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Youth UPF

UK Youth Council Discusses Social Media and Faith Communities

London, UK - "It's true that Jesus didn't use Twitter, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't," said Daniella Duvall, a Christian contributor to “The Impact of Social Media on Faith Communities,” a program that was presented in the House of Commons May 1, 2013, by the Youth Interfaith Council, a project of Youth UPF-United Kingdom. Speakers represented the Christian, Muslim and Unificationist perspectives, and there was also a talk on the subject of online “hate speech.”

Youth Interfaith Council meetingMember of Parliament Virendra Sharma, UPF-UK’s patron, praised UPF for its work for community cohesion. He said he was especially pleased to see young people taking the stage for the May 1, 2013 event. Matthew Huish, the Youth Interfaith Council’s main coordinator, presented the vision of UPF and its goal of reforming the United Nations by including an upper chamber of leaders of the world’s religions. Until such a council is established, he said, the Youth Interfaith Council will bring together young representatives of the world’s faiths to address the world’s issues.

Theology student Daniella Duvall related her experiences as a Christian using Google and Twitter. The church is a community, she said, and social networking allows it to extend itself in ways that weren't possible 10 or 20 years ago. Social media can be a great means of evangelism, Miss Duvall said, as they provide an audience that otherwise might not be drawn to church. However, there’s a risk that faith can be oversimplified online. Some people reduce faith to "liking" and sharing posts online rather than working to strengthen their life of faith through prayer and other activities.

Speaking from an Islamic perspective, Asmah Zuriman, a PhD student in religious studies at University College London, explained that there have been many good blogs, Web sites and online libraries that help Muslims learn more about their religion and also foster harmony between Muslims and adherents of other faiths. On the other hand, Dr. Zuriman said, social media also can function as a weapon for those who want to inflict harm. There are sites designed expressly to set people against each other.

Asuka Ohagi-Ostberg, a student of religion at Kings College London, spoke from a Unificationist perspective. Because the Unification Church is a relatively new religion, she said, opinions on it were largely formed by the media, which early on printed articles about brainwashing and other sensational accusations. Nowadays, however, social media allow faith organizations to have more control over the information about themselves. Many organizations have set up YouTube channels, conveying messages to people around the world.

The event continued with a question-and-answer session as well as comments from the audience. Christa Kamga, a Youth UPF coordinator, said she sees Facebook and other social media as an easy way to connect people and to organize events. Amit Sharma from the Hindu community said that social media have helped her to connect with different people.

Ilaria Esposito, a member of the Council of Europe’s Advisory Council on Youth, spoke intensely about social media and the online campaign against hate speech. The No Hate-Speech Movement has generated a lot of discussion on social media among young people.

Farah Mohammoud, who once belonged to a similar group, said these types of forums are important, because they allow the “unheard voices” to be heard.

One good point of social media, as Shabnam Khan pointed out, is that there will be different opinions from different faiths. Each perspective will allow people to see things in a different way.

Matthew Huish closed the evening with the following declaration:

Youth Interfaith Council
House of Commons
May 1, 2013

Joint Declaration on the Effect of Social Media on Faith Communities

We, the undersigned:

  • Acknowledge the potential for good presented by social media for building and sustaining relationships.
  • Embrace the egalitarian nature of social media that empowers every individual to create and share their own creative content.
  • Reject the prohibition of the use of social media; those who wish should be free to embrace this legitimate form of communication.
  • Encourage faith communities to explore ways of fostering community through social media.
  • Encourage faith communities to communicate their important messages through social media to members of their own community and also in conversation wit those of other communities.
  • Demand that the freedom to express faith be respected by all; likewise ,we demand respectful dialogue and reject hate-speech.
  • Caution against the abuse of social media to substitute for the intimacy of face-to-face fellowship.

 

 

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