Effective Communication “can diffuse tension, unite, promote life”: Nairobi-based Priest

Fr. Andrew Bwalya addressing representatives of Catholic Media Houses in Nairobi Archdiocese during their meeting at the Daughters of Paul in Westlands, Nairobi on 3 March 2022. Credit: Fr. Isaac Maina, SDB/BEAMS/Nairobi

The Church can embrace effective communication to resolve conflicts, bring about unity among people, and foster the value of life, a Nairobi-based Catholic Priest has said.

In an interview with ACI Africa on the sidelines of a meeting bringing together Catholic Media Houses in the Archdiocese of Nairobi in Kenya, the Director of New People Media Centre said that the manner in which communication is conducted can either lead to a fruitful conversation or rebellion.

“If communication is done well, it can diffuse tension, unite people, build communities and above all be able to promote life,” Fr. Andrew Bwalya said.

Fr. Bwalya who is coordinating representatives of Catholic Media Houses in the Archdiocese of Nairobi in preparation for the 56th World Communications Day (WCD) to be marked on May 29 said that life is all about communication and that the Church cannot be left behind in the race.

Fr. Andrew Bwalya, Director, New People Madia Centre, Nairobi. Credit: Fr. Isaac Maina, SDB/BEAMS/Nairobi


“For dialogue to take place, there must be communication, which is the key for many things; life is about communication. The way we communicate has the capacity to invite others into conversation or into rebellion, which will eventually lead into conflict,” the Zambian-born member of the Comboni Missionaries told ACI Africa during the May 18 interview.

Catholic Media houses in the Archdiocese are already conducting campaigns to sensitize the people of God in the Kenyan Metropolitan See about WCD.

There are a total of 15 Catholic entities that operate on print, broadcast, and digital platforms within the Kenyan Archdiocese.

They include the Paulines Publications Africa, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops Communications (KCCB), the National Mirror, the Archdiocese of Nairobi, the New People Media Center, and the Messenger of Mary Immaculate.

Others are Radio Maria Nairobi, Bayard Publications, the Bosco Eastern Africa Multimedia Services (BEAMS), the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa(AMECEA), The Seed magazine, Loyola Center for Media and Communications, Radio Waumini, Capuchin TV, and the Association for Catholic Information in Africa (ACI Africa).

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In the interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Bwalya said that any member of the church who is not ready to communicate the truth and to communicate the truth honestly can only create a condition for conflict because respect will not be embraced.

He explained, “Misuse of communication will promote negative effects; conflicts, rivalries, suspicions, rumors, fake news and all these divide communities rather than building them. Instead of dialogue, there is fear.”

A section of representatives of Catholic Media Houses in Nairobi Archdiocese at a meeting on 3 March 2022. Credit: Fr. Isaac Maina, SDB/BEAMS/Nairobi

The Director of New People Media Centre who doubles as the editor of New People, A Comboni Missionary magazine, said that for the church to effectively embrace dialogue for the common good of the community, there is need for debates based on meaningful issues.

“The church needs to conduct debates in small Christian communities, lay organizations, and official structures of the church. There has to be an openness towards even opposing views because that is how we enrich dialogue,” Fr. Bwalya said.


He added, “We do not go out there to impose things; we go there to propose and that requires an attitude of dialogue.”

He said that there are currently so many hindrances to communication that have contributed to fake news, prejudice, impatience and inability to listen with “the ear of the heart”, which he said is the theme of the 56th WCD.

Fr. Bwalya said, “There is a lot that can block communication; I think the biggest for me now is prejudice. People have prejudgments about people and different groups.”

In their effort to create awareness about WCD, Catholic media houses in the Archdiocese of Nairobi are visiting some Parishes and sharing with parishioners about the annual celebration that was established in 1967 by Pope Paul VI to provide an opportunity to reflect on the challenges and opportunities of modern means of communication.

Among other initiatives in the awareness campaign include sharing of Holy Father’s Message on the platforms of Catholic Media Houses ahead of WCD and distribution of flyers bearing the message in summary form during the visits in the Parishes.

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Two Kenyan government officials have been invited to the May 29 event, to interact with representatives of the 15 Catholic media houses in the Nairobi Archdiocese. The government officials are from the ministry of Information and Communications technology (ICT), and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the media council of Kenya.

In the May 18 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Bwalya said that the church is mandated to communicate only the gospel message, which is the truth.

“There has to be coherence between what the church preaches and gospel values: respect for one another, respect for human life, respect for nature, ecology. The church needs to be seen doing these things and not just preaching about them," he said.

The Comboni missionary who has been at the helm of the Nairobi-based New People Media Centre since 2014 said that the phenomenon of fake news has concealed truth and that “half-truth” is now considered as solid truth and people are acting on it.

“Truth is surrounded by half-truth, that sometimes people regard as the solid truth and that becomes difficult as far as communication is concerned because people start interacting on what is not true or complete,” he said, and added, “Peace eventually becomes lies, rumors and something like that.”

A section of representatives of Catholic Media Houses in Nairobi Archdiocese at a meeting on 3 March 2022. Credit: Fr. Isaac Maina, SDB/BEAMS/Nairobi

The Coordinator of Catholic media houses in the Archdiocese of Nairobi reflected on the relationship between the ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality and the theme of world communication and said that it is only when you listen to each other that you can journey together.

“I think that the ongoing synod and the world communication day and the theme that was chosen, listening to the ear of the heart, there is a very strong connection. One influences the other or affects the other in a positive way,” Fr. Bwalya said.

He explained, “In the Synod, the idea at the end of the day is to get the views and positions from different people, even those outside the church.”

For that to happen, Fr. Bwalya said, “one needs to have an attitude of listening."

"Unless there is this attitude of respect, listening will not take place and eventually synod will not take place," he said.

The Message of the Holy Father for the 56th WCD to be marked on Sunday, May 29 is a call to listen “with the ear of the heart”. Pope Francis’ call to listen is based on his assertion that “the true seat of listening is the heart.”

The call to engage the heart in listening, the Pontiff says in his Message issued January 24, is inspired by the fact that “we are losing the ability to listen to those in front of us, both in the normal course of everyday relationships and when debating the most important issues of civil life”.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.