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Creating a Better World: KAICIID and Arigatou International GNRC Host Debate on Media Impact on Interreligious Relations

Media Impact on Interreligious Relations panelists
Media Impact on Interreligious Relations panelists

Panel of Journalists, Religious Leaders, Policy Makers discuss how media and religious leaders can strengthen reporting on religion

Leading experts on the media and religion, as well as policy makers, met in Nairobi on 17th November 2014 to discuss the role of the media in strengthening relations between different religious communities.

The discussion took place at a public debate hosted by the KAICIID Dialogue Centre and Arigatou International/Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC). The panellists were Farah Maalim Mohammed, former Deputy Speaker of the Kenya National Assembly; Agnes Aboum, President of the World Council of Churches; Mwenda Njoka, spokesman in the Office of the President, Interior and Coordination Ministry; Ibrahim Lethome, who represented Muslims in Kenya as a Commissioner in the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) that drew up the new constitution for the country; David Makali, leading journalist and former managing editor of The Standard; and Mike Waltner, Head of Initiatives at KAICIID. The panel was moderated by Dr. Mustafa Y. Ali, GNRC Secretary General and conflict resolution expert.

Dr. Mustafa Y. Ali, Secretary General, GNRC Director, Arigatou International – Nairobi
“One of the key drivers of conflict in Kenya is the dimension of community identities tied with recent sharp rise in interreligious conflicts. Recent killings of clerics and targeting of places of worship mainly in several cities in Kenya, especially in the port city of Mombasa, have tested the nation’s interfaith relations to the limit. Children and young people have been killed in these conflicts. With this panel discussion, we hope to discuss the importance of the media: either as instigators of conflict, or messengers of peace, or perhaps both,” said Dr. Ali.

He further added, “We also wanted to discuss how religious leaders could work with the media to positively influence how religious communities including children and young people relate to each other.”

Mike Waltner, Head of Initiatives at KAICIID, said: “In many parts of the world, it seems as if all we hear about are voices of hate, using the media as a vehicle, and religion as a pretext for violence and prejudice.”

Mr. Mike Waltner, Head of Initiatives at KAICIID
Waltner emphasised, “Through the Dialogue Days events, KAICIID wants to highlight that religion is an instrument of peace, and that throughout the world, people continue to engage with each other peacefully through dialogue. We want to bring these messages of peace to the forefront, and help religious leaders and dialogue practitioners use the media and social media to tell their stories of peace. These stories have never been more needed than today.”

Sen. Harold Kipchumba, GNRC member and Saudi Arabia Ambassador (left), representatives from the High Commission of Canada (right) and other Participants from religious leadership, policy, academia and the media
The panel discussion was attended by over 100 select invitees from the fields of religious leadership, policy, academia and the media.

KAICIID has teamed with Arigatou International GNRC to engage policy makers, religious leaders, academics and media experts for this timely and important discussion about media and interreligious relations in Kenya. The panel discussion took place during four days of Dialogue Days activities in Nairobi. KAICIID also hosted two intensive training courses: a three-day class for religious leaders on critical media skills and a two-day course for interreligious dialogue practitioners on social media and communications.

The KAICIID Dialogue Centre in Vienna, Austria was founded in 2012 as an intergovernmental interreligious organization. Today, the Centre actively creates opportunities for the world’s religions and cultures to work together, through a varied range of channels, including dialogue conferences and education programmes.

The debate and dialogue is coming at a time when children and young people across the globe are suffering as a result of not resolving conflicts and violence affecting many.  Participants called everybody, including leaders to rise above  religious, political and ethnic differences and create a better world.

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