06/06/2013 05:45

Papua New Guinea seminarians become aware of social media

By Pama Kinoi – PNG Catholic Communications


05 JUN 2013. “Social Networks:  Portals of Truth and Faith; New Spaces for Evangelization” was the theme of a two-day Symposium for diocesan and religious seminarians of the Catholic Theological Institute of Bomana (Port Moresby)  on 3-4 June. It was organized by the Commission on Social Communications of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. Future deacons and priests had a chance to appreciate the relevance of social networks today especially for young people and the pastoral implications of the new media scenario.

In spite of the fact that internet access is still expensive and limited to urban areas, at least 150,000 people in Papua New Guinea are now on Facebook and pages of current issues such as Sharp Talk and The PNG News Page have recently reached 12,000 and 10,000 members respectively. The urbanized and educated population in the country does not exceed the figure of 500,000.

Church Catholic Communications Secretary Fr. Giorgio Licini, PIME stressed the fact that pastoral workers for Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands now need to operate on a double lane pastoral highway not to neglect the majority rural bulk of the population, while being aware of the new culture shaped by media for students, professionals and urban residents. Media education, however, becomes urgent everywhere as mobile phone signal reaches the remotest villages and people are able to connect to the internet through smart phones.

The digital divide with neighboring Australia, where 80% of the population regularly access the internet, was made clear by the presentation of Ms. Mary Elias from the Catholic Communications of the Archdiocese off Sydney. For the participants, however, it became clear that the online world, regardless of its extension and availability, is a real one. On line people really meet, chat, learn, discuss, trade, decide, organize themselves, shape their views, even flirt and love… Advantages and disadvantages, positive outcomes as well as risks are the same as those of the offline world and life.

It was Fabian Hakalits, a Year 4 Journalism student of the Divine Word University in Madang, who outlined the ethics of the online world, the reality of cyber bullism, the practical absence of privacy and the need for good behavior. The social media are our soul on display. It is up to us to reveal the best or worst of ourselves.

The Bishops’ Commission on Social Communications organized the Symposium also with the aim to inform the seminarians on the status of Catholic Communication in Papua New Guinea. In spite of all limitations due to costs and scarce human resources, different contributors to the Symposium showed that we can boast of a small presence practically in all sectors: information (monthly printed Catholic Reporter, www.cbcpngsi.org website home page, social media and contributions to the international Fides new agency); Radio (few diocesan radios and Radio Maria PNG); Television (programs on public Kundu TV); social media by individuals and blogs even by a few bishops.

“The future on media, however, belongs to you - Fr. Giorgio Licini told the young seminarians-; not to the Bishops, who already have to worry about so many things; not even to my generation; we are in our fifties and we were trained for media at the dawn of the computer age”. For the new generations instead there is a chance to be on social media and participate into the public debate without limitation of sort. “Don’t ask your Bishop to allow you to be on social media or to organize an office for that purpose – Fr. Licini said -; do it yourself in a constructive and positive manner. It is certainly an important part of modern youth apostolate and even more than that”. (www.cbcpngsi.orggiorgiolicini@yahoo.com)