Participants of the WACC Europe Assembly and CEC seminar. Photo: Juha Kinanen
24 April 2019
The Europe region of the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) elected a new Regional Executive Committee during its once-every-four-years assembly, held as part of as joint seminar organised with the Conference of European Churches (CEC) from 10-12 April in Helsinki and Stockholm.
Stephen Brown, a communications consultant originally from the UK and based in France, who works with the World Council of Churches (WCC), was re-elected president for a second term of four years.
Brown said: ”WACC stands for more equitable communication. As Christian communicators we are committed to freedom of expression, free press, media diversity and other communication rights.”
The theme of the gathering was “What makes us so angry? Hate speech, fake news, and communication rights.” WACC’s general secretary, Philip Lee, reflected to the assembled communicators about communication rights in a divided world.
Digital technology has created “new risks and ethical dilemmas that affect human rights,” said Lee, who added that truth, human dignity and nonviolence are three universal principles that ought to “shape and define communication rights in a divided world.”
While there are no “one size fits all solutions” to address communication rights in a divided world, Lee said “a crosscutting concern is shrinking public spaces for communication where digital technologies are expected to play an enlarging role.”
Lee noted that the communication rights of people today are affected by the global trend of “shrinking public spaces,” which in turn “compound the challenges posed by digital technologies.”
Rev. Anders Gadegaard, dean of Copenhagen Cathedral, and a member of the governing board of CEC, also addressed the gathering, saying that all kinds of hate speech contradict Christian principles and must be opposed.
The world currently finds itself “in the Field of the Lord,” where there is confusion about what is false and what is true when it comes to news, said Gadegaard, who offered a theological reflection on “Fake Theology, Fake News.” Being “in the Field of the Lord” is a Danish expression, which means being “in a completely helpless and perplexed situation” and counting on “help from above,” explained Gadegaard.
The good news, said Gadegaard, is that truth was revealed to humankind “precisely out there, in the Field of the Lord, in the shepherds’ field outside Bethlehem.”
A theology that claims “to possess the truth in its pure unambiguous form will always be fake,” he said. “All kinds of fundamentalist religion is fake – and basically an abuse of religion, primarily because it renounces criticism…and even labels it as infidelity.”
The WCC is a member of WACC. In a message to the assembly, Marianne Ejdersten, WCC director of communication and outgoing vice-president of WACC Europe, described communication as “vital in confronting threats to life.”
Communication, she wrote, “affirms life by promoting truth-telling, fairness, participation, security issues, dialogue, openness and inclusion.”