I. Media Outreach Training for Reconciliation Activists
During the launch meeting for PiH in July 2003, directors of interfaith and Muslim-Western dialogue centers complained about the polarizing effects of the media, to which media professionals who were present reasoned was the result of under-represented perspectives due to an inability to engage the media effectively.
This exchange led dialogue activists to jointly call for professional training in media outreach and public relations skills. In addition to raising the profile of their own activities, reconciliation activists want to become commentators of choice for mass media outlets when major events occur that either strain or open windows of opportunity in Muslim-Western relations, such as breakthroughs in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, controversy around Shariah-endorsed penalties, the headscarf debate in Europe, the Southeast Asian tsunami relief, or the recently published Mohammed cartoons.
PiH is working with the Institute for Interfaith Dialogue in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies in Beirut, and SFCG's own offices in these regions, to develop the content and deliver these trainings, with the following goals:
Build the skills of dialogue activists in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the US in public relations and mass communication;
Provide practice and guidelines in effective, action-oriented writing and radio and TV-interviewing skills;
Develop the participants' skills in cultivating close working relationships with their local media and with local representatives of regional and international media;
Increase the number of dialogue projects and initiatives that are accompanied by media strategies, and, thereby, the number of such projects covered by the media;
Increase the presence of indigenous voices of reason and pluralism in media concerned with Muslim-Western relations.
Media Outreach Training Manuals
Partners in Humanity has developed a media outreach guide for dialogue and reconciliation activists. It was designed to accompany and complement our training workshops and can be used as a resource for all peace-builders who are trying to increase their breadth and scope through the media. The guide is available in English, Arabic, and Indonesian.
II. Reality Television Show
With support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, SFCG's media production division Common Ground Productions (CGP) is developing, together with broadcasters in the Arab world, the concept for a television program to be broadcast in both the US and in the Middle East.
While most reality TV pits people against each other - this program will cast average Americans and Middle Easterners in challenging situations that require them to cooperate if they are to prevail. Along the way, they will come to understand their differences while acting on their commonalities and will gain insight into each other's lives, cultures, and religious traditions. A highly interactive website and blog will allow viewers around the world to interact with each other, debating the program and, more importantly, engaging each other. The innovation of this program, which is in the early stages of development, is to take Islamic-Western dialogue out of the conference room of elites and into the living rooms of average citizens.
III. Common Ground News Service - Partners in Humanity (CGNews-PiH)
The Partners in Humanity edition of the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) - syndicates and disseminates constructive news, opinion articles and videos by journalists and experts around the world on a broad range of issues affecting Muslim-Western relations in English, Arabic, Indonesian, French and Urdu. More than 7500 reprints of these articles have appeared in over 1000 media outlets around the world since its 2003 launch.
Please click here to subscribe.
For the latest issue, subscription information and an archive of CGNews-PiH articles, please visit our website at www.commongroundnews.org.
Questions from America by the Grand Mufti of Egypt
Inspired by the CG News - Partners in Humanity Series on "Ijtihad, or interpreting Islamic principles for modern challenges", the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shaykh Ali Gomaa, wrote his own six part series which ran in Arabic in Egypt's Al Ahram newspapers.
Please click here for an English translation of these articles.
CGNews Guide for Writers
Through CGNews-Partners in Humanity we run articles written by a wide variety of writers - politicians, non-profit professionals, scientists, academics, religious leaders, young people, business people and more. We welcome your submissions. For more information, please read our CGNews Guide for Writers, available in English [link], Arabic [link] and Indonesian [link]."
In partnership with Soliya, and with support from the Compton Foundation, SFCG advanced the 'Soliya Connect Program', convening student leaders from the U.S. and the Arab World in dialogue using advanced Internet web conferencing and media production tools. Over 90 students from ten universities in the U.S. and in the Middle East participated in 2004 and 2005 and it continues to expand.
Through the Connect Program, students meet in a shared chat room, where they see and hear one another through the use of web cams and microphones. Initial dialogues are deepened through the students' production of mini-documentaries using easy-to-use media production software and footage provided by international television news agencies on major events in Muslim-Western relations, such as the September 11 attacks, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iraq War, the headscarf debate in France, etc. The students' differing perspectives on these issues are reflected by the editorial decisions they each make in producing and narrating their documentaries, and these differences become the topic of their on-going, deepening dialogue together.
In the final phase of their engagement with one another, students receive youth leadership training and immediately put it into practice by identifying together ways in which they will mobilize to improve Arab-American understanding. In their first years, half of the youth participants have launched follow-up activities; some have become facilitators for future dialogues, some are in the process of co-producing documentary films across their religious, national and ethnic differences, and others are creating cooperative, community-based actions aimed at reducing stereotypes and building relationships across the divide.
A demo of the Soliya Connect Program sessions can be viewed at www.soliya.net.