Are missionaries being fairly and accurately represented in the media? This was one of the questions discussed at the second of three public debates examining the past, present and future of Irish missionaries. The debate took place this month at the Irish Aid Centre in Dublin.
The chair was Joe Humphreys, Irish Times journalist, advisor to worldandmedia.com and author of God’s Entrepreneurs: How Irish Missionaries Tried to Change the World. He remarked that much of what the public knows about the missionaries has been through religious and secular literature, documentaries and press coverage.
He asked whether we have an accurate picture of missionary work and indeed whether missionaries wanted us to have one. He gave the example of an incident from the preface to his book. A fellow journalist had spent an extraordinary day with a nun in South Africa in a high security prison where she worked, meeting prisoners, many on death row, only to be told “now, you know, you can’t write about any of this. I don’t want my name in the paper.”
Humility is not the only reason why many are wary of journalists. However, Fr Gerry O’Connor, CSsR, told worldandmedia.com that if the Irish missionary movement is to have a future, it needs to be asked difficult questions: “The only way change comes about is if people ask questions you don’t want to hear.”