Earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI directed priests to embrace web-based communication tools, such as e-mail, blogs, Twitter and his own YouTube channel and Facebook page, to promote dialogue with people of other religions and cultures. Priests, the pope said, are “challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources.”
The pope’s call for a cyber-ministry triggered predictably pun-filled – and painful – headlines such as “Pope to priests: Go forth and blog” (The Washington Post), “Holy tweet! YouTube-era pope urges blogging for faith” (USA Today) and “Blessed are the Bloggers” (News of the World).
While the Vatican is only now embracing Online communication, many religious organizations have years of experience using the Internet to spread the faith as well as to promote peace and justice. At Goshen College, for example, we have long used e-mail and www.goshen.edu to communicate with alumni and friends as well as the campus community and prospective students.
In mid-January 2009, we increased our online outreach to Goshen College fans by adding a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/goshencollege). We’re using the social networking site to report on the amazing accomplishments of our alumni, faculty and students, to foster conversation, to promote campus events, to show photographs and videos and, most important, to connect alumni. We’re encouraged by the initial results. After three months we had 300 fans and then doubled that total by the end of May. We crossed the 1,000-fan threshold on June 23. And as of the end of January 2010, we had more than 2,100 fans – and rising.
In August we added an innovative Web site – www.PeacebyPeace.com – to spread our peace message of “Healing the World, Peace by Peace,” to a broader audience. The aim of this site is as direct as its opening screen, which states: “Peacemaking is anything but passive. It requires action. Compassion. Engagement. To make peace, you need to find common ground and be ready to make some waves. Find out how.” Our hope is that PeacebyPeace.com will take on a life of its own by providing a state-of-the-art venue for alumni, students, faculty and staff – and people from throughout the world – to embrace and further our goal of promoting peace.
Users are encouraged to engage through four distinct sections. “Speak your peace” invites people to describe how they are making peace in their lives through written reflections, photographs or videos. “Wear peace” gives you the chance to order a free “peace” fabric patch and then to post a photograph of yourself wearing the patch or to suggest a new peace slogan. “Visualize Peace” welcomes creative people to share their vision of the world by posting photos of their original artwork. Finally, the “Peace Heroes” section offers introductions to peacemakers from around the world, and asks people to nominate a peace hero.
PeacebyPeace.com is still in its infancy and it may be many more months before it takes on a life of its own and attracts a devoted following. For now, we have faith that we have planted a small seed which we hope will grow as the Goshen College community and friends worldwide contribute their wisdom, dreams and hopes for building a peaceable community. Join us!
Richard R. Aguirre
Director of Public Relations