Media urged to give peace a chance

Gulf Times
2008-05-15 Thursday, 15 May, 2008, 02:18 AM Doha Time


Religious scholars from around the world have urged media to focus on good news stories to help promote peace in societies.

“We need to address and bring positive influence to media and one of the ways is to make a declaration,” scholars of Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths said yesterday after a session on ‘Media and Violence’ at the 6th Doha Conference of Interfaith Dialogue.

“Now declarations don’t have a lot of power unless we get interfaith followers (Muslims, Jews, Christians) to work together. We must come join hands and build a relationship with media,” they said.

When asked if such an idea is feasible, Richard Dean Love from the Yale Reconciliation Centre of the Yale University, one of the three panelists of the session, told Gulf Times: “Yes! There is a possibility that this could be done. It would take work, but I think it’s worth it.”

Rather than focusing on the forms of media – newspapers, books, movies, television, internet and such, or the types of violence conveyed by media: war, domestic abuse, horror stories or criminal cases, the session mainly focused on how religious scholars vis-à-vis their communities, instigate violence, and how media, especially journalists, cover these forms of violence.

“Words are very powerful. What makes the violence of words particularly dangerous is the globalised, interconnected world in which we live. In the past, when leaders in the religious community spoke, it was only heard by their own community. But today our words ricochet around the world,” a panelist suggested.

“Words have the power to heal or to hurt; to bless or to curse; to divide or to bring peace. Violent words will always lead to violent actions,” the audience heard.

When questioned, Love responded that ‘one way of working towards peace is to reframe or redefine the vocabulary used by media.’

For instance, according to him, the phrase, ‘war on terrorism’ is a misnomer and rather than describing the struggle against terrorism as ‘war’ one can appropriately describe it as an ‘international crime.’

“If we call it a war then civil liberties and human rights can easily be trampled on. By calling it an international crime the rule of law and due process will be respected,” argued Love, whose Reconciliation Centre has made it a point to avoid using violent words.

“We try to use words that enrich and bring peace to the society, increase mutual love and religious freedom,” he said.

Mohamed Misfer from Qatar and Ari Alexander from the US also spoke, while offering perspective from their respective religions of Islam and Judaism. The session was chaired by Hamid Abdulaziz al-Marwani of Qatar.