, 25 June, 2020 / 11:30 PM
The leadership of the Union of the African Catholic Press (UCAP) has organized a virtual session with panelists drawn from Africa to explore how the media can be best at the service of the Church amid COVID-19.
The Friday, June 26 webinar will have the panelists drawn from different regions and Catholic institutions in Africa reflect on how the media has so far been instrumental in keeping the people of God on the continent spiritually alive, UCAP leadership has told ACI Africa.
“We have seen in this period that churches have been closed how the media has been on the forefront facilitating worship. This is what we are going to discuss and find the best way in which we as members of the fourth estate can support the church and facilitate church services,” the President of UCAP, George Sunguh said Thursday, June 25 in an interview.
He added, “COVID-19 is going to change the world considerably; things are not going to be the same because we are having very drastic adjustments and that will require even people of a certain age not to go to church and instead pray at home.”
The idea is to have the media at the forefront in bringing awareness to the people of God about the changes occasioned by COVID-19 “so that they can take these changes positively,” Mr. Sunguh told ACI Africa.
He noted the challenge of media accessibility and affordability for many people in Africa, especially those in rural settings.
“Newspapers are for the elite and again affordability is an issue. For those in towns who can access the newspapers, they will have to debate whether to spend on the newspaper or a packet of flour,” the Kenyan-born UCAP President said and added, “These are the kind of gaps, which going forward we may want to see how best the media can fill them.”
In a bid to keep the faithful updated, Mr. Sunguh encourages journalists to cooperate with their respective parishes and come up with accessible and affordable ways of passing information such as through parish newsletters that can be circulated among the Christians.
The Kenya-based UCAP leader went on to bemoan the limited media attention given to the church on the continent despite the “big role” it plays in the society saying, “If today you took a copy of the dailies for instance here in Kenya and did an audit on the stories that are appearing, very few stories come from the church.”
“The church is not getting its due share in our media; it’s politics which is number one,” he said, adding, “We need to give the church the special place it deserves in our society.”
To enhance the church’s visibility, Mr. Sunguh indicated that UCAP is considering having a “deliberate training” for journalists who are going to specialize in church coverage, noting that it is a common mistake for journalists to refer to church leaders using the wrong designations.
“People like us should go out all the way to identify people who already have an interest of covering the church, to be formally trained just as we have journalists trained to cover business, sports, education and other aspects of news,” Mr. Sunguh said.
The June 26 webinar scheduled to start at 12.00 noon GMT will have a keynote presentation and a moderator guiding deliberations by five panelists drawn from Anglophone Africa. A similar virtual session for Francophone Africa has been slated for next week, Friday, July 3.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa