African Panelists Emphasize Need For “Social Media Training” Amid COVID-19 Restrictions
At a virtual session aimed at exploring ways the media can best serve the Church in Africa amid COVID-19 challenges, panelists have underscored the need to train members of the Clergy in appropriate ways of engaging social media for effective evangelization.
One of the five panelists, Sr. Agnes Lucy Lando, said the training in social media is geared toward their “rightful use” lest they become “a destruction.”
“It is clear that new media is fronting various opportunities that the Church should grab for evangelization. It is Biblical; it is Christian and Christ-like and we should not be afraid to use the new and emerging media for evangelization,” Sr. Lando, a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mary of Kakamega in Kenya, said during the Friday, June 26 webinar.
She added, “Social media has come in handy as an intervention to bring unity, communion between Christians and the Church leadership.”
“If we do not train both in content and use, then we might not use the new media appropriately,” Sr. Lando who was recently appointed the Director of Research and Postgraduate Studies at the Kenya-based Daystar University cautioned.
Hinting at possible topics for the training in appropriate ways of engaging social media, the Kenyan-born Professor of Communication probed, “What is the right way that a pastor or Christian needs to use social media?”
Organized by the leadership of the Union of African Catholic Press (UCAP) under the theme, “The role of new media in Church service during and after COVID-19,” the June 26 afternoon virtual session brought together panelists drawn from different regions of and Catholic institutions in Africa.
A similar virtual session for Francophone Africa has been scheduled to take place next week, Friday, July 3.
The Communications Officer of the Ghana-based Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), Faustina Angmor underscored the need for training as an issue that must be taken “very seriously” considering that “social media has become our Church.”
“Is the content that goes out on social media platforms always good?” Ms. Angmor, one of the five panelists probed and added, “We need to bear in mind that it is not only the Catholic Church that is out there in the new media space.”
“What are other Churches doing?” the Ghanaian national further probed and continued, “We have to tap into what they are doing and make sure that what we are doing is not because we find ourselves in that space now but because we need to do something that is going out to the world and is presenting us well.”
Another panelist, Martin Kudakwashe Matambo said that digital media do present “the Church a platform to tell good stories, the story of its mission. As Communicators, we need to identify how to incorporate this into the main mission of the Church.”
“If we are to utilize the new media, we need to make sure our content is good, it has quality and consistency,” Mr. Matambo who is the Jesuits Communications Programmes Officer based in Zimbabwe advised.
He added, “We need to do a lot of market research before producing content; sometimes we are in the business of the old Church, telling people the right and wrong without answering questions.”
For Fr. Paul Tatu, social media has created multiple communication channels leading to “confusion.”
“We have lots of communication channels,” the Communications Officer at the Southern Africa Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (SACBC) noted and added, “The confusion created by the new media is something that we have to work on.”
“We need to scale down and ask how we can use it in the best way; in a way that it will benefit and we are sure of the impact,” Fr. Paul said in his address as one of the panelists.
In his keynote address during the virtual event, EWTN’s Regional Manager for Africa, George Wirnkar acknowledged with appreciation the significance of social media amid COVID-19 restrictions and that the Church has been able to reinvent itself by evangelizing through digital gadgets.
“Though the new ways of communication have sustained and, in many ways, encouraged growth of the local Church, what is going to happen after Corona?” Wirnkar probed and responded, “People are not going to move backwards and the Church has to start reflecting so as to continue to be relevant not just to the local Church but the global Church.”
The Cameroonian-born EWTN official cautioned the Church leadership in Africa against complacency and lack of inventiveness in engaging digital media saying, “We have a risk of religious migration. If we are not looking after our own, someone else will look after them for us.”
Source: ACI Africa