John Longhurst, religion columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press in Canada, shares this Q-and-A interview with Pedro Brieger of Argentina.
Pedro is the Director de NODAL, Noticias de América Latina y el Caribe (News from Latin America and the Caribbean). He is also the international politics columnist for the C5N news network (Argentina), a CNN columnist and writer and reporter for a number of other media in Latin America.
Q from John: What made you choose religion as a focus of your journalism?
A from Pedro: Religion is part of my life. As a Jew who has lived in Israel, I have been interested in religion for some time, especially relations between Jews, Muslims, and Christians. I have always thought it was very interesting to understand why people chose a religion—why they pray, why they think the way they do, and why they believe.
Q: What are some of the major religious issues in your country today?
A: Argentina is historically a Catholic country. Over the last 30 years the evangelical denominations have grown. Disputes between those groups have become one of the major religious issues in the country today.
Q: Please tell us about some reporting of which you are proud.
A: I’m proud of a long article I wrote liberation theology in Latin America, and I am also proud of the first article ever written about the Muslim community in Argentina.
Q: Have you faced hostility or criticism while reporting about religion?
A: Not hostility, but whenever I write about Israel some in the Jewish community will be upset, even if I am just reporting what Israel is doing with or against the Palestinians.
Q: Do you think religion is occupying an increasing role at the center stage of human affairs across the globe?
A: That is very difficult to answer. I think it has an increasing role in human affairs, but every region is different. In Latin America it is becoming important when religion gets involved in politics. For example, when political leaders use religion to oppose same-sex marriage or abortion, then you can see religion has an increasing role.
Q: How do you think journalists can help in resolving religious conflicts?
A: One way is by being careful about the language we use. I don’t like the word “sect,” for example. It is usually used in a bad way, to cast another religion in a negative light. We should report about other religions without doing that. I’m not sure we can help resolve religious conflict, but we can provide information in an objective way, or at least try not to show prejudice when we speak about a religion. Journalists should try to describe religions without saying this one is right or that one is wrong.