BY SUSAN PONTING, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER AND SHOWRUNNER
We’ve had another incredible and action-packed season this year on Context Beyond the Headlines – from the terrorist bombings at churches throughout Sri Lanka that killed over 200 innocent Christians – to the Ukrainian plane crash over the skies of Iran – to the story that tops them all – the COVID-19 coronavirus. All this, as our fearless Host, Executive Producer, CEO, and dear friend, Lorna Dueck announced her retirement to care for her beloved and wonderful husband, Vern.
COVID-19 is top of mind. As our Context blogger, professor John Stackhouse Jr. wrote recently, “This virus is not a surprise to God.”
We’re all constantly reminded of the beautiful people around us doing incredible things to keep spirits up and worship our Lord, knowing that we will get through this unprecedented time in modern human history.
I asked our Context team to let me know the news stories over the past season that impacted them in some way. Our Senior Producer Hannah Vanderkooy, who is eight and a half months pregnant, and by the time you read this article will have had her precious baby daughter! Hannah said the Iran plane crash impacted her most. “Ukraine Airlines flight 752 was shot down by an Iranian missile, killing all 176 souls on board, I attended one of the many vigils at Mel Lastman Square in North York.”
Hannah spoke with many of the mourners, “I was supposed to be on that flight,” Arash Behboodpour told Hannah.
“We arrived at the vigil on a cold Thursday evening just one day after the crash. People held lit candles and brought photos of their lost loved ones. Some had friends and family on the flight, others just felt the pain of their community. Their pain was felt by people all across Canada and the world. Context honoured the peacemakers. Our show focused on the community that had come together in mourning and was aptly named, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” says Hannah.
Visual Resources Producer, Samantha Zeffer said our program, “Jesus is King” really resonated with her, and impressed upon her how the conversations around the album heightened awareness of Kanye West’s walk with Christ, and the “Sunday Services” he holds in the U.S.. Samantha said, “When we covered this story, it was nice to be able to share a story of hope, and see that Jesus is still changing hearts. In researching and gathering visuals for this episode, it was also amazing to see the number of people – even celebrities who were being impacted by West’s new album.”
Senior Producer Faten AlFaraj wrote about Allan Kurdi’s aunty Tima Kurdi. Allan was the little boy whose tiny body washed up on shore as he and his family were trying to escape the war, Syrian refugees looking for refuge in neighbouring Turkey. Allan, his mother, and brother didn’t arrive. Tima spoke with Lorna Dueck and said, “I will never forget that day on September 2, 2015 when I heard the tragic news- there are no words to describe my feelings. I believe that on that day God did shine a light on that image (Allan’s tiny, lifeless body) to wake up the world and to say enough suffering and enough innocent children dying, we need to take action!” For Faten, those were the words of Tima Kurdi, whom we interviewed in our “Stalled on the Refugee Highway” episode.
Seeing the pain in her eyes and hearing the sorrow in her voice was one of the most powerful messages the world needed to hear and see to help people understand what refugees go through trying to secure a safer – but not necessarily a better future.”
Producer Christine Yoo says the COVID-19 coronavirus impacted her most when she found a Canadian living where the outbreak occurred in Wuhan, China online. “Wayne Duplessis was giving me detailed accounts of what was happening in real time as he was right in the epicentre of where the virus broke out. Wayne had already been interviewed multiple times by other media, but through our email conversation I found out that Wayne and his wife Emily are Christians.
When we interviewed Wayne via Skype from Wuhan he told us they were going to ride out the virus as the family did during SARs,’ but shortly after that interview, Wayne worried for his wife and sons, and so took the Canadian government’s offer to be flown home to Canada.
The Duplessis family spent 14 days in quarantine in Trenton. Wayne said the family’s faith saw them through the ordeal.
LORNA DUECK’S CONTEXT 2019/20 HIGHLIGHTS
“Foster Care in Crisis” was an important episode. Over 67,000 children live in foster care in Canada, and by age 18, children in foster care are “aged out,” they lose the government structures of family support that fostering provided. This is a frightening loss of community that cries out for Christian care. We interviewed three young women, Jane, Anna- Amy, and Jennifer who had all faced that perilous journey. These brave women had trauma-filled childhoods but now in their 30’s, were succeeding because of relationships that had offered spiritual community and practical people to them as they fought for jobs, education and shelter (search Foster Care on our website for interviews and links on how you can get involved in this need).
A horrible 2019 Easter Sunday tragedy in Sri Lanka is still on my mind one year later. Eight terrorist bombs ripped through churches, luxury hotels, and housing complexes in and around Colombo killing 253 people. For 11 successive Sundays prior to this tragedy, Christian churches in Sri Lanka had been disrupted in varying degrees of attack. It is a life-changing encounter to witness how people rise up to forgive, help, and give courage and care for each other amid such horror.
I witnessed Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus all working in love and sacrificial care around victims, providing money, health care and long-term planning. Our Crossroads donors gave $24,000 to help replace the demolished Zion Pentecostal Church in Batticaloa. Search “Faith Under Fire” on our website to watch Sri Lankan’s unconquerable love for Christ.