The internet is the new Aeropagus

If you had a choice to reach out to new converts by building a new church or using the internet, which would you choose? Yes, it’s a hypothetical question but one that could soon need very serious thought. Investing in online evangelism makes perfect sense, parishioners are there everyday, every minute. The internet is the new Aeropagus!

The Aeropagus was the centre of temples and cultural facilities in addition to being a high court in ancient Athens. The Apostle Paul had been taken there by some Greeks to explain the Christ he was preaching. His address there became known as the Aeropagus Sermon (Acts 17:16-34). After the sermon a number of the people there converted and became followers of Paul

This analogy of the Aeropagus was made by Bishop George Desmond Tambala of Zomba diocese. He was opening a three day workshop in Mangochi on how the Catholic Church in Malawi can embrace the use of new media.

Bishop Tambala, who is also Bishop Chairman for Social Communications and Research Commission in the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, said that for too long people have looked at new media, and especially social media, with a lot of suspicion. He said that while social media does have it’s risks, it is the new way.

Bishop Tambala advised the participants to embrace new ways of communication. “Sometime back we used to say a bishop (a diocese) without a radio has no voice. Today we can say a diocese without an online presence doesn’t even exist”

He encouraged the faithful to be creators of content and not just consumers. The bishop went further to say that there are some people who use the media to spread lies and repeat the lies again and again. “If you repeat a negative story again and again, that story eventually forms an opinion in people’s minds” he said. “But you can use the same media to form a positive opinion by telling positive stories”.

Bishop Tambala made reference to a statement by Pope Francis that irresponsible journalism can be equated to terrorism. Pope Francis earlier this year warned Italian journalists ‘when journalism is based on rumors or on stoking fear in the public, it can become a “form of terrorism” and a “weapon of destruction” of both people and nations.’

In closing Bishop Tambala stressed the importance of sharing knowledge. “Let’s not be like the sing’anga (witch doctor) who only shares his knowledge with his son at the moment of his death. The future belongs to unified forces!” he said.

Legislation, new media and blogging

The topics covered at the workshop were quite diverse. John Mchirikizo from the Malawi Digital Broadcast Network Limited made presentations on the Access to Information Bill and ICT in Government. Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority Deputy Director of Legal Affairs (Consumer Affairs) Thokozani Chimbe made a presentation on the cyber laws in Malawi including the e-Transcations Bill and explained Macra’s role as a regulator.

Director of Luntha TV, Fr Andrew Kaufa, looked as traditional media versus new media and how both can be used to amplify the voice of the church.

web design and management presentation

Taking participants through my presentation which tackled web design and management, blogging and social media.

I facilitated a session on web design and management. The session tackled blogging as we know it in addition to video and audio blogging. The need to develop content calendars and have a designated person to execute them (like their life depended on it) was stressed. Other issues included the essentials when engaging a designer on a web development project and how to ensure it is a win for both parties.

Participants to the workshop were pastoral and communication secretaries from all the country’s dioceses and directors from Catholic media houses including Radio Maria Malawi, Radio Alinafe, Tigabane Radio, Tuntufye FM, Luntha Television and Montfort Media. The Association of Catholic Journalists in Malawi and rectors from Kachebere and St. Peter’s Major Seminaries were also present.

The workshop was organised by the Episcopal Conference’s Social Communications and Research Commission.

*Cover image: St Paul Preaching in Athens

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