National Georgraphic

Hey New York Times, think Catholic the next time you write about the 1994 Rwanda genocide

Hey New York Times, think Catholic the next time you write about the 1994 Rwanda genocide

The horrific genocide in Rwanda in 1994 was sadly distant from the Roman Catholic Church's finest hour. As many as a million people were brutally slaughtered in a spectacular outburst of tribal bloodletting. Church officials were not only complicit, but in some cases directly responsible for specific acts of violence.

Last year, Rwanda's Catholic bishops apologized for this on behalf of the local church.

In March, Pope Francis followed suit, apologizing in the name of the global church.

So April 7 was the anniversary of the day in 1994 when the Rwandan genocide began. In Rwanda, it's the start of a three-month period that the government has dedicated to memorializing the dead -- as well as to try and insure that the nation never again experiences a similar depravity.

Naturally, that sparks an annual mini-boom of stories by international media about Rwandan efforts at national reconciliation. The New York Times entry this year was this piece on one such effort run by evangelical Christians.

I'll return to the Times piece below. But first let's take a closer look at current and past Catholic involvement in Rwanda because of the church's great relevancy to the Central African nation, and because it's entirely overlooked in this new Times news feature.

The top of this Catholic News Service (CNS) story on the pope's apology sets the stage nicely. This is long, but important:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Meeting Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Pope Francis asked God's forgiveness for the failures of the Catholic Church during the 1994 Rwanda genocide and for the hatred and violence perpetrated by some priests and religious.

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The continuing journalism saga of, 'Will someone please explain Christianity to ...'

The continuing journalism saga of, 'Will someone please explain Christianity to ...'

Welcome of episode three (yes, the podcast) of the ongoing saga of mainstream journalists wrestling with the picky details of Christian tradition and doctrine (that whole Bible thing, you know) about the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

To catch up on this drama, you may want to glace at "Here we go again: Will someone please explain Christianity to the Associated Press?" and then "Seeking correction No. 2: Will some please explain Christianity to the AP photo desk?"

Concerning that second item, I must report -- sadly -- that, as of this morning -- the Associated Press website still contains the inaccurate photo tag line that reads:

The renovated Edicule is seen in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, traditionally believed to be the site of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in Jerusalem's old city Monday, Mar. 20, 2017. A Greek restoration team has completed a historic renovation of the Edicule, the shrine that tradition says houses the cave where Jesus was buried and rose to heaven. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

To repeat the main point here, Christian tradition (that whole Bible thing, again) teaches that -- after his resurrection -- Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples, was seen by crowds, etc., before his ascension into heaven. Journalists do not have to believe these doctrines. They do, however, need to report the beliefs accurate in stories linked to these sites, biblical passages, holy days and rites.

At the moment, reporters are veering into this territory, of course, because Holy Week and Easter are getting closer. Editors and producers know that it's time to put something into print and video about Easter, a holy day that isn't nearly as commercial and fun (in secular terms) as the season previously known as the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

That was the starting point for this week's "Crossroads" podcast. How many times have you seen stories linked to Easter that either mess of the basics of Christianity or actually attack them? We are talking about television specials, covers of major newsweeklies and so forth and so on.

'Tis the season, you know.

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National Geographic offers a unified theory showing news media take on radical Islam?

National Geographic offers a unified theory showing news media take on radical Islam?

If you follow coverage of international news, then you have probably noticed that many mainstream journalists -- for a variety of reasons -- have struggled to find consistent language to use when covering events linked to terrorism and Islam.

The word "Islamists" had its day. Some journalists simply use phrases such as "radicalized forms of Islam." Some say "militant."

Use of the term "Jihadists" is complicated by the fact that the spiritual term "jihad" has been redefined in many ways by thinkers within different streams of this massive and complex world religion. There are also journalists and experts who focus on parts of Islam that can be viewed, together, as a political "ideology" -- as opposed to part of a system that is both theological AND political.

This may seem like a picky issue, but words matter in journalism. Also, it's impossible to write about divisions inside Islam, many of them bitter and deadly, without having some understanding of who is who and what is what. If the goal is to separate the beliefs and actions of "moderate" or "mainstream" Muslims from those of the radicals -- clearly a task journalists should attempt -- then you need to have some language to use in public media for people on both sides of these conflicts.

Recently, The National Geographic jumped into this debate with material describing the role of the Salafist movement within the Islamic world, and Egypt in particular.

I think this is really interesting stuff, in part because National Geographic editors -- whether they intended to do this or not -- may have come produced a kind of unified theory or a grand statement of what the mainstream press thinks is happening with radical forms of Islam.

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