By Larbi Megari
I did not imagine in my entire life that a day would come in which I would meet colleagues from the four corners of the planet; colleagues who have similar interests and concerns related to covering religion matters
I used to see many colleagues, here in Algeria and somewhere else, meeting up around a particular topic which they are specialized in. I have met journalists specialized in reporting on economic affairs gathering here and there to support each other, to learn from one another and to discuss fresh events in the field of economy and business.
I also have seen other colleagues specialized in covering matters related to health and hospitals as well as the latest medical discoveries and inventions related to treatments and medicines that help to calm people’s pains and heal their sicknesses. I have seen these journalists holding forums and symposiums to discuss ideal ways to report on a medical breakthrough without giving false hopes to suffering people, or meeting to discuss proper ways to report on the widespread of a pandemic in a given region without spreading unnecessary panic among populations
I used to ask myself why matters related to religion do not deserve such gatherings, and deserve an organization or an association where journalists and reporters specialized in covering religious matters can meet to discuss and search their concerns, and also to learn from each others through exchanging their richly various ideas and views concerning this very important human activity which is religion. Isn’t it our duty and our right to work together in order to build an international network to support one another while doing our daily work?
One quick look at what is happening across the world in terms of conflicts and violence will encourage us to put hands in hands in order to work towards improving our coverage of religion matters, and make this coverage more professional and ethical.
When we look at the frequent blasts happening in Nigeria under the name of religion, and when we look at the killing going on in Iraq between Sunni and Shia groups, and when we search in depth the events happening between our Egyptian brothers, Muslims and Christians, and when we remember the violence experienced by Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, and when we remember the horrible and violent religious and ethnic killing that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the last decade of the previous century, all this puts in front of us a huge professional responsibility.
This responsibility grows even bigger when we remember that the media with its various outlets and genres, have played, consciously or unconsciously , a clear role in worsening these religious conflicts and fighting, and in some cases we can even state that few conflicts were created and initiated by an unethical report in a first place, and this was for the simple reason that the journalist behind the report did not follow ethical guidance or he is ill equipped in terms of knowledge to cover matters related to religion; because religion is not a simple topic to be covered. We have to acknowledge that religion, for some reason, is a very special topic to be dealt with, may be it is because religion is linked to the strongest beliefs in human beings, and which will have grown with people from a very young age, or may be for some other reasons, and what we are concerned with right now is the fact that religious matters have clear particularities.
The international association for religion reporters has been created to be a place where these journalists can meet to learn from each others, to support one another and to improve their professional ability.
The association will work to support these journalists. This assistance includes making data and information on the topic available for them while working on their reports, it helps them also to build a very constructive and effective professional relationship, which certainly improves the quality of our reports, because we always need very detailed context of the event, and no one can provide you with these details in a way colleagues living in the region can.
This association will be a place where projects of reports and common works can mature properly and in a professional atmosphere, such common reports that we always encourage journalists to work on. This association will be also a place where our problems and concerns will be expressed to help each other to find solutions. It will also be, and this is through its web site, a space where we can exchange ideas and views on controversial issues, and we will do this in an open-minded manner and with mutual respect.
Our association will have other roles that we will discover, from online courses to being a place that lifts up and celebrates the best international reporting on religion.
It is an association created by all and it is an association that will be in the service of all.