June 19, 2024
Communiqué

A COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE 38TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE CATHOLIC THEOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA, HELD AT THE CATHOLIC SECRETARIAT OF NIGERIA, DURUMI, ABUJA – 2ND TO 5TH OF APRIL 2024

THEME: Theology, Culture and New Media in Nigeria

Preamble

We, the members of the Catholic Theological Association of Nigeria (CATHAN), in partnership with John Carroll University, Ohio, USA, held our 38th Annual Conference at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria Resource Centre, Durumi, Abuja. Having reflected on the theme, Theology, Culture and New Media in Nigeria, we issue the following communiqué:

1. The Intersection of Theology, Culture and New Media

The reciprocal nature of the relationship between Theology, Culture and New Media leads naturally to a recognition of the transformative impact of New Media on our religious beliefs. Moreover, New Media represents a novelty in the manner in which Theologians study and transmit the Gospel today. It further influences communication between individuals of diverse cultural backgrounds, in a manner which affects the way in which we comprehend one another in the process of our interaction. Therefore, New Media should be considered a vital factor in cultural expressions (cf. Inter Mirifica, 16) and theological reflections today.

2. Theology in a Background of Cultural Differences

The Bible challenges us to appreciate our common humanity which can be compromised when cultural differences are perceived as obstacles rather than as strengths (cf. Gal 3:28). The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) provides a useful analogy to understand the transformative view of Jesus regarding our common humanity, irrespective of cultural biases. Just as a Samaritan, traditionally despised by the Jews, was made into a model of piety, theological reflections today should teach the vital lesson of a love which embraces all. Theologians, therefore, should harness the diversity of perspectives in providing an inter-cultural communication where everyone feels accepted.

3. The Impact of Digital Communication on Social Development

Digital Media has the potential to transform the most vital sectors of social life and development. The educational sector in our country Nigeria can benefit from Government and private-sector-inspired e-learning platforms. The health sector can also benefit from important initiatives like telemedicine, digital health records and mobile applications, etc. Commerce and entrepreneurship, civic engagements and governance can all be enhanced with digital technology. Significantly too, evangelization should be considered an important aspect of our social conversation and should profit from and enrich social media networks like Meta-Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, etc.

4. Overcoming Challenges in the Church’s Application of Technology

New Media has become an effective tool for communication. However, the defective infrastructure in the country provides a constant obstacle to the ability of the Church and the people in general to harness the full potential of New Media. Ethical challenges in privacy laws, copyrights and the responsible use of digital platforms provide further concerns regarding the use and management of this new form of communication. Some of the ethical challenges can be overcome by charting a course of purpose-driven development of technology which enhances the Church’s mission without compromising its core values. The infrastructural deficits in the country can be surmounted if the Church constantly provides the needed voice to bring the Government to the consciousness of its responsibilities.

5. From Tool Dependency to Innovative Use of Technology in the Church

The technologies that drive the Digital Media are constantly updated and improved, sometimes at a rate which is exponential. There is an abiding temptation to simply keep up with this technology without a corresponding reflection on the usefulness of the technology and the gadgets. This lack of reflection can lead to tool dependency which is bereft of direction and meaning in its use and service of the Church. The most appropriate path to take, therefore, is to shift from tool dependency in the use of Digital Media to an innovative approach. This innovative approach inspires technology driven by the need and the context of our African environment. This approach further provides means which will be useful and relevant for the Church’s mission in the country and in Africa.

6. Recommendations

Having reflected on our theme through the points already mentioned, we arise from this conference with the following recommendations to the Church, theologians, the government and the civil society:

a. Theological reflections should pay greater attention to intercultural relations especially with regard to the use of New Media.

b. Theology should be stepped down to the grassroots through the use of Digital Media interface.

c. The Church should actively engage our youth, talented in the field of Information technology, to design applications and computer programmes which serve our African environment directly in the promotion of missions.

d. The Church should continue to provide a voice that constantly reminds our governments of their responsibilities especially with regard to the infrastructure that supports Digital communication.

e. The Church in Nigeria should develop clear policies on how to harness the potential of Digital Media and how to protect its ethical integrity in the process.

f. The civil society should be constantly conscientized on the need to shun cyber-crime and to remain upright in the use of New Media.

g. The government should provide dependable infrastructure and policies for the use of New Media.

Conclusion

The mission mandate of Jesus Christ charges the disciples to go into the world and proclaim the Good News (Mark 16:15; Matth 28:19). Today, more than ever, the Church has the opportunity to reach the greatest number of people with ease and with the least resource possible. While the Church continues to preach its missions, Catholic Theologians have the duty of deepening our understanding of this relatively new approach to the mission. We hope that this conference will not only make a contribution to this reflection but shall inspire further ideas on how the Church uses the Digital Media in spreading God’s Kingdom.

Signed:

Rev. Fr. Prof. Luke Emehiele Ijezie
President

Rev. Fr. Dr. Emeka Ngwoke
Secretary

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