HIV-positive.  The mother has kept the nature of her illness from Ngone (not her real name) because of the stigma around AIDS in Africa – even in Senegal, one of the more enlightened countries on the continent in controlling the disease.

“Ngone’s Story” is also about the strength and spirit of the Senegalese family and the hope of Church World Service’s Moringa tree project.  While not a cure, the edible products of this highly nutritious tree show promise for strengthening immunity.

Ngone’s story is paralleled by the plight of a Los Angeles mother with AIDS who is struggling with how to tell her children about the nature of her disease.

Jeneane Jones of United Methodist Communications is producer, narrator and writer.  The one-hour “Ngone’s Story” is part of the “Horizons of the Spirit” series, produced in cooperation with the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission for NBC stations.  The NBC-TV feed date is Nov. 28-29.  Several stations will air “Ngone’s Story” on Sunday, Dec. 2; some may choose to air it on Saturday, Dec. 1, World AIDS Day.  Check local listings for air date and time in your area.

  • “Journey Toward Forgiveness” is an hour-long documentary about families and individuals facing anger and forgiveness in the face of violent or wrongful death, near-death from racial injustice, terminal illness and other circumstances.  Part of the “Vision and Values” series and produced for the National Council of Churches by Mennonite Media, the documentary powerfully demonstrates that those who are able to embark on a process toward forgiveness – though heartrending and difficult – find it to be the path to inner healing.

Executive producers of “Journey Toward Forgiveness” are Dave Pomeroy of the NCC and Burton Buller of Mennonite Media.  Producer is Jerry L. Holsopple of Mennonite Media. Denominational partners include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), United Church of Christ, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Church of the Brethren and others.

The ABC-TV feed date is Dec. 2.  Check local listings for local air date and time.

  • “The Greatest Gift,” a Christmas special produced for the National Council of Churches by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, features Grammy Award-winning recording artist Sandy Patty, world-renowned vocal artist Wintley Phipps, the Harlem Boys’ Choir and the Brocton Advent Children’s Choir, with Christmas reflections by Rear Admiral Barry C. Black, Chief of Navy Chaplains.  It will include a special retelling of the Christmas Story by individuals affected by the Sept. 11 tragedies.  The one-hour program will be fed to NBC-TV stations on December 16 for airing during the Christmas season. 
  • “Responding to Tragedy: Religion in a Time of Terror” is a CBS-produced interfaith discussion of religion and the terrorist acts of Sept. 11, featuring National Council of Churches General Secretary Bob Edgar and other panelists representing Muslim, Jewish, Catholic and Buddhist faith groups.

The religious leaders share their insights into how the world has changed since Sept. 11 and what faith and faith groups can do to help one another in this new time.  The panel, moderated by Ted Holmes, came together for taping at the American Bible Society.

Dr. Edgar calls for more interfaith conversation so that we can learn more about one another, and urges justice but not vengeance.  Rabbi James Rudin of the American Jewish Committee picks up on this theme, saying that “love” (an important religious term) comes out of justice.  Religious leaders should not be saying that the Sept. 11 events are “unbelievable,” he says, for after the Holocaust we know that anything that is evil may be believable.

Dr. Elaine Pagels, professor of religion at Princeton University, spoke of the ability of religions for self-correction; each faith tradition will find ways to weed out extremism.  Moreover, we need to distinguish between fundamentalists and those who would do violence, says Father Tom Reese of “America” magazine.  Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of Al Farah Mosque in New York City notes that Sept. 11 prompted the American Muslim community to look at their traditions both as Muslims and Americans.  We must not perpetuate the cycle of anger, he says, but rather respond out of the ethics of our own religious perspectives.  Tibetan Buddhist monk Nicholas Vreeland pointed to the letter sent to President Bush by the Dalai Lama, which said that “violence will only increase the cycle of violence."

This half-hour, CBS-TV “Religion and Culture” special will be fed to local affiliates on December 16; check local listings for air date and time.


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