Colombo (AsiaNews) - The National Catholic Social Communications Centre (NCSCC) of the Catholic Bishops' Conference has decided to create the first Catholic web radio in the country so as to harness the potential of new media to bring the word of God to the youth of Sri Lanka and address issues of social urgency from a Christian perspective.
"Today, "NCSCC director Fr Benedict Joseph told AsiaNews, "new media play an increasingly important role in society, and we thought that we could do our part." In particular, noted the priest, "media that harness the potential of the Internet are the best tools to reach young people and children and put them in contact with each other. We have found the positive side of this experience, at the global and local levels. In Sri Lanka, at the moment, there are many radio stations, and we want to carve out a space for ourselves in the best possible way with this medium. "
The site is still under construction and the radio will go on the air next week, sometimes between 26 and 28 June. At present, programming will be 100 per cent Catholic. Priests, nuns and lay Catholics will host the various shows.
"We will broadcast Masses, devotional programs, interviews with experts and discussions on the scriptures," Fr Benedict said. "But in the future we are also open to broader social issues, which we consider important to the community."
At the beginning, all broadcasts will be in Sinhala. "The first objective," he explained, "is to reach this large segment of the population, but we plan to diversify and broadcast also in Tamil and English."
The Sinhalese community represents the majority of the population of Sri Lanka (73.8 per cent) and is mostly Buddhist (60 per cent), the state religion. Tamils are 18 per cent of the population, 20 per cent Catholic.
About one Sri Lankan in ten speaks English, a "bridge language" between two main communities according to the constitution.
The radio's website "will be mainly in English, with some Sinhala and Tamil."
The creation of a Catholic radio station meets Benedict XVI's guidelines for the 47th World Day of Social Communications, dedicated to 'Social Networks: portals of truth and faith, new spaces for evangelisation'
In Sri Lanka, this step is more valuable in view of the situation of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
For years, local and international activists have accused the government of violating these fundamental rights, as evinced by the death (and disappearance) under mysterious circumstances of 19 journalists since 1992. Thus, web radio is a way to give voice to another segment of the country.
For Fr Benedict, however, "we must be very cautious and careful. [With such tools], one can do many things, if one does them the right way. We can send messages that speak about coexistence, peace and harmony in the population. If one has a goal, it is not useful to pursue it by causing controversy and unpleasant situations." (GM)