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Then the role of social media in any society especially the developing ones like the countries in our West African sub6region cannot be over-emphasized. In this edition of our online news, the Catholic Theologians in Nigeria Recognize openly the “potential” of Digital Media in Society”. This group of Theologians under the aegis of CATHAN went further to Decry “defective infrastructure” as witnessed not only in Nigeria but also in almost all the African countries and beyond.

Details of the message have it that the Members of the Catholic Theological Association of Nigeria (CATHAN) have acknowledged the latent possibility of digital media to bring about social transformation.

In a communiqué following their 38th Annual Conference, CATHAN members decry “defective infrastructure” in the West African nation, which they say impedes the harnessing of the “full potential” of digital media

“Digital Media has the potential to transform the most vital sectors of social life and development,” they say in the communiqué following their April 2-5 annual conference held under the theme, “Theology, Culture and New Media in Nigeria”

CATHAN members explain how the effective engagement of digital media can positively impact Nigeria’s sectors of education, health, economics, and evangelization

“The educational sector in our country Nigeria can benefit from Government and private-sector-inspired e-learning platforms. The health sector can also benefit from important initiatives like telemedicine, digital health records, and mobile applications,” they say.

Digital technology, they further say, can enhance Nigeria’s “commerce and entrepreneurship, civic engagements and governance.”

“Significantly too, evangelization should be considered an important aspect of our social conversation and should profit from and enrich social media networks like Meta-Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, etc.,” the Catholic theologians say.

While they acknowledge the fact “New Media has become an effective tool for communication”, CATHAN members say they find it regrettable that “the defective infrastructure in the country provides a constant obstacle to the ability of the Church and the people in general to harness the full potential of New Media.”

As a way forward, the Catholic theologians call upon Church leaders to play their prophetic role, reminding Nigeria’s political leaders of their duty to provide services.

They say, “The infrastructural deficits in the country can be surmounted if the Church constantly provides the needed voice to bring the Government to the consciousness of its responsibilities.”

CATHAN members also highlight “ethical challenges” in the process of engaging digital media, including “privacy laws, copyrights, and the responsible use of digital platforms.”

They added, “Some of the ethical challenges can be overcome by charting a course of purpose-driven development of technology which enhances the Church’s mission without compromising its core values.”

The Catholic theologians, who had their annual conference at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Durumi, in the country’s Archdiocese of Abuja emphasize the need to reflect on digital technology and the related peripherals.

In their communiqué, they caution the people of God against the tendency to undermine discernment, saying, “There is an abiding temptation to simply keep up with this technology without a corresponding reflection on the usefulness of the technology and the gadgets. This lack of reflection can lead to tool dependency which is bereft of direction and meaning in its use and service of the Church.

Reflection would result in the creative engagement of digital media in a way that fosters evangelization in Africa, they say.

In this regard, the Catholic theologians call for a “shift from tool dependency in the use of Digital Media to an innovative approach.”

“This innovative approach,” they explain, “inspires technology driven by the need and the context of our African environment. This approach further provides means which will be useful and relevant for the Church’s mission in the country and in Africa.”

CATHAN members, who realized their four-day annual conference in partnership with John Carroll University in Ohio, USA, go on to make recommendations, emphasizing the need for effective engagement of digital media.

“Theological reflections should pay greater attention to intercultural relations, especially about the use of New Media,” they say, and add, “Theology should be stepped down to the grassroots through the use of Digital Media interface.”

The Catholic theologians urge Church leaders to “actively engage our youth, talented in the field of Information technology, to design applications and computer programs which serve our African environment directly in the promotion of missions.”

Church leaders have to “constantly” remind political leaders “of their responsibilities, especially about the infrastructure that supports Digital communication,” they further say, and add, “The Church in Nigeria should develop clear policies on how to harness the potential of Digital Media and how to protect its ethical integrity in the process.”

They call upon civil society to “constantly” sensitive people “on the need to shun cyber-crime and to remain upright in the use of New Media.”

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