From the Worldwide Faith News archives

RCC 2000 World Panelists Deflate Image of Global Village

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date 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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