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Summer School on Communication and Religion

Monday 1 August 2016, by SIGNIS

Jamaica, Aug 1st, 2016 (WACC/Oikoumene). Last week, a summer school on Communication and religion was held in Jamaica. The objective of the course was to study the ethical and cultural implications of the use of media in an international, intercultural and inter-confessional context.

The summer school was organized in cooperation with Northern Caribbean University (Manchester, Jamaica); the Friedrich-Alexander-University, Erlangen-Nuremberg (Germany); the World Council of Churches (Geneva, Switzerland) and the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC).

Students worked with faculty staff to study some of the links between media, religion, and globalization. The course was framed around communication rights, communication in the ecumenical movement, media ethics, gender and communication, and communication for social change. The teaching faculty came from the organizing institutions.

The summer school began with an introduction by WACC General Secretary the Rev. Karin Achtelstetter, who highlighted the importance of the partnerships that made the summer school possible. WACC’s Finance Manager, Joseph Patterson, who is of Jamaican origin and has been one of the key organizers of the school, thanked NCU for hosting the course.

The first session, facilitated by WACC Programme Manager Lorenzo Vargas, examined the evolution of communication rights thought, focusing on issues such as communication and power, taking a right-based approach to communication, and the trajectory from a single right to communicate to a series of communication rights. The result was a rich debate about intercultural communication, media ethics, and whether objectivity is possible.

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WACC Students

The second session, led by Hilary Nicholson from WMW-Jamaica, explored the relationship between gender and communication. Nicholson began by highlighting some of the findings of WACC’s 2015 GMMP study on the representation of gender in the world’s news media, and focused her presentation on the impact of gender norms and stereotypes on people’s ability to exercise their communication rights. She emphasized that freedom of expression is no gender neutral.

One of the main conclusions of the first day of WACC’s Summer School is that communication is a process that does not happen in isolation. Rather, communication is deeply connected to issues of power, social relations, economics, and culture. As such, the students underscored the importance of open and dialogical communication to contribute to social change.

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