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In a changed world, churches need to rethink communications

THE world of communication has changed so radically in the past 20 years that it is time for churches to rethink how they communicate concerns about injustice and conflict, said a group of Christian communicators gathered in Busan, South Korea.

Busan is the site of the next assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC), scheduled for 30 October to 8 November 2013.

The group of journalists and communication advocates met this week to draft a statement on the theme of the assembly, "God of life, lead us to justice and peace."

"The last time the WCC discussed the issue of how to communicate with the world was at its assembly in Vancouver in 1983," said Cheon Young-cheol, Korean communication coordinator for the Korea Host Committee (KHC) for the assembly.

"Since then social media and citizen journalists have emerged.

It is time to look at these new opportunities that churches now have to gather and distribute news about injustices and abuse of the environment."

The consultation on communication was convened at the initiative of the KHC and was co-moderated by the WCC and World Association for Christian Communication (WACC).

The WCC also co-sponsored the event.

The 12-member group included representatives of Korean Christian media as well church journalists and communication specialists from India, Germany, Canada, Argentina, Brazil and Switzerland.

"In recent years, social media have emerged and with them the sources of stories and information about conflict zones in the world have multiplied.

Yet at the same time, injustice and conflict persist," said Marcelo Schneider from Brazil.

"If churches take seriously the potential of social media to engage people in changing the situation in which they find themselves, then this can be a powerful motivator for social transformation."

A statement crafted by the group brought attention to a loss of integrity in journalism as a result of the small number of media conglomerates controlling much of the news disseminated and received today.

While social media has opened up the information channels to many more voices, it offers its own set of challenges about information sharing, according to the statement.

In general the statement points to the need for communicators to lift up the voices of those who are oppressed and marginalized, while recommending that these groups be given better access to information sharing channels.

The statement ends with a "call to action" urging churches to recognize and support the role of communication in initiatives to address and transform the underlying causes of environmental destruction, violence and abuse of human rights.

"Churches must support both citizen journalists and their professional communication staff in order for stories to be gathered effectively and told with integrity," said Karin Achtelstetter, WACC General Secretary.

The draft statement will be presented to the WCC as it plans the assembly with the goal of further discussion on the document at the WCC Central Committee meeting in late August.

The sponsoring organizations for the communications consultation included the KHC, WCC, WACC, Busan Presbyterian University and several local churches in Busan.

More information is available at www.waccglobal.org