26th NATIONAL CONVENTION OF CHRISTIAN JOURNALISTS
Inspired by Pope Francis’s exhortation to journalists to “Hit the streets: Listen, Encounter and Engage”, the 26th National Convention of Christian Journalists was held in Mumbai on December 1 under the auspices of the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA). After a one-year COVID-induced hiatus, the in-person gathering took place at ST PAULS Media Complex in Bandra West, in which members and guests from across the country took part.
The event began with a few moments of silence to pay homage to the ICPA members who passed away last year. Tributes were paid to veteran journalist and author Fr Varghese Paul SJ, author and painter Fr Augustine Kuriapilly of Delhi Archdiocese, Fr Lijo Thomas of Nagpur Archdiocese, Fr Cherian Nereveetil, former editor of Kochi-based publication ‘Sathyadeepam’, and Monsignor Benny Aguiar of Mumbai Archdiocese who was the last surviving founding member of ICPA. Silence was also observed in memory of martyr of social justice Fr Stan Swamy.
The chief guest of the convention was Justice Aloysius Aguiar, former Judge of Bombay High Court and brother of the late Monsignor.
In his welcome address, Fr Suresh Mathew, secretary of ICPA, reminded the members of the clarion call of Pope Francis to hit the streets and go beyond the news in the newsroom. He said the convention is meant to find ways to hit the streets, meet people and come out with real stories that mirror the deprivation and victimization of the voiceless and take the message of Christ to the world.
The convention was honoured by the presence of former editor-in-chief of Readers’ Digest India Mohan Sivanand; Dr Shaison P Ouseph, Head of the Department of Film and Television, Xavier Institute of Communications; Bishop Salvadore Lobo, ecclesiastical advisor to ICPA and Apostolic Administrator of Asansol Diocese; and Fr Varghese Gnalian, Provincial of the Society of St Paul.
Also attending the convention were this year’s award winners Fr Cedric Prakash, Jesuit priest and noted human rights activist; Dalit-tribal rights activist Sister Sujata Jena; and Fr Justin Tirkey representing ‘Nishkalanka’– a magazine that empowers Dalits, tribals and families in the Hindi-speaking parts of the country.
In his presidential address, ICPA President Ignatius Gonsalves deplored the pitiable predicament of Indian media. The veteran journalist said that majority of the media in the country lie to themselves, robbing news of its veracity. Quoting Dostoevsky, who said “Above all, do not lie to yourself”, he said that the only remedy for this pitiable situation was to ensure conscience-formation while grooming or mentoring journalists. As present-day journalism schools do not focus on this crucial aspect, Christian journalists have a big role to play. On the occasion, the revised constitution was released and its copies were given to the chief guest and other dignitaries on the dais.
Addressing the gathering, Justice Aguiar said that journalists were called to face challenges as they come into conflict with the powers-that-be on their quest to unveil the truth. The former judge said that a free press is a force to reckon with as it prevents the abuse of power, including the judiciary. He exhorted journalists to expose falsity as fake news is rampantly being peddled on social media.
In his benedictory address, Bishop Lobo compared the motto of the convention to the actions of Jesus who encountered people, listened to them and gave them solace. He stressed the need to have a conscience to recognize the truth and stand by the truth just like the Apostle Paul who gave his life while unflinchingly standing for the truth. The same was echoed by Fr Gnalian who said Christian journalists have to be guided by a vision and focus that is rooted in the Bible. He also made it clear that professional journalism is not for the faint-hearted, instead it requires real brave hearts.
Fr Joby Mathew, treasurer of ICPA, proposed the vote of thanks.