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Paul CHERUTHOTTUPURAM, Colombo says,
Leadership and the digital divide
By C. M. Paul
forum
360° VIEW
Colombo, May. 24. ROME - The 43rd World Communications Day (24th May 2009) is an historic occasion. Pope B16 celebrated the WCD theme ``New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship.`` Besides going on the Face book and YouTube earlier this year, the pope has launched Pope2you interactive website. The pope has also called on the digital generation to use the digital means for ``all human individuals and communities, especially those who are most disadvantaged and vulnerable.``

Leadership legend
Considering Don Bosco`s example, he exploited the media of his day (second half of 19th century) to defend and promote Catholic faith. He had the audacity, in spite of stifling financial crunch, to get the latest printing and paper making unit from an international trade fair, stealing a march over his competitor. DB`s exploits with the Catholic Readings as well as the Salesian Bulletin are legendary. Sometimes I wonder, to what creative use Don Bosco would engage the ever new and progressive communications media means we have today!

Whimsical divide
In the 150 years of existence, Salesians could be easily trapped not only in the digital divide but also in a whimsical divide when they merely harp on ``glorious past`` to the detriment of engaging in the demands of the present. In general, we hold media and the media workers responsible for today`s malaise. What do we do other than blaming?  
Don Bosco used to say ``Love what young people love and you will make them love what you love.`` Would our attitude towards media ministry smack of ``not loving what the young love`` and isolating ourselves from the young?
Look at Salesians engaged in media ministry in our provinces? How many are there? What is the province priority towards using media in our youth ministry? How much are they encouraged to bridge media and ministry?
Fifteen years ago, on my return to the province after a stint as director of the Salesian News Agency (ANS-Rome), one Indian provincial told me ``it was time that you change your career and do something pastoral and priestly!``
Soon after that incident I was elected president of Unda/OCIC-India (National Catholic Association for Radio, Television and Cinema). Another provincial insisted that I resign from the post and occupy myself with more ``priestly ministries``.
Still another provincial requested that I help a confrere grab national media attention!
In one national meeting held in a SDB provincial house, I was awestruck by a provincial`s unilateral decision to ban cable television from houses in his province. Some confreres got around the ban by opting, those days a more expensive solution, for using satellite television.
Thirteen years ago, in a regional major seminary, the seminarians were not allowed to watch television! Most Mother Teresa Sisters still do not have access to newspapers, let alone television and radio! (The reason being, ``Mother said the poor did not own those! And yet, Mother Teresa used and was used by media, a little less than legendary media Pope JP2!)
One provincial, only after much insistence started using mobile phone. He is still to begin using email. To confrere`s dismay, email send to the provincial gets filtered through the secretary. ``He is out of touch with the digital world!! (And I hope [he] doesn`t want to remain that way till Kingdom come!`` his secretary confessed.

Bridging the digital divide
If church and religious leadership continues to be part of the digital divide in spite of 43 years of WCD celebration we need to accept failure of the ``trickle effect theory`` which believes in a gradual top to bottom transformation of society!
The pope appeals to young people ``to bear witness to their faith through the digital world,`` and reminds them to ``employ these new technologies to make the Gospel known, so that the Good News of God`s infinite love for all people will resound in new ways across our increasingly technological world!`` (Pope at end of General Audience Wed 20 May, 2009).
We could heed to Pope`s call and address this divide
First by being present in the cyber sphere.
Second, familiarize with the many opportunities it offers for Salesian educative presence among the young.
Third, we could explore the internet as our ``new frontier mission``.
Fourth, if we can`t do it our self, encourage others to do so!

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Paul CHERUTHOTTUPURAM(Colombo) cmpaul53@gmail.com
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