The election of a new Pope from Argentina turned the world’s attention to the vibrant religious landscape of Latin America.
Now, the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) is bringing together in Belo Horizonte two dozen leading religion writers and scholars in an historic effort to promote excellence in global reporting on religion in Latin America. This is possible thanks to the generous support of the Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Mineração (CBMM) and the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais (PUC Minas).
From Tuesday October 15 to Friday October 18, the IARJ Conference on Journalism and Religion in Latin America will explore such topics as the varying influence of religious groups in the politics of the region and the increasing struggles between secular and religious factions on religious freedom and social justice. Other topics of discussion will be the growing competition among Catholics and Pentecostals in Latin America and its effects on the global religious marketplace; the role Pope Francis can play in energizing Latin American Catholics and several other issues where the quality of religion journalism can contribute to either understanding or conflict.
A public highlight of the conference will be a free talk on “Religion and New Media” by Gustavo Entrala, CEO of the Spanish firm 101 that developed the Pope’s Twitter account, @Pontifex, available in nine languages, including Spanish, Portuguese and English. Entrala will speak at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at PUC Minas. He will talk about the process that led to the Vatican’s decision to raise the Roman Catholic Church’s online profile through this and other initiatives, and also about how new media is reshaping the way believers’ access information about religion worldwide. The Pope’s Twitter account was launched in December 2012 by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, and it is now being used by Pope Francis.
The IARJ Conference will include various panels featuring such prominent Latin American journalists as Mariano de Vedia and Sergio Rubin of Argentina, José Maria Mayrink and Elvira Lobato of Brazil, and Javier Darío Restrepo of Colombia.
Conference participants also will meet in working groups with distinguished regional and global colleagues to discuss and identify key stories on religion that need to be told and share resources from their own nations and experiences.
The conference is designed to give journalists the background and tools to meet the highest standards of reporting on issues of faith in Latin America. It will conclude with a working plan to help journalists throughout the world with resources, collegial relationships and practical tools.
“This conference will allow us all to work together to do reporting on religion in Latin America that lives up to our shared ideals of providing the world with the most accurate and relevant information on the role faith plays in public and private lives,” said Maria-Paz Lopez, IARJ chair and the senior religion writer at La Vanguardia in Barcelona, Spain.
The public is also invited to a panel discussion on “Issues of Religion in Latin America: Politics and Religion” at 9 a.m. Oct. 16 at the university. The panel will feature Pedro Brieger, an award-winning journalist, sociologist and author from Argentina, Fabián Bustamante of Chile, editor of the journal Culture and Religion,” and Rodrigo Coppe, Professor of Religion Studies at PUC Minas. Lopez will be the moderator.
The conference reflects the spirit described in the IARJ mission statement: “The International Association of Religion Journalists is a global network of journalists promoting excellence in the coverage of religion and spirituality. It provides services and resources to strengthen and support the work of its members. It engages media leaders, educational institutions and communities on the importance of accurate, balanced, and ethical religion coverage to foster understanding”.
CBMM, the Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Mineracao, is a mining and metallurgical company based in Brazil.