Lebanon: what are the means of communication for us Christians?
BEIRUT – The seminar that turned attention to the theme of communication in the Middle East came to a conclusion on Friday with remarks. Under the auspices of Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, forty bishops, together with thirty priests and five lay people, worked on how to develop practical methods of communication in light of the Synod for the Middle East and in view of the Pope’s visit to Lebanon in September.
This will also be the time when the Holy Father will deliver his apostolic exhortation. That is why the initiative of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and of the Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East comes at a time even more special since the political circumstances of the Arab world exert a certain influence on the way to communicate and spread the Gospel, to build the faith of Christians, to convey the Good News to those who have not yet accepted it.
As recalled by His Beatitude Archbishop Bechara Rai, the Congress is in line with the Synod for the new evangelization and “does not come to a halt on the form, content, and tools of communication, but rather on how to use them and how to educate in the use of them“. According to the Maronite Patriarch, it is also through these means that you can in a certain sense exploit the “ Christian Spring“. The media can be of help to Christians in the protection of their historic role, in rejecting violence and in the call for dialogue.
Each country has its own cultural and political context (tolerant or not) in which it is developing communication. With regard to the Holy Land, Bishop Shomali mentioned about the role of the Patriarchate, through its web site, the informative news and the bulletin archive. He also recalled the importance of collaborating with the Holy Land and other media (Catholics and non, local and western). The auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem concluded focusing upon the faithful in the Holy Land, the first recipients. “Our efforts at the level of the media must not be guided only journalists“, he stressed. As regards Jordan, on the other hand, the Rev. Fr. Rifat Bader took advantage of this opportunity to announce the inauguration of the Center for Catholic studies and training in the media that will be held on April 25th in Amman and the launch of the new and renovated site abouna.org, in the Arabic language and shortly also in the English language.
On three occasions, the participants were able to work concretely to diagnose deficiencies, needs, need and sometimes to make some recommendations, exchanging their experiences on the ground. In light of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, the pastoral letters of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East, and considering the situation of Churches within the political contexts of the various Arab countries, the symposium participants examined the measures that Christians must take to preserve, in their own countries, i.e. in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and the Holy Land, Syria, Lebanon … the role of credible witnesses to Christ. In a nutshell, what is the mission of Christians and the Church’s role in the service of peace? In this regard, it was emphasized that Christians are “expected“. They should not live according by a “pastoral conservation or repetition“. Of course, the lack of freedom of expression in some countries has been evidenced, but also the lack of coordination between the churches and dioceses, with the prevalence of a certain “corporative” mentality, somewhat closed. Lebanon, which can count on the experience of the successful Telelumiere and Noursat, that is, on a significant technological development, will certainly be a real and proper point of reference for the neighboring countries.
Regarding the means of communication, synthesizing the various interventions, the necessity emerged that the “Christian media are obliged to compete with other means of communication, in order to bring an important cultural contribution, which enriches viewers, and lays out Christian objectives“.
There was the question of an assessment of the means of social communication currently in the Middle East, in order to understand for the future, their role in the service of the Gospel and for the propagation of the faith. It is established that these means of social communication affect and participate in a direct and essential way Christian formation at different levels. The need was emphasized “to invest in human resources to have a qualified staff. ”
Nowadays, the transformation of the public space is an important result of the spread of new means of communication. The latter are invading, as we know, all the spaces by mixing in a certain sense the private sphere with the public. Is this a progress or a dangerous drift, based on ethical values and the civil society? This is an open question. First of all we must recognize that the means of communication allow a certain freedom of expression and access to every type of information. But it was also very much stressed the risk of functioning as “anesthetics or as conditioners” of public opinion. Therefore, freedom does not necessarily mean absence of an ethic. Hence, the need of “an education that will sustain the discernment of the use of the information“. Young people have been widely mentioned in regard to all these issues, given the role they assumed in the Arab revolutions.
Finally, since not all dioceses are provided with an internet site and that others do not have the necessary means to do so, they came up with some recommendations. Among them, the urgent need to create a diocesan web site with regular updates and a collaboration needed between the laity who know the technologies and information offices. According to many delegates, it is important that “the Church meets young people and Christians in their own context, in their own culture“.
As suggested this morning by Archbishop Celli, in the words of the Holy Father: “the challenge that lies before the Church is to inculturate the message of salvation in the world today. The web should become the new “court of the Gentiles“, and in deep and respectful dialogue with other religions, believers and non-believers“.
In the proposals that will be collected in a final press release, and the desire to extend in a concrete way this congress was expressed. There could be created, for example, a special commission of the “media“ within the Pontifical Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East. The idea was launched, but above all a desire for collaboration must be emphasized between the churches, laity and pastors not to neglect the desire to share experiences and training
Christophe Lafontaine, from Beirut