Orientation Program for Spokespersons on Public Speaking conducted for Working Committee members of All India Catholic Union (AICU) held on 30th November 2018 at Pastoral Centre, Jaipur
Mrs Clara Fernandes, Asst Secretary General of AICU in her opening remarks brought out the need for the orientation programme since we need trained personnel to backlash the onslaught of media on our community as we are being targeted continually and the media is projecting us with wrong information. She introduced the resource persons for the programme.
Mr. Lancy D’Cunha welcoming Rt. Rev. Oswald Lewis, Bishop of Jaipur and Rt. Rev. Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary General of CBCI emphasized the need to build strong leadership to defend our community against the onslaught of media.
Appreciating the work of AICU, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas commenced the first session by saying that the Catholic Church used to have the best communicators at one point of time and after the advent of social media we have fallen behind and are placed in a peculiar situation in the country. Alerting that the unity in diversity is in stake, he made a point that we should be aware of what is happening in our country and thwart the attempt of polarization.
He spoke on the dangers being faced by Muslims and how they handle their problems. There is a systematic attempt to attack on our credibility, target our schools, clinics, etc. He brought out the incidents that took place at Ranchi to the Sisters of Missionaries of Charity. He shared when Christians in India are attacked the western world comes forward in support.
His Lordship reiterated that print media such as UCAN, Matters India and other Catholic magazines and newspapers need to support the church and should not work as enemies. He exhorted that when we over threw the system a new system worst than that comes.
FCRA accounts are becoming more and more difficult to get or to hold on to. They (the government) are attacking our credibility. They are targeting our schools, colleges, clinics and hospitals.
Bp Theodore revealed the plan of CBCI to have trained youngsters as our spokespersons including priests and sisters with more representation to women. He delineated the inputs and qualities one should have before going to participate in debates which are :-
Don’t talk on the topic on which you have no knowledge.
Participate in debates with full knowledge on the topic with documents and proper preparation.
Whatever you speak or write should never hurt anybody when you are speaking as spokesperson.
Go to debates after knowing the stand of the church with detailed data on the particular topic.
Know your strengths and weaknesses.
You should go ahead on the basis of your strengths. You pick your line and lead the debate in the direction of your strengths.
You should call the CBCI and check their stand and what they have to say.
Sometimes you should not move immediately, you should take your time and respond accordingly.
The Church is Supreme. Our personal differences should not come in the way of defending the Church.
Bp Theodore brought out that many times it is the Catholics who are made to attack the Church. All of us should support the church and no fight within ourselves. We need to work together to defend the church.
His Lordship called upon the leaders to give space to younger leadership, lay faithful, priests, sisters. He brought out that social Media is a tool in everybody’s hands. The purpose of the social media should be to send authentic messages. He pointed out that WhatsApp is a powerful instrument in our hands and sometimes we forward messages which are fake causing panic in the society. He wanted us to be careful when we circulate any news and verify before forwarding or posting.
He exhorted the audience to join Twitter and explained the way to handle unwanted messages.
He called upon the PROs to work and propagate our stand in line with the Diocesan policies.
Bishop Theodore gave clarification on the Bishop Franco case. He said that the issue is an attack on the Kerala Church as the faith of the our people is strong.
Responding to queries on fake information on twitter, Bishop Theodore advised to just block the person which will block the entire chain who are against you.
On the question of conversion, His Lordship brought out that to preach our religion is constitutional. Conversion is not our right but the right of God. Clarity has to come as to what is our ideology on conversions. We should remember that we should be ready to confess Jesus in public. No sign of inducement should be there. We should not be frightened. What is the point in being Christian if we cannot come out in support of the Church.
On a query regarding lack of awareness and unity amongst the faithful, Bishop Theodore emphasized the need to set aside our differences and move towards one goal. We must send informative messages through Twitter, Whatsapp, Email, SMS, Facebook, etc.
Winding up his interaction, Bishop Theodore shared the proposed plan of action of CBCI to form the following Associations:
Catholic Lawyers Association
Catholic Journalist Association
Catholic Doctors Association
Catholic Nurses Association
Catholic Teachers Association
His Lordship emphasized the need to politically connect through networking and AICU to be strong and close partner of CBCI. We have to make a cadre that seeps down to the grassroot levels.
He emphatically called upon the leaders not to speak against Priests and Bishops but draw a pro-active strategy. He remarked that Bishops have no problem in empowering the Laity, but they are fighting among themselves which is a cause for concern.
Session by Advocate Jenis Francis
Advocate Jenis Francis, resource person who participated in debates on media on several occasions gave inputs to be followed while countering the media:
We need to NOT form opinions in our mind.
Capitalize on the opportunity given by CBCI – AICU.
We are an imperfect group of leaders like the apostles.
Please make intensive data available.
Vernacular TV & newspapers to be targeted.
We should be more aggressive on our strengths.
We need to backtrack on our weaknesses.
You should know how to sidestep a point and get your point across.
We should know what the official hierarchy of the Church wants us to speak.
We need to know the ground reality and the data.
Let’s not promote fake news. Please verify all news you receive.
Circulate an official list of spokespersons.
Being a TV spokesperson is very stressful so make sure that you have everything right.
Our biggest strength is our communication skills.
Presentation by Mr. A.C.Michael, ADF India
On the topic `Ìndia Today – Understanding and Responding to the Times’, Mr. A.C.Michael, Development Director, ADF India gave a presentation which brought out the following:
Images displayed brought out that how Hindutva is being given a push by nationalist forces. It brought out the Anti Conversion Acts in various states and the provisions which attract penalty. The presentation brought out on pastors in various states. The presentation called upon us to pray, agitate/litigate, organize, educate and hope. Mr. A.C.Michael brought out how UCF helpline help to fight against church attacks and file cases wherever necessary. He called upon more organizations to supplement UCF Helpline. He narrated how lawyers of ADF India rush to the affected areas to help the pastors and the people.
Bishop Theodore mentioned the role of Dr. John Dayal, Past President of AICU and eminent leader and spokesperson representing Christians on the media who was supposed to be present at the orientation programme and could not make it.