On the occasion of the 54th World Communications Day (WCD) this year marked Sunday, May 24, the leadership of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS) has called on media practitioners on the continent who practice the Christian faith to tell stories that make people visualize the bigger picture of their respective lives, with God at the center.
“Our task as Christian communicators is to make the people see that there is always a larger story with God which, try as we may, we or even the smartest experts, cannot immediately fully comprehend,” CEPACS President, Bishop Emmanuel Badejo says.
In his statement on the occasion of this year’s WCD, which he shared with ACI Africa, the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Oyo Diocese advises, “When writing the story of your life do not let anyone else hold the pen or the paper for that matter! We must vigorously play the protagonists in our own story, showing that God is the editor and choreographer of all what we experience.”
Having God at the center of the process of communication “frees us from the fatalistic submission to the overwhelming presence of evil in the world (and) it also empowers us to “look at the world more tenderly,” Bishop Badejo says.
He makes reference to the Holy Father’s letter for this year’s WCD saying, “The Pope’s message essentially challenges humanity, so infected today with tragedies and bad news, to transform into a narrative that can regard our world and its happenings with a tender gaze.”
The 58-year-old Prelate says Pope’s letter with the theme, “That you may tell your children and grandchildren: Life becomes history” plays the role of equipping the people of God “all over the world with the tool with which to manage present trial and tribulations.”
“Those who endure and suffer from war, ethnic conflicts, terrorist attacks, bad governance, and even the current COVID-19 pandemic can invoke the stories of their past when things were better, more peaceful and times were more prosperous to gain balance and comfort,” the President of CEPACS says.
In his message titled, “The Pain Strengthens the Promise,” Bishop Badejo explains that Pope Francis recognizes the nature of human beings “as storytellers and how important, even indispensable, stories are to human existence.”
“Told in an authentic manner,” Bishop Badejo says, “stories then become the reason, the motivation, the palliative that helps us to heroically confront the challenges of life.”
He continues, “Such stories remind us of when we had much less but were much more; when we found more joy in who we were than in what we had; and when humanity mattered much more than possessions.”
He underscores the value of authentic storytelling relative to the contemporary environment of exploitative fake news and sugar-coated falsehood saying, “Those who manufacture baseless, destructive and sensational stories and all who mindlessly disseminate them should pay good attention.”
“True, we cannot stop the birds of negativity from flying over our heads,” he says and adds, “We can surely stop them from nesting in our hair.”
“We need stories that reveal who we truly are, also in the untold heroism of everyday life. This is where in this years’ message, the rubber hits the road,” he emphasizes and adds, “We need at this time not only storytellers but also apologists, another brand of storytellers who are able and willing at every turn to refute lies and fake news about our history of faith and church.”
He clarifies in reference to the role of apologists, “This dimension is not a charge only for professionals. It is within the power of every youth and adult in the Diocese and all over the world.”
“Even as we take for granted the Sacred Scripture as the story of stories, we learn to give more value and space to “the other scripture”, that is our oral, cultural and traditional history as well as contemporary events,” the Nigerian Prelate says.
He adds, “We must collocate contemporary tragedies like bereavements, terrorist attacks, conflicts, violent deaths, kidnappings and Corrupt practices which when reported especially through the modern media, seem to overwhelm and perplex us.”
“Rather than seek to avoid them or merely denounce them we must demonstrate that for Christians, the pain is part of the promise and sorrow is not alien to the story,” Bishop Badejo says and urges communicators in Africa, guided by the Holy Spirit, to “speak up for the truth, for the faith, for the Church.”
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), the administrative office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has hailed various media practitioners who have been using the means of communication to tell good and honest stories.
“We urged journalists to focus more on positive stories that will always elevate, shape and mold the society,” the Secretary General of CSN, Fr. Zacharia Samjumi said May 24 during Mass in Abuja on the occasion of WCD.
“Journalists should always work toward countering negative stories in the society by regularly embracing positive and balanced reportage of events,” Fr. Zacharia said.
In Ghana, the Director for Social Communications of the Diocese of Sekondi-Takoradi in the Western Region of country, Fr. Emmanuel Dolphyne encouraged those who engage the media for their information needs to “apply discernment to all the stories they consume from the media” by asking some fundamental questions about the content proposed.
For those who engage the media to reach out to others, the Ghanaian Cleric said the messages need to reflect the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.
“We need to reflect on what we are to communicate to the world, namely faith to a world gradually rejecting God as creator, love to a world overcome with bitterness and pain, hope to a world in chaos because values are turned upside down,” Fr. Emmanuel said during the live-streamed Mass to mark this year’s WCD.
He also advocated for messages that reflect “unity to a world divided by color and language and justice to a world divided by the gap between the rich and poor through exploitation.”
“Our lives are influenced by stories and they leave their mark on us by shaping our convictions and behavior by helping us understand and communicate who we are.”
“Pope Francis highlighted the importance of memory in communications. However, memory is not a static body but a dynamic reality,” he said and explained, “It is the means by which the stories, hopes, dreams and experience of one generation are passed on to another.”
“The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has genuinely highlighted the importance of telling our story our own way,” he further said, adding, “with the ban on public gathering, we resorted to the use of modern means of social communication to tell our story. We therefore need to make use of the media to help us achieve the goal of reaching our faithful.”
In order to be effective storytellers, Fr. Emmanuel said, “We need to wait on to the Lord to equip us for this mission.”
“Let us invite the Holy Spirit to fill us with the message, energize and empower us,” he concluded.
Damian Dieu Donne Avevor in Ghana contributed to this news report.