Building peace in the minds of men and women

Media and information literacy training for religious leaders and dialogue practitioners

To encourage dialogue, religious leaders need to speak up and get media- and information-wise. And to build their capacities, UNESCO is joining forces with the King Abdullah International Centre for interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), an intergovernmental interreligious organization, to empower religious leaders and dialogue practitioners through media and information literacy to strengthen the way they communicate.

As a first step for dialogue, people should have an accurate understanding of different religious communities and beliefs—and their preconceptions about these are shaped in large part by the media and information – offline or online. This requires:

  • Those who promote dialogue therefore should strengthen the way they engage with the media and online, in order to promote more accurate information.
  • Those who consume news and information must be media and information savvy—they should understand media and information dynamics and reflect on the way that representations affect their perceptions.

Two different training courses will be offered in each of two cities, Nairobi, Kenya from 15-18 November 2014 and New Delhi, India from 22 – 25 November 2014. More than 80 religious leaders and interreligious dialogue practitioners will take part.

The key local partners are the Global Network of Religions for Children in Nairobi, Kenya and Sarv Dharma Sansad in New Delhi, India. T

One of the courses is titled, “Media Wise: Empowering Responsible Religious Leadership in the Digital Age”.  It is based on an adaptation of the UNESCO Media and Information Literacy Curriculum. UNESCO is partnering with KAICIID to pilot this new curriculum.  

Religious leaders are consumers and transmitters of information. This curriculum was tailored by KAICIID and UNESCO, enabling religious leaders to: understand the news media; assess how news and information shape perceptions about religions and cultures; find quality information; and address misinformation when they see it.

The  second course is titled, “Speak Up: Social Media and Communications Training for Interreligious Dialogue Practitioners”. Too often, messages of positive action and peace are drowned by narratives of violence and breaking news about conflicts conducted in the name of religion. This course will help dialogue practitioners to use social media channels and to engage with journalists to tell their stories of peace.

KAICIID partners will work to monitor their progress and development over the next six months. Evaluations from trainees and trainers will help to shape and enrich the final curricula and training courses.

“KAICIID is delighted to announce its engagement in the all-important field of media,” said Faisal Bin Muaammar, KAICIID Secretary General. “Religious leaders and dialogue practitioners should be empowered to use media with skill and savvy, and speak out for peace. Two KAICIID products seeking to support this change are being field tested next month. KAICIID hopes in the near future to offer these trainings around the world.”

KAICIID is piloting two training curricula that will address media engagement in two ways.

Globalization and technological innovations have changed the media landscape and the way we interact with the media. Social media platforms offer every person the opportunity to broadcast their messages to the world. The Internet allows ever more people to connect in new ways, and provides a tremendous opportunity for dialogue. At the same time, it makes it easier for misinformation and even hate speech to be broadcast and shared. KAICIID seeks to bolster more accurate representations of all faiths by building the skills of the key players in interreligious dialogue: religious leaders and dialogue practitioners.

As has been noted by the Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO - “…We need greater media and information literacy, to ensure everyone has the right and ability to speak out… We must also make the most of media for dialogue and mutual understanding, within and across cultures, especially with young people, to challenge all stereotypes and all incitement to hatred”