From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
RCC 2000 World Panelists Deflate Image of Global Village
Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
01 Apr 2000 14:20:10
Religious Communication Congress 2000
Dan Gangler, coordinator of news and information
Newsroom telephone during Congress 312-595-3151
Sharing our stories in a global context
By Maureen Rodgers
CHICAGO – In the age of the Internet, the world seems to be a "global
village" brought together by new electronic and cyberspace
technologies. But panelists from Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands and
Latin America challenged that view on Saturday as they discussed global
communication at the Religious Communications Congress 2000 in Chicago.
The restrictive policies of government-owned media, geographic obstacles,
the cultural concerns of indigenous peoples, wars, political rivalries and
oppression, the absence of free speech, and the lack of technology
infrastructures were cited as barriers to full participation as partners in
global communication. They also challenged other common assumptions of
North Americans about the availability of media throughout the world.
Julienne Munyaneza of Rwanda, Africa, and the Middle East regional
coordinator for the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC )
in London, stated that radio, not television, is the most powerful and
prevalent medium in many parts of the world. "There is a radio in every
bar, every kitchen," she said. "Radio incited the killing of the Hutu and
Tutsi, during Rwanda's war."
"Radio is still the most powerful medium," agreed Viliami Falekaono of
Tonga, President of the Pacific Region of WACC, "but television is catching
up." American television programs dominate the screen in the island
nation. "Kids like the way Americans talk, act, look. It's the right way to
"(The kids) even look at American religious programs," Falekaono continued.
He described how American television influenced the economy, trade and
politics of the relatively isolated 18 island countries and several
territories of the Pacific Islands.
Geographic and financial concerns control the decisions of countries and
regions as well. Connecting the hundreds of Pacific islands with telephone
lines, including extraordinary costs to access the Web, make it "quite
impossible to think Internet" at the present time, Felekaono said.
Maria Valeria Buquiere is a Catholic high school teacher and diocesan
communication committee member from Ituzaingo, Argentina. She wants to
develop this new kind of communication, but in parts of her country she
sees "people so isolated they do not have the basic necessities: no
electricity, no water, not even batteries for radio."
Gaining the financial and professional support of religious leadership for
media development is an almost universal concern. Michael Cheung,
assistant program officer and video producer for the Hong Kong Catholic
Diocesan AV Centre, who labors in "the most capitalistic city in the
world," does not experience either isolation or poverty. He does face the
challenge of seeking support to produce a "fun, provocative television
show" that will explain the importance of religion and faith.
Africa is currently besieged by wars in nine of its countries, an AIDS
epidemic and an oppressive burden of world debt imposed on every
citizen. But Julienne Munyaneza seeks solutions and hope for her own
continent through various levels of communication. "What we really need in
Africa is support for training and educating communicators in
Africa—specialized training through journalistic and media (radio and
television) education," she stated. "Most journalists are self-made, and do
everything! We must empower people to report themselves.
"The magic word for me is ‘partnership,'" she said. "Instead of doing
things for us, let us do it together."
Munyaneza acknowledged Africans currently can't reach the technological
level (that the United States has attained); but we look to what we can do
as a people of indigenous culture. We can dance, sing act, and tell
stories for reconciliation, peace-building and trauma-healing." She ended
with a plea: "Help us to tell our own stories – don't tell them for us!"
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