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BBC World Service Thanksgiving service

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Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 12:51 UK time, Monday, 17 December 2012

My most memorable event recently was a service of Thanksgiving for 80 years of the BBC World Service which was held on the auspicious day Wednesday, 12/12/12 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, just to the side of Trafalgar Square in London.

One should mention that the international radio service of the BBC began on 19 December, 1932, and now broadcasts in dozens of languages including English.

The guest list of the service was impressive. The Most Reverend. and Right Honourable. Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, was present there along with Lord Patten of Barnes, the Chairman of the BBC Trust.

The service started by the congregation singing the Hymn 'All People that on Earth do Dwell'. Then representatives from some of the BBC's language services talked about what working for the BBC World Service meant to them.

Irena Taranyuk from the BBC Ukrainian said: "I grew up with the BBC World Service. It was my father's favourite station - he listened to it in Russian, accompanied by the hissing and cracking of Soviet jamming stations. I loved sharing those night-time listening sessions - it was our secret, not to be mentioned to anyone, as it was a punishable offence in the 1970s to listen to 'enemy voices'. When I joined the BBC Ukrainian Service my father cried... It was beyond his and my wildest dreams that his daughter would come to work for the same BBC World Service".

Priyath Liyanage from the BBC Sinhala told of people living thousands of miles away, who had lost everything, without food, without water, not knowing where their beloved ones are, were hiding under a burnt-out tree, hiding from the shells and crossfire - and connecting their transistor radio to a bicycle dynamo, waiting to hear the World Service through crackly short waves...

I was also touched by the story of my colleague Pooneh Ghoddoosi from BBC Persian, who said: "I ask myself every day why I work for the BBC World Service. My job has kept me from going back to my country, Iran, it puts my family there at risk; my parents have been interrogated and intimidated because of me. But every day I choose again to go to work, and I remain thankful for doing what we do, because I think the information we deliver can inspire and enlighten people".

My role was to read a famous parable from St Matthew's Gospel: "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It's no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.

"You are the light of the world. A city build on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp hides it away, but places it on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others..." -

These words made me to think about my colleagues at the World Service.

And as if echoing these words Archbishop Dr Rowan Williams closed his sermon with words: "The World Service has not lost its 'saltiness' - the strong taste of honesty and courage. We need it to flavour our national and international life and to freshen our vision. We lose its distinctiveness, compassion and imagination at our peril..."

Dr Rowan Williams (left) and Hamid Ismailov (right)

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