MOST REV. DENIS CHIDI ISIZOH
Auxiliary Bishop of Onitsha Archdiocese
CBCN Liaison Bishop for Communications
(A Live Broadcast by AIT Television).
Today is World Communications Day!
On Sunday, 7 May 1967, two years after the happy conclusion of the Second Vatican Council — that gathering of about four hundred bishops of the world to review the life and the teaching of the Church, and to allow “fresh air” of ideas to blow through the Church — the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI celebrated the First World Communications Day. The Pope explained the reason for the institution of the celebration: to “give full credit…to the contribution made by the press, motions pictures, radio and television as well as the other instruments of social communication, to the enrichment of culture, to the spread of various artistic forms, to recreation, mutual knowledge and understanding among peoples and also towards the spread of the Gospel message
Fifty-five years have passed since the inauguration of World Communications Day. Many happy developments have taken place. Since then, many new technologies have come to be used in the Communications world. It has become easier and faster to communicate. More people have been able to reach out to others. The distance between different peoples of the world is shrinking, thanks to modern technologies that have significantly improved the way we communicate with one another. Millions of persons can be reached in the shortest possible time without barriers. This improvement in communication has reduced the need for physical closeness and has gradually helped create a world in which physical contact has become deemphasized.
Each year the Holy Father proposes a new theme for reflection.
- The theme for 2021 World Communications Day.
The theme of this year’s World Communications Day is “Come and See” (Jn 1,46). Communicating by Encountering People where and as they are.
This theme could not have come at a better time than now. Since last year the Coronavirus pandemic, with the restrictions imposed on us, has brought about a new communication culture: masking of our faces and observing social distancing, and greeting with elbows when we meet one another. We have been forced to live in isolation, being contented to relate with others outside family circles virtually.
The invitation to “come and see” and “to hit the road” is an encouragement to meet people in their actual context of life. It is an invitation to move away from reporting events that are speculative, third-hand, unverified and sometimes fictitious. It is a call to meet people face-to-face, first-hand with a touch of “freshness and vitality”. The Pope is drawing attention to the great value of physical closeness.
Prophetically, the Pope’s message is a post-covid19 invitation of hope. Covid19 protocols must not forever condition our movement and our relationship with others.
- Celebration of the World Communications Day in Nigeria
In different parts of Nigeria, this special day is marked by prayers, conferences and gathering of those engaged in the Communications media. People recall the advancement of science in the field of information management and technology.
On this special day, from St Gabriel Chapel, Abuja, on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, I send greetings to all the Directors of Communications throughout the country, those who help to disseminate news in our society: the gentle persons of the press, web administrators and operators, those who use the instruments of communication to promote the values of love, unity and peace among men and women of goodwill, in solidarity with those at the margins of the society. I greet those, though not professional journalists, who freely participate in reaching out to others to share information, promote friendship, and transmit enduring human values.
There are those who misuse communication instruments to spread falsehood, fake news, and hurtful messages. They promote hatred and violence in society. Some of them also do fraudulent things and give us all a bad name. I plead with them to use their talents to do good in the world.
To those who have died while trying to be the voice of the voiceless, I pray that God may grant eternal rest. We continue to remember them in our prayers.
- The Holy Father invites all.
The Holy Father invites us to “Come and see”. See what, one may ask? The Scriptural text that inspired the theme recounts that Christ allowed his admirers to come and see where he was living. They went and spent some time with him. Today the same invitation is extended to all those at the service of Communications media. To which place are they invited? They are invited to meet human beings in their actual conditions. They encounter the people anywhere: in their poverty and wealth, in sickness and good health, in marketplaces, in impressive mansions, and internally displaced camps. The men and women of the media are invited to come and see and report what they have seen. They should not tell their story from the comfort of an air-conditioned office. They must hit the road and go through the unbeaten pathways, the unusual routes, to the victims of injustice, marginalization, and oppression.
The Pope’s message to the media people: Come and See, be with the people in their actual context of life, and feel with them. Let your reporting show how they can be respected, loved and helped. Tell the world their story. I call this EMPATHIC journalism, a “come and see” model of journalism.
- The Nigerian situation.
Now is a difficult period for most Nigerians. People from different parts of the country complain about insecurity (physical, mental, food, job) with attendant consequences: fear, lack of trust, rumour mongering, ethnic conflicts, separatist tendencies.
Why has violence among ethnic groups in Nigeria increased in our own time?
Is the tension among ethnic groups inevitable?
Are there voices not yet heard in our national conversation?
Have we exhausted options for genuine dialogue in Nigeria?
Could there be other ways, not aggressive, to promote debate in Nigeria?
The Holy Father urged the journalist to hit the road in search of objective answers and recommendations.
It is to be noted by the Pastoral agents and all those engaged in promoting evangelization that the invitation to “come and see” includes home visitation, hospital apostolate, pastoral visits, programme of food for the poor in their homes. A committed pastor must “smell like the sheep”, so Pope Francis has advised.
Political leaders are also invited to “come and see”. A good leader must know the actual background of the electorate. It is this first-hand knowledge that should guide provision of social amenities, roads, water, good education, and quality life.
The ease to reach out to a vast number of persons makes it difficult to control information today. Fake news, prejudiced information, harmful messages that encourage violence and war are easy to formulate and disseminate. Some have used this method to whip up negative sentiments against others.
While talking about the several things not going on well in Nigeria, it might be helpful to step back and reflect: There is so much bitterness and negativity when we Nigerians talk about ourselves and our country.
We do as if there is nothing positive to celebrate in our country.
We do as if we hate ourselves so much that every person wants to kill his or her neighbour.
We do as if every corner of our country is littered with violently killed bodies.
We do as if every person is infected by one deadly disease or another.
We do as if every person is corrupt and every wealth in our country is ill-gotten.
The point I would like to emphasize: WE MUST UNLEARN LOOKING DOWN ON OURSELVES.
Let us be careful:
We spite God when we fail to acknowledge the many good things He has given our nation.
We mock many honest men and women who labour to positively sustain our good health, economy, national moral stamina, and many other positive values that keep our entire nation and us together.
Let us give credit to those who deserve it:
We salute those who use their communication skills and instruments to spread the good news of hope, faith, charity, peace, and joy.
We acknowledge the contributions of those who have not lost hope in Nigeria and who are still searching for creative ways to uphold and sustain the collective will to continue to live.
Dear brothers and sisters,
We turn to God from whom all good things come and beg him to give us the courage to hit the road in search of our brothers and sisters, those of them living well and happily but not yet “discovered”, and those living in abandonment, poverty, misery, hopelessness, danger, and so on.
The Holy Father recommends that we say a special prayer. Before we conclude the Mass today, we shall recite it together.
Here is an open invitation to all:
Come and see…
Tell what you see…
Help to bring positive change.