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Bishops in Nigeria to Introduce Coordinated Media training in “appropriate use of media”

A poster of the 2021 SIGNIS National Convention held in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State Nigeria. Credit: Kuha Indyer

Catholic Bishops in Nigeria are set to introduce “a coordinated media” training that would be realized in Parishes and other Catholic institutions, the National Director of Social Communications in the West African nation has said.

In a report shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, November 24, Fr. Michael Umoh says the initiative seeks to reach out to pastoral agents in Nigeria with capacity building in the “appropriate use of media”.

The initiative is expected “to develop a system that will facilitate a coordinated media education training for all Catholics in Nigeria, and particularly among all pastoral agents,” Fr. Umoh says.

The Nigerian Priest who was addressing SIGNIS members during the 2021 SIGNIS National Convention held in Port-Harcourt further said, “This goal is informed by the overwhelming importance of media education today for the mission.”

Making reference to the Vatican’s document tilted, “The church and the Internet”, Fr. Umoh said, “People in leadership positions in all sectors of the church need to understand the media, apply this understanding in formulating pastoral plans for social communications together with concrete policies and programs in this area, and make appropriate use of media. And against this background, media education is the key.”

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The Nigerian Priest also outlined efforts being made to foster media education in Africa’s most populous nation.

“Already, in collaboration with the Pastoral Agents Department of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), we have started working on a syllabus for media education in all our Major Seminaries,” he said in his address. 

The Nigerian Priest added, “If students for the priesthood and religious training wish to be part of modern life and also to be at all effective in their apostolate, they should know how the media work upon the fabric of society and the technique of their use.” 

This syllabus for Seminarians is to extend to all ecclesiastical formation centres and Catholic schools, Fr. Umoh says.

To ensure that media education reaches the grassroots, the Director for Social Communications in Nigeria has announced the holding of the Communication Week in the country next year.

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“From the 22nd to the 29th of May 2022, Catholics in Nigeria will start Communication Week (ComWEEK) to be celebrated every year,” he announced. 

This event, he added, is expected to “open the vista for developing media culture in our church through grassroot media formation of Priests in training and the huge number of Christ’s faithful in our parishes.”

The November 16-19 SIGNIS National Convention was held under the theme, “Communications in the Church in Nigeria – The Past, the Present and the Future.”

In the November 24 report compiled by Kuha Indyer, a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), some participants share their impressions about media education in Nigeria.

One of the committee members working on the pastoral communication curriculum for seminaries and schools, Fr. Emmanuel Agbiase, expresses “joy with the news from the church hierarchy.”

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“We saw that there was a need to introduce it. I have been pushing for this idea long ago and the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria also have this at the back of mind. It is a very welcome development,” the Director of Communications of Nigeria’s Gboko Diocese has been quoted as saying. 

On his part, Fr. Gerald Musa is quoted as saying, “The church for a long time has encouraged us to use every means of communication to spread the gospel message.”

“If we are to do so it goes without saying that those who are going to be pastoral agents, particularly those who are going to be priests, have to know how to use the different media of communication to communicate the gospel message,” Fr. Musa who lectures at the Centre for the Study of African Culture and Communication, Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) adds.

He notes that “some agents of evangelization are media shy, so the training is to help, especially Priests, not to be media shy.”

“I know of instances where we have invited Priests to come to the television and they say no, no, I am not ready. Maybe out of ten you see three who are more confident about going to grant an interview to a television station, preach on the television or make a presentation,” he recounts.

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The essence of training Seminarians and Priests in communication, the Nigerian Priest says, is to enable pastoral agents “to be more confident.”

“Every branch of knowledge requires some form of orientation, so we don’t have to blame them. You will see a difference between those who have received a form of orientation and those who do not. Those who have had a form of training in communication would be bolder before cameras and before journalists,” Fr. Musa explains.

On his part, Msgr. Joseph Faniran, a Professor at CIWA, invites all stakeholders “to put hands on deck to promote media education in the country as there is the need to train the human being to use the media in a productive and good way so that society can be peaceful.”