By Rev. Fr. Cosmas Okafor
A man in his Facebook page, compared two pictures he posted on his Facebook page. One of the pictures was Pope Francis praying before the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The other picture was a man seating before an idol probably making incantations. Beneath these pictures, the man wrote thus, “what is the difference? Who is deceiving who?” With these images and his remarks, he got millions of reactions and comments either in his favour or against.
What the enemy cannot pass on to the Children of God because of physical barrier, they can now pass it on through social media. Every Media corporation no matter how big or small has a philosophy and a goal. It is difficult to find a Media agency that has no self interest to protect or to foster. Social media is today, another serious and impactful platform that Christians must explore and use for evangelization.
The world they say is a global village but Social Media has made the world a global room. With social media especially Facebook (renamed Meta), Youtube, Whatsapp, Tiktoks, Instagram and suchlike, make information as close to humanity as air.
Humanity now stays together in the Social Media just like children under the same roof. You can call it Facebook Family, Youtube Club, Tiktok Community, Whatsapp Village, Instagram Kindred, Twitter Clan and many others. It is simply a family. Both the whites and blacks, good and bad, Christians and idolaters, learned and unlearned, rich and poor, adults and children, and if you like humans and spirit now have a common veritable platform for convergence and saleof ideas – Social media.
Social Media is so common, popular, cultic and important in this generation that it springs a big surprise, if you would find anyone who is not a member or an active participant in it especially Facebook. Facebook is the largest social networking platform. It has about 3 billion people making use of it. In other words, 37% of the world’s population are participants in Facebook. It is therefore the king of social media.
According to popular Facebook Age and Gender Demographics, “women are the most frequents users of Facebook with 77% of women versus 61% of men using the platform on desktop or mobile devices”. Similarly, “70% of people aged 18-29, 77% of people aged 30-49, 73% of people aged 50-64, and 50% of people aged 65+ make use Facebook” (https:backlinko.com/facebbook-users#). Thus, vast majority of the young men and women are all active users of Facebook.
Social Media is not a theatre of evil and the absurd alone as many adult believed. It has the good, the bad and the ugly. It is just like a tool in the hand of the workman. Whatever you make of it, it serves you exactly that purpose. In the Social Media are information ranging from political news, religious activities, moral instructions, economic data, health matters, technological developments , entertainment and many other materials.
Social Media is like a kitchen where various meals are prepared. It is therefore imperative that Christians must take over this kitchen and feed her children with good food. Many people especially the elders of our society seem to perceive social media as a cesspool of immorality. It will become exactly a cesspool of evil if the Church and her members underrate its impact on her children.
If Jesus Christ is here physically present, he would teach with social media. He would minister to the sick through facebook, pray for many people through his instagram account, verify his twitter account to guarantee the authenticity of the information he passes on and would announce his next movement through Tiktok. Modern Judas Iscariot may even try to hack social media account of Jesus in order to pass false information. Jesus Christ preached on the mountain, preached on a mule, preached in the boat, and wherever people gather.
He would like to evangelize through the social media today but this time through you. Pope Francis today has an official Twitter and Instagram Accounts. The Church has advised her children to take Jesus Christ into the social media. Jesus Christ should be the philosophy and interest of all Christians in the Social Media.
The Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communication published in 1971 (Communio et Progressio ) teaches that the Church sees these media as “gifts of God”. The instruction says that new media unite men in brotherhood and can lead them towards their salvation. The instruction advises all Christians to make use of this modern media because it is indispensable to the smooth running of modern society.
In his encyclical of 1990 on the Mission of the Redeemer (Redemptoris mission, no 36c), Pope St. John Paul II called this new media, “the first Areopagus of the modern age which is unifying humanity and turning it into what is known as a “global village”.
The Pope teaches that “it is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Church’s authentic teaching. It is also necessary to integrate that message into the ‘new culture’ created by modern communications”. Pope teaches here that Christians should transform social media by making it totally Christian and should not just see social media as simply a medium for transmitting the Christian message.
The fundamental question then is to what extent are Christians evangelizing through the social media. Are you in the Social Media? Have you a Facebook account? Since Facebook is at present the king of all social media because of its popularity, do you have Facebook account and are you active in Facebook? What about the diocese? Yes, the diocese? The Bishop’s social media account should be quite different from that of the diocese.
This is because the Bishop may retire tomorrow and continue to run his social media but the diocese does not retire. What of the parishes? Is your parish in the social media especially Facebook? If not, how do parishioners in diasporas participate and get first hand information on the activities of the parish? What about the Knights and their Ladies, CWO, CMO, CYON, Holy childhood and many other bodies in the Church both on the diocesan, Regional, Deanery and Parish levels?
As the Church lives in the physical world, the Church must also live in the social media. It is time for Catholics to rise and defend their faith through social media. Rise and defend your faith. There are many content creators in the social media whose philosophy and self interest is to fight the teachings of the Church. Do not make such people popular by following such social media accounts.
However, it is time for all the priests and lay faithful to rise and become content creators. Catholics should go back to the Social Media especially the Facebook and teach them among others that Catholics do not worship idol but make religious use of the statues as God commanded in Exodus 25: 18-20 and Numbers 21:8-9. Catholics use of sacred statues is to recall the person and the thing depicted.
- Dioceses should train many priests to be ICT (Information Communication Technology) experts. This may not mean spending many years in the university but spending some months of training under the tutelage of an ICT expert in order to teach the lay faithful and represent the Church better in the Social Media. As a matter of urgency, priests should not wait for their Diocese to train them in this regard but should access the help of their parishioners who are already well informed in the Social Media.
- Every parish should create an ICT Committee made up of men and women of good repute. This committee will help to create all the parish Social Media accounts and be in charge of them. The Parish Priests though may not have all the time to be actively involved in the social media, but should as much as possible supervise the parish information- technological activities being managed by the committee members. Their role is to feed the public on the key pastoral activities of the parish as it touches evangelization.
- Inform the parishioners about the Social Media platforms of the parish and encourage them to subscribe, comment, like, share and follow.
- Parishes should schedule discussions, symposiums, conferences and interactive sessions in the social media. This means that Parish social media should not be created just to post pictures and activities. Interactive sessions will help the parish to teach and touch the lives of many others who may not be there in the Church during prayers but lives in the social media.
- All Christians are advised to take Jesus Christ into the SocialMedia and defend our faith. Do not keep quiet when you see false information against the Church and her leaders. Remember, silence could mean acceptance. Do something positive and God will bless you.
Rev. Fr. Cosmas Okafor Uzochukwu is the Parish Priest, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Abagana, Anambra State.