By Ogova Ondego
Published November 16, 2014
A four-day media education training for senior religious leaders commenced in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on November 15, 2014.
The training, dubbed Media Wise: Empowering Responsible Religious Leadership in the Digital Age, explores how news is produced, delves into the risks and opportunities associated with the internet, examines how representations shape perceptions, and looks at how religious leaders can best respond to misinformation about religious groups.
Mike Waltner, Head of Initiatives at the Vienna (Austria)-based King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID Dialogue Centre), which developed the curriculum and organised the training in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said the training “seeks to equip religious leaders with the skills with which “to navigate the media landscape in the digital age.”
That religious leaders exert enormous influence on their communities as teachers, bridge-builders and conflict mediators in the conflict-prone 21st century is not in doubt.It therefore makes sense when they are equipped with the skills with which to guide those around them to consume and produce media in what KAICIID calls “an informed and responsible manner.”
KAICIID, which says its “programmes strive to improve media engagement and strengthen reporting while upholding freedom of expression and the press”, further says it developed its curriculum that is being tried in Nairobi and New Delhi (India) “at the request of renowned religious authorities of several faiths…[who] were concerned that media representations of their faiths and communities are often inaccurate, distorted or incomplete” and that “Social media, while providing opportunities for engagement and dialogue, has also become a forum for hate speech.”
Naomi Hunt, Project officer for the KAICIID Media Programme, said: “Religious leaders are a vital conduit of information and opinions to their communities, and we hope that this course will help them understand how media operate, give them an opportunity to reflect on the way that perceptions are shaped, and think about how they can best approach, within their communities, the challenges and opportunities afforded by the digital age.”
Kenyans are ranked among top 10 religious populations in the world, according to a 2012 Gallup Poll that showed that 88% of Kenyans considered themselves “a religious person”, 9% considered themselves “a non religious person”, while 2% defined themselves as “a convinced atheist”.
The Gallup Poll appeared to live up to John Mbiti’s assertion in his Traditional African Religions and Philosophy book that Africans are ‘notoriously religious’ besides confirming the results of the Kenya 2009 census statistics that were released in 2011:
Total Population: 38.6 million in 2009 and 41 million in 2011 with an annual growth rate of 2.7%
Protestant Christians: 47.7%
Roman Catholic Christians: 23.5%
Other Christians: 11.9%
No Religion: 2.4%
African Traditional Religions: 1.7%
Bahá’í Faith: 1%
The Nairobi meeting is organised by KAICIID Dialogue Centre in collaboration with Arigatou International. The training is conducted by Ogova Ondego of Lola Kenya Screen and ArtMatters.Info and Victor Bwire of Media Council of Kenya.