Image: Communications Sunday 28th May 2017


Positive communication is the way to achieve justice and peace, as Peter Kearney, director of the Catholic Media Office in Scotland reflects ahead of Communications Sunday.

On Sunday 28th May 2017, the church will mark World Communications Day for the 51st time. It provides an opportunity for the universal church to consider how and why we communicate, with one another and with the world beyond the catholic community.
Communication is at the heart of all that we do.  We share information, emotion, ideas and experiences every day. Our faith is based on the communication of God’s message to humanity, namely that God is love.   It is not a coincidence that St John refers to Jesus as the “Word” made flesh. (John: 1,14).
In his message for World Communication Day this year, the Pope Francis asks us to focus on our everyday communication.   He says: “I would like to encourage everyone to engage in constructive forms of communication that reject prejudice towards others and foster a culture of encounter, helping all of us to view the world around us with realism and trust.”
It would be easy to see that message as directed primarily at “others”.    But the Pope does not address it only to politicians or journalists or webmasters or broadcasters … he directs it to every member of the Church….to you and to me.
He asks us to consider these questions:
Do I engage with other people constructively?
Do I reject prejudice?   Really reject it?   Not tolerating it even a little?
Do I try to promote encounter and dialogue?   How?
Do I help others to see the world with realism and trust?
The Church calls us to be active in shaping our culture for the better. One of the most important ways the Church tries to do this is through its engagement with the media – both the traditional means of newspapers, radio and TV, and through the web-based media. In recent years, the Church has used social media to communicate ever more effectively both to those within the Church and to those beyond its formal membership. Never in history has it been easier for Catholics to keep up with the activities, homilies and addresses of the Holy Father and of the bishops;  to find out what’s happening locally;  and to share information about new initiatives or inspiring words and thoughts.
The Church needs to be present in the life of our society and She communicates largely through the various forms of media. I hope you will help us keep our presence strong and effective by supporting the second collection for Communications Sunday on 27 & 28 May, which funds the work of the Catholic Media Office, which represents the Church in a challenging media context and with moderate resources.
In all of this, let us act with hope and trust. As Pope Francis reminds us: “Confidence in the seed of God’s Kingdom and in the mystery of Easter should shape the way we communicate.   This confidence enables us to carry out our work – in all the different ways that communication takes place nowadays – with the conviction that it is possible to recognize and highlight the good news present in every story and in the face of each person.”

Image: Respectful Dialogue in Politics


Anthony Horan, Director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office, writes our latest blog in which he focuses on the message from Scotlands Bishops in their Pre-election letter  urging politicians to engage in respectful dialogue. 

Scotland’s Catholic Bishops have urged voters to be mindful of a number of issues ahead of next month’s General Election. They have asked the faithful to bear in mind the right to life, the need to challenge and eradicate poverty, and the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. They have also spoken of the need to challenge political candidates on their commitment to a more respectful and tolerant type of politics.

Many people are tired of the persistent squabbling and arguing being played out between politicians on a seemingly daily basis. And this always seems to be heightened around election time. Our TV screens and social media pages are full of people who seem to be more interested in scoring party political points than getting on with the job of doing what is best for our society and promoting the common good, and people are tired of it.

Perhaps it is for this reason that the Bishops feel compelled to invite politicians to take a new direction and to give greater prominence to respect and tolerance and avoid overdoing the points scoring and unnecessary insults. The Bishops have said, “Often politicians are tempted to score points or resort to insults. We need politicians who are willing to change this and to take politics in a new direction, where dialogue is respectful, and where different points of view, including those of a religious nature, are tolerated.”

This is sage advice and our political candidates and those working with them would do well to take it on board. Too many people, including politicians, fall prey to the petty and childish behaviour that has become commonplace on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. They mistake these platforms for places of dialogue and open, honest, respectful discussion. The sad truth is, they are no such thing.
Too many people simply use social media to vent hatred and intolerance and it’s all too easy for politicians to get drawn into the mindless verbal ping pong that only seems to add further fuel to extremist views.

Argument and debate will always be a part of politics, and it needs to be. But this can never descend into insults and the type of behaviour that should be reserved for the school playground. Politicians should never lose focus of what really matters. The stakes are too high. As the Bishops have rightly said, society “will be judged on how it treats its poorest and most vulnerable citizens.” These are challenging words for all of us, political candidates and voters alike, and we must take them to the ballot box on 8th June.

Image: Migration Matters


In our latest blog Justice and Peace Commissioner Grace Buckley reflects on the valuable contribution migrants and refugees can make to world peace and understanding, as she discovered on her journey into the world of online education.

Life is full of surprises, large and small, good and bad, and I sometimes feel that the Good Lord sends some of them into our lives to move us forward out of our comfort zones or our complacency so that we can make progress on our faith journey.
I recently registered for a short online course called Migration Matters with an English university.  I thought it would be useful for my work with Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees (SFAR) and the Working Group of the European Conference of Justice & Peace Commissions on Forced Migration and Human Rights. My only concerns about taking the course were centred on finding the time to do the required reading and take part in the online discussions. 
I rather assumed that the other participants likely to be on the course would probably to be people like myself from faith communities with interests in migrant/refugee issues or UK students doing related courses of study.  The surprise came when I accessed the website section where we were encouraged to introduce ourselves to each other. 
Of the 27 participants, some were as expected: a woman priest from the Scottish Episcopal Church, a Scottish based NGO worker, a Methodist church worker.  However the real surprise for me was that the majority of participants were refugees themselves, many based in the huge Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi (which houses 57,000 refugees according to UNHCR figures from March 2017, and which has been in existence since 1994).
As Pope Francis said in his tweet of 15 April 2016: “Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories, and need to be treated as such.”
Well, now I had the names of some of these refugees, some of their pictures and parts of their stories.  One has been in the Dzaleka camp since 2005, another since 2010.  
Suddenly the course took on a whole new aspect for me and presented me with potential challenges as well.  It would not be like any other course I had taken part in.  The discussions were unlikely to be the comfortable academic ones about the papers we would be reading and the theories we would learning about, that I had anticipated.  Many of our participants would be living daily the realities that we would be talking about.
Their brief introductions make it clear that, despite their refugee status and the uncertainties of their lives, they are taking every opportunity to get an education.  A number have obtained qualifications through the Jesuit-run programme Jesuit Worldwide Learning (formerly Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins) in which the Jesuit Regis University is involved.  Some also act as volunteers with UNHCR in the camp, seeking to help other refugees. 
So before the course even starts, I have learned much.  I was not aware of the Dzaleka camp and the fact that many refugees had been there for such a significant part, if not all, of their lives.  Nor had I known of the great practical work being done by the Jesuit Refugee Service to try to ensure that young refugees don’t become a lost generation in terms of tertiary education. 
So far, so good, but the challenge for me as we begin is: what do or can I bring to this course when I am so conscious that so many of the participants are dealing with the issues and facing the problems of being migrants and refugees as their reality.
Perhaps in a later blog, I can answer that question.
Migration Matters, is a short online course at Catherine of Siena College, University of Roehampton.

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