With the aim of promoting peace through mutual understanding and dialogue among religions, the Community of Sant’Egidio held in October 2013 in Rome its annual International Meeting for Peace. The motto of this meeting was “The Courage to Hope. Religions and Cultures in Dialogue”, and it convened more than 200 religious leaders, intellectuals and politicians for discussion. Among the various panels heard, there was one on religion and journalism, “Describing the World: Information and Peace”, in which the IARJ was invited to participate.
Maria-Paz Lopez, chair of the IARJ, presented the International Association of Religion Journalists at a global network of journalists promoting excellence in the coverage of religion. “In world news today many conflicts have a religious factor, and it is important that we journalists clarify the issues and be fair in the representation of the people involved in those conflicts”, she said. Lopez talked also of the importance of covering religious minorities, since negative perceptions of minority religions expanded by media usually lead to discrimination or persecution.
Other topics of the meeting, of special interest to journalists, were: how religions respond to violence against women, generosity and market economy, Christians and Muslims living together, Latin America and Pope Francis, welcoming and integrating immigrants, poverty and the environment, global governance, and religions in globalised Asia. There were moments of prayer, too, according to each religion’s creed.
The Community of Sant’Egidio is a Rome-based international group of Catholic lay, with strong ties to religious leaders of world religions thanks to these annual interreligious meetings for peace, started in 1986 by Pope John Paul II. Each year they pick a different city; in 2012 the meeting took place in Sarajevo, precisely in the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the siege of the city and of the war in the former Yugoslavia.