“Communications for Peace and Harmony”
The Commission on Communications and Relations (COCR) of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) along with India Peace Centre (IPC), Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society (CISRS), Amritsar Diocese of the Church of North India (CNI) and, Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (ISPCK) organized a Training Workshop on the theme“Communications for Peace and Harmony” from August 25 – 29, 2014 in Baring Union Christian College Association (BUCCA) in Batala, Punjab. The program was hosted by Christian Institute for Religious Studies (CIRS) which is a theological component unit of BUCCA.
The workshop brought together over 30 participants from various organizations and Churches from all over India, and during the 5-day workshop, concentrated on the importance of communication and use of commonly used communication tools towards creating, supporting and promoting a culture of peace and harmony. This was achieved through a series of modular input sessions (Perspective building, Offline publications, Online publications and network tools, photography and editing, video editing, powerpoint presentations, and alternative media / other media) and corresponding workshops to train and equip the participants not only in the understanding of peace motifs and the prominent role of communication in it, but with a hands-on approach to actually using communication tools towards this. News of this program was covered by a Punjabi daily newspaper Jag Bani.
The program was inaugurated on August 25th by Dr. Derrick Engles, Secretary of BUCCA, Rev. Vijay Kumar, Secretary of Diocese of Amritsar of CNI, Dr. Edward Masih, Principal of Baring Union Christian College. Also present at the inaugural and participating throughout the program were members of the local coordinating team of BUCCA: Prof. Dr. Rajan Chaudhary, Prof. Neeraj Sharma, Mrs. Neelam Chaudhary, Mrs. Kamani David, Mr. Krishan Dutt, Mr. Ram Chand and Mr. Pankaj.
The session on August 25th focused on perspective building in which Mr. Kasta Dip (Director of IPC), gave an overview of the issues of peace and harmony, with reference to various situations in India. He stressed the importance of being leaders and communicators for peace-building for which it is essential to be open and unbiased. It is important to see situations and issues with a wider perspective than one’s own to be able to make appropriate responses. It was an interactive session in which participants’ perspectives were enlarged to enable them to understand differences and the need for contextualization. In the evening, Mr. Kasta led the participants into a candle-light peace vigil and special prayers for the people affected by Kandhamal issues.
The morning session on August 26th focused on skills and techniques inoffline publications, in which Rev. Sunil Raj Philip (Executive Secretary of NCCI’s Commission on Dalits), presented the challenges of secular media and Christian media with special emphasis on print media. His presentation gave a well-rounded understanding of the role that Christian communicators are required to play to regain the balance that is upset by secular media which is often found misused as a tool for greedy and ignoble purposes. Rev. Sunil then explained the basic concepts of the various elements of publication, and using the example of newspaper publication, led the workshop in which participants worked in groups to prepare news pages using the concepts taught. The importance of colors, design, layout, fonts, sizes, pictures, etc. in enabling the communication of a purposeful and effective message, was grasped well by participants in the preparation of their group-specific news page. Each group prepared and displayed the news page they prepared which was evaluated and discussed in the plenary.
The afternoon session of August 26th, focusing on skills and techniques ofphotography and photo-editing, were conducted by Rev. Caesar J. David (Executive Secretary of NCCI’s Commission on Communications and Relations) and Rev. Sunil Raj Philip respectively. The importance of images was explained in some detail. Photography techniques covered basic principles of light, aperture, shutter speed, iso, composition, etc. Using commonly found softwares MS outlook photo editor and photoshop, photo-editing skills like adjustment of exposure and colors, resizing images, using clone tool, cropping, use of layers, upscaling, etc. were explained by Rev. Sunil by live demonstration.
On August 27th a field trip was organized in which participants were taken to the Golden temple in Amritsar, Jallianwala Bagh and Attari border. The day’s program proved to be a perspective-enlarger as participants discovered and tried to understand differences in people on account of faith, region, etc. This contributed to discussions and thoughts that probed deeper into the area of communicating in situations of contrasts.
In the morning session on August 28th, the creation and use of Microsoft’s PowerPoint presentation was explained by Rev. Caesar by live demonstration. Along with the various capabilities of PowerPoint, helpful guidelines for good presentations were given. In focusing on online publications / networking tools, Rev. Caesar explained the importance of upgrading communication system skills and tools in order to continue being relevant in current times where online networking and media are being used more and more commonly. Participants were given an overview of common tools of online social networking such as facebook, twitter, blogs, youtube, mobile apps, etc. The simplicity of setting up and use of these tools was demonstrated with specific instructions and helpful guidelines. In this interactive session, participants practically experimented with some of these tools. Two short videos from youtube were shown to exemplify the simple effectiveness of online media content. Some part of integration of online networking tools were also explained such as can be beneficial for use by Churches and organizations where collaborative administration may be required.
In a split session, Asst. Prof. Krishan Dutt, of Baring Union Christian College showed two short documentary videos to explain the opportunities and challenges to using online social networking and media especially with reference to youth in the Church and society. He urged vigilance in using the internet in light of its many distractions. He also recommended that more training programs for Church youth should be arranged to ensure that they are guided and their potential duly utilized towards good purposes such as supports the agenda of the Church.
The afternoon session on August 28th was devoted to the fundamentals ofvideo editing in which Rev. Caesar explained the basics in a live demonstration using Windows Movie Maker. Creation of a video, editing, as well as video slide show using still pictures, was explained. The workshop consisted of participants being divided into three groups, each working on a computer, and making a movie compiled from stills and videos that they had taken. Each group was successful in making short experimental videos.
On the evening of August 28th a Cultural Program was arranged in which participants played a few games, and performed songs, folk dance, poetry recitation, story-telling, etc. Ladies from the Baring Girls’ Hostel joined the program with their special Punjabi folk dance. The Punjabi folk dance / story-singing was a novel and educational experience for most of the participants. This folk dance was used as a reference for the following day’s session on “other media” / “alternative media”. Former moderator of CNI and former Bishop of the diocese of Amritsar of CNI, Rt. Rev. Chandulal Anand, and former secretary of BUCCA, Mr. R. Chaudhary were also present at this occasion and spoke a few words each, mainly stressing the importance of peace and encouraging the youth in Churches towards communication for peace and harmony.
The morning session of August 29th covered alternative / other media, in which Rev. Caesar gave an overview of traditional media that can be seen and used as effective communication tools. Using the example of the Punjabi folk dance and story-singing of the previous evening’s program, the elements of communication space, participatory communication, value of non-digital media, easy communicability, community advantages, etc. were explained. Other examples of ‘other media’ include street theater, puppetry, magic, story-telling, song, dance, paintings, symbols, etc. The workshop of this session consisted of the participants breaking into two groups and putting together a ‘street-play’. The issues discussed as the social change message to be communicated were related to: child labor, superstition, dowry, discrimination against women, caste issues/ untouchability, etc. The groups successfully put together two skits on child labor and discrimination against women which were then presented in the plenary at the closing session.
At the closing session on August 29th, each of the two groups performed their workshop activity of street play they had prepared. Dr. Derrick Engles was present at the closing to wish the participants well in pursuing the cause of peace and harmony. Mr. Kasta Dip thanked BUCCA for their kind support and cooperation. The program concluded with prayer and benediction by Rt. Rev. Chandulal Anand. The certificate of participation along with three titles supplied by ISPCK were given to each participant.
A special word of thanks is due to Dr. Derrick Engles and the coordinating team at BUCCA, all of whom personally interested themselves in the program and its objectives. They spared no effort in organizing local logistics and resources to enable participants to have a most pleasant and comfortable stay during this program. The partners of this program are very grateful to all the Churches and organizations that sent their members to this training workshop, and hope that explorations, study, trainings and cross-learnings will continue that lead us to using communications towards peace and harmony.
Rev. Caesar J. David
Commission on Communications and Relations, NCCI.