“God heard their groaning, and remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites and took notice of them” (Ex 2: 24-25).
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“God heard their groaning, and remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites and took notice of them” (Ex 2: 24-25).

 “God heard their groaning, and remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites and took notice of them” (Ex 2: 24-25).


As we celebrate the 54th World Communications Day, I like to draw your attention dear friends to the impact of the media on our understanding of life and society. We sincerely appreciate the gate keeping effort of the fourth estate in complementing the activities of government by serving the human society with credible information about happenings around the world. With technological advancement, generations upon generations have added value to the means of communication, thereby making the world a global village and strengthening our common bond. Setting aside a day to celebrate this phenomenon is indeed a great privilege not only for media practitioners across the world but all of us who have become citizen journalists through use of the social media. The position of the Catholic Church has always being the responsible and ethical use of the media to foster human progress and communion.

Fortunately, the Holy Father Pope Francis has dedicated the 2020 World Communications Day to the theme of storytelling, with special reference to the stories narrated about the world and one another. Fundamentally, human beings are storytellers; we do not only interact but influence one another with the stories we narrate and share. Thus, the Holy Father is this year’s message to the world has admonished us to tell stories that build up, not tear down; stories that help us rediscover our roots and the strength needed to move forward together. The Pope made allusion to the biblical story in which God intervened in the history of the people of Israel who were enslaved and had to cry out to him. He listened and liberated them from oppression through a series of signs and wonders. (Ex 2: 24-25). God particularly commanded Moses to remind the children and grandchildren of the Israelites of the signs performed among them, that they may know that He is the Lord (Ex 10:2). The wonderful acts of God were to be made known to generations upon generations through story telling as well as their culture and history.

Similarly, God communicates with us through the story of life. The sacred scripture, the story of stories as cited by the Holy Father is replete with the outstretched hands of God on human experiences. God as creator and narrator spoke and things came into existence (cf. Gen 1). He created man and woman as his free dialogue partners to make history alongside with him. At its centre stands Jesus, whose own story brings to fulfillment both God’s love for us and our love for God. The Gospel of John tells us that the quintessential storyteller – the Word – Himself became the story: “God’s only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, has made him known” (Jn 1: 18). Jesus spoke of God not with abstract concepts, but with parables and stories taken from everyday life. The Holy Spirit, the love of God, writes within us and establishes goodness in our hearts. As referenced by the Holy Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, every story can become inspired, reborn as a masterpiece, and become an appendix to the Gospel. God has therefore become personally woven into our humanity, and so has given us a new way of weaving our stories.

Therefore, the narratives of our daily human experiences when inspired become testimonies of God’s faithfulness and goodness in our world. Divine stories found in the Sacred Scripture, life of the Saints, and people whose lives have the fragrance of the Gospel should be points of reference in serious life situations like the Covid-19 pandemic. Friends, amid the cacophony of voices and messages that surround us, we need a human story that can speak of ourselves and the beauty of God’s presence among us. A narrative that regard our world and its happenings with a tender gaze, reminding us that we are connected to God and to one another.

The period of the Covid-19 pandemic is indeed another opportunity to reflect on the impact of the stories we tell about our world. Are we part of the problem or the solution? What stories shall be told about our involvement in the progress of humanity? Let us be part of the stories that will reflect the hope of humanity and our bond with God; stories of life rather than death. Incidentally, some people have used the media to spread fear and panic by sharing all kinds of conspiracy theories about this pandemic and projecting more catastrophes for humanity. This does not reflect the will of God for humanity. Our communion with God should be visible in our communion with one another.

As spiritual people, telling God our story is always the best option. Though, the lockdown has witnessed the suspension of public religious services across board but we believe that a dialogue between the state and religious leaders will help to create constructive guidelines to reopen worship centres so that people can seek spiritual help. Our collective prayer is the expression of our story to the world that we are not hopeless in the face of this pandemic. Even though the record of events remains the same, our meaning and perspective as religious people resonates hope.  When we recount to God our stories, we no longer remain tied to regrets and bound to the sad memory that burdens our hearts but receive strength to forge ahead and the faith to overcome every challenging situation. This is the attitude that inspires our stories.

The Pope recently called us to unanimously pray for God’s intervention in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, let us not relent in prayer for total healing of our land. I urge that family fellowship be intensified and the activities of the government be done in national interest. Let the Nigerian government engage local and international medical organizations in a partnership that will produce a cure for coronavirus and hopefully a vaccine in due course. No doubt, the aftermath of this crisis inflicts adverse effects on our economy but we recommend a post covid-19 economic strategy that will be mindful of the poor and boost national security. We are not oblivious to the sufferings of our people at this time, the Church at various levels have joined other philanthropists to alleviate the apparent economic hardships of the imposed lockdown. We advocate for more support from men and women of goodwill in order to extend hands of fellowship to our brothers and sisters in need at this time. We continue to pray for protection of health workers, speedy recovery for those undergoing treatment and eternal rest to those that have died from this pandemic.

I like to remind Church leaders, pastoral agents, media practitioners and everyone of the need to re-evaluate our roles as stakeholders in national development. Every human story has an irrepressible dignity. Consequently, humanity deserves stories that validate God’s purpose for mankind. ‘Fake news’ doesn’t befit human dignity. Journalists should realize that the need for strict adherence to the ethics of journalism cannot be over emphasized. Good journalism should sow the seed of peace not disunity, truth not falsehood, respect for human dignity not political affiliations. Media practitioners should take with upmost importance their prophetic roles to safeguard the rights of the people; marginalized, physically challenged and the downtrodden of our society who have become victims of abuse, corruption and violence. The good of our society should be the good of journalism, which requires a high level of transparency through objective reporting and investigative principles that safeguards the rights of citizens.

Similarly, users of social media should dialogue with respect for the experiences and opinions of others by appreciating their stories and the truth there-in. Our differences should be sources of strength rather than weakness. Racial discrimination, hate speeches, fraudulent acts, exploitation and cyber harassment, should be avoided if the media will remain a platform of communion and national development.

Finally, let us pray for the wisdom to create beautiful, truthful and good stories, as we collectively reject falsehood and evil stories. Happy celebration to us all and particularly to media practitioners with renewed commitment to awesome communication.

 

 

 


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