EDITOR’S NOTE: In 2018, the board of the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) has named Regional Representatives to encourage more regional collaboration among our members. This is the second of a series of profiles of these leading journalists …
Rachael Kohn is an Australian author and broadcaster who has presented and produced programs on Religion and Spirituality for ABC Radio National, beginning with Religion Report, Religion Today, and since 1997, The Spirit of Things. Kohn also produced the television documentaries The Dead Sea Scrolls (2000) and Buddhism East and West (2001). Kohn is a frequent speaker on Religion and Spirituality in Australia. She has published two books, The New Believers: Re-imagining God (HarperCollins 2003) and Curious Obsessions in the History of Science and Spirituality (HarperCollins 2007).
Rachel Writes about Her International Debut as Religion Specialist
IN a December 2018 column about her decades of work, Rachel describes the journalistic challenges of covering religion for a global audience. The column, which was published on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) website, begins with her assignment to cover the Centennial of the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1993 in Chicago.
It was 1993 and I was in Chicago to cover the Parliament of the World’s Religions, where 8,000 people from every imaginable religion and country pledged to live in harmony. It was exactly 100 years since the original Parliament was held at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair when swamis, gurus and spiritual leaders came to America for the first time.
It was my first overseas assignment and I was alone. The BBC team outnumbered me by three, but I had an advantage.
Being an academic in religious studies, I knew the works and reputations of many of the speakers, and with unbridled confidence I invited a litany of them to my hotel suite for interviews. From Hans Kung, who drafted the Parliament’s key document, to Richard Rubinstein, the “death of God” theologian who had controversially defended Sun Myung Moon—convicted leader of South Korea’s controversial Unification Church (known as the ‘Moonies’)—I interviewed over 20 participants with my bulky cassette recorder.
… Ultimately, the message of Hans Kung, that “there will be no peace among nations until there is peace among religions,” won the day.
At the closing event, the Dalai Lama’s address on the importance of demonstrating personal compassion drew upwards of 20,000 attendees.
I returned to Australia with a profound understanding of what I needed to do.
Learn more about Rachel’s work …
READ RACHEL’S ENTIRE COLUMN about her work over the years, headlined: Australia’s foremost religion journalist Rachael Kohn on why faith still matters (posted on the Australia-based ABC website).
FOLLOW RACHEL’S BROADCASTS on ABC. Her series is called The Spirit of Things. These broadcasts “explore contemporary values and beliefs as expressed through ritual, art, music and sacred texts, and focusing on the nature of spiritual meaning in our lives.”