Dimensions of Dialogue: Expanding Social Media as a Space for Constructive Encounter for Young People
Brief summary of presentation of information made
H.E. Faisal Bin Muaammar, the Secretary-General of KAICIID
- Social media is constantly evolving, while religion has been more or less steady for centuries. How do they relate?
- Cutting edge technology like social media can help accomplish some of religion’s main goals, such as encouraging useful dialogue.
Paloma Escudero, Director of Communications for UNICEF
- Technology has changed so drastically since a young adult’s childhood. Any early education is now surely obsolete – so how do we empower them while also making sure they stay educated?
- Unfortunately, tech is evolving so quickly that children are engaging fully without proper training or a full understanding of the risks.
- Young people are a valuable resource in this sphere. Society can rely on them as peacebuilders in schools and communities because of their social media understanding.
H.E. Amb. Sima Sami Bahous, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the UN
- Social media provide the opportunity for civil society and government to engage young people and fill the vacuum that extremists and radicals would like to fill.
- Furthermore, how can social media encourage development?
- Can we bring social media up to the challenge of coming alongside and facilitating the power and potential of Jordan’s youth?
H.E. Amb. Abdallah Y. Al-Mouallimi, Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the UN
- Youth make up a majority of Saudi’s population. Any success in future plans will have to include the support of young people.
- Must pay special attention to countering extremism. Saudi Arabia has had great success with the Al-Sakinah (Tranquility) Campaign, which promotes civil dialogue online by engaging with extremists and their potential converts.
H.E. Amb. Jan Kickert, Permanent Representative of Austria to the UN
- Social media present opportunities for positive change that should not be overshadowed by the threats and risks.
- A motto like “by young people, for young people” has been very effective in social inclusivity programs. A program called “Chance Buddies” in Austria brings native Austrians together with refugees.
H.E. Amb. María Bassols, Permanent Representative of Spain to the UN
- Dialogue is also important in preventive diplomacy – these solutions are not one-dimensional; they have wide-ranging applications.
- We must also focus on the specific issues of women: young women tend disproportionately to face hate speech, fake news and one-sided narratives.
Messenger Tomasz Grysa, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
- Social media can divide, mock and train for evil, but can also bring us together, enabling us to make connections that were never possible before.
- Pope Francis has said that to counter fake news, we must find individuals ready to engage in conversation and relationship.
Panel 1, moderated by Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer of KAICIID Dialogue Centre
Cosette Maiky, Arab Region Field Expert, KAICIID
- In the Middle East, social media has more often than not been exploited for radicalisation and extremism.
- But we can use social media, together with education, to develop critical consumers of information. Such consumers will be instinctively wary and promote peace and pluralism.
- Previous Middle East working groups, directed by KAICIID, showed that people could come across dividing lines and find commonalities, despite the persistence of open wounds. This is mainly accomplished through relationships and sensitivity.
- You must first live in and experience diversity before truly believing in its benefits. Believing in it makes change much easier to pursue – ideas just flow.
Maya Sukkar, Freelance Trainer and KAICIID social media trainer
- Facebook, Twitter and the like shape people’s visuals of the conflicts in their countries: many Syrians get most of their information on the civil war from their social media accounts.
- Now it can do the same to reach youth, especially in post-conflict situations
Sukkar then described a pluralistic society as a boat, where each section of society provides a sail. Together we move everyone forward. If no one puts up a sail, everyone will drown.
Abu-Nimer then explained that the challenge, and the real source of change, is not the final product of dialogue. It is the process, where participants recognise and work through differences.
Dr. Simran Jeet Singh, Assistant Professor of Religion, Trinity University
- We should forget about “creating” or “fostering” diversity. Diversity exists. Let’s celebrate and encourage it – by increasing visibility, which social media can help with.
- Dehumanisation is the main obstacle to acceptance. You’re more likely to accept a group of you know and trust someone who belongs to that group.
- So first, build a community, tell stories, build trust and humanise. Then mobilising for change becomes so much easier.
Hugh Reilly, Digital Communication Officer, UNICEF
- How does social media strategy relate to promoting diversity, acceptance and peace?
- Children who have been affected by an issue must be presented as relatable, not as an “other”. First-person stories are good for that- see www.voicesofyouth.org.
- On social media platforms, speak like a real person.
- Avoid confusing acronyms.
- Avoid wordiness (but don’t dispense of grammar).
- Your feed should be story- and character-driven. Can you identify a hero, and then let them tell their own story?
- What is currently in the news, or a hot topic? Can you get involved in that conversation?
Panel 2, moderated by Azza Karam of UNFPA
Nawal Ibrahim Alhawsawi, writer, public speaker and activist
- Using social media for activism comes with risk: ostracism, trolls, cyberbullying. How can we support and protect those who face these roadblocks?
Katarzyna Pawelczyk, Digital Communication Officer, UNICEF
- Working on this issue takes resilience – it is not a quick and easy process.
- Sensationalism and short attention spans make it hard to reach youth – how can we make our content succinct and attention-grabbing?
Carla Daher, Communication for Development Specialist, UNICEF-Lebanon
- Social media are not isolated – they are built on interconnectedness. We should work media into a more holistic strategy that interrelates skills, knowledge, communication
- Use social media for advocacy, but do not limit it to that. Capacity building and social media are not silos. Intervene at all levels at all times
What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?
The section on how to post on social media was of particular interest to the Army representatives present at the meeting. The main questions should be:
- Are there any confusing acronyms or vocabulary? Would a non-Salvation Army person say or understand this sentence?
- Would this post hold a reader’s attention, or is it too long?
- Who is the hero in this story? How can we let them tell the story?
- Are the protagonists relatable? Can the readers see themselves in the subjects?
Web links for more information
https://www.kaiciid.org/dialogue-knowledge-hub KAICIID Knowledge Hub, to learn more about interreligious dialogue.
https://www.kaiciid.org/news-events/news/kaiciid-and-unicef-commemorate-world-interfaith-harmony-week KAICIID’s summary of the event.
http://www.voicesofyouth.org/ A UNICEF project for first-person stories from young people.Tags: United Nations, SDG16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, SDG4: Quality Education, SDG5: Gender Equality, SDG17: Partnerships for the Goals