Report by Tom Mangattuthazhe : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

One of the fascinating words of St.Paul is, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Corinthians.9.16). How do we speak amid covid realities and that too through the virtual world. The intimate pledge of St.Paul can be well understood when we know that Paul wrote most of his letters from the prison. Continuing the example of St.Paul, Pope Paul VI spoke and wrote extensively on evangelisation. In his historic document, Evangelii Nuntiandi, he declared, “Evangelization means to bring the Good News into all the straits of humanity”.

The powerful words and example of St. Paul are certainly a motivation for communicators. Many Christians do indeed accept this challenge and continue to communicate daily. The example of SASCOM in the state of Meghalaya is a bold venture in this regard. 

SASCOM stands for Shillong Archdiocesan Social communications which began in the year 2000, it is the media Commission of the Archdiocese of Shillong, Meghalaya.

Fr Pious Shadap the present director of SASCOM says, ‘the motivation of our work at SASCOM is St.Paul, we do this communication ministry in collaboration with our lay collaborators in Meghalaya. We have produced two feature films. Umsaw and U Tiew Lily basaw in Khasi language. Documentary films with titles, Call of the Hills (the history of Shillong Archdiocese), U Symbai Jing pynim (Seed of salvation) Film on the coming of faith in Ribhoi District, A tribute to Archbishop Dominic Jala, Lourdes, Shaba leit ki riewkhuid (John Mary Vianney), Divine mercy and Ha ki Dienjat U Trai ( Holy Land) are some of the undertakings’.

In the year 2020 SASCOM and its team was awarded as covid warrior for their outstanding contribution by the Rotary club. Fr.Pious was the main speaker of the Covid communication campaign promoted by North East Social Communication (NESCOM), the communication wing of North East Regional Bishops’ Council (NEIRBC) on 25th May.

The programme began with scripture reading and prayer led by Fr.Vincent Carmel SSPS the former director of NESCOM with the theme, save lives and Yes to Covid vaccines.

Fr.Pious speaking as the main resource person spoke specific activities of SASCOM during covid, ‘we prepared a report of the fathers who had come from outside and were under quarantine. Through our media ministry, we reported their experience to the people. Because of this people in our villages were encouraged to face the situation of the pandemic. We also went to different villages maintaining the SOPs, spoke to speak to the people directly about the SOPs as they lack mobiles and internet facilities. When priests and nuns speak about vaccination, people believe and are confident to go for it. When our Archbishop Victor Lyngdoh took his vaccination, we published the news for the people through social media platforms. We also interviewed Fr. Paul SDB, the provincial of Shillong province as a covid survivor. Every Sunday there are talk shows by groups of people like doctors, lay leaders, daily wage earners and domestic helpers’.

Fr.Johnson Parackal SDB the SIGNIS-NEI president, during his address said, ‘We are amid Covid turmoil. As communicators, how shall we engage ourselves with this pandemic, Well, prevention and care are some of the best possibilities. Encouraging vaccination among our people, clearing the misconceptions associated with the vaccines are other areas of our involvement. Vaccination is an important strategy for disease prevention and plays a critical role in mitigating the impact of pandemic’. Let us save as many lives as possible through our communication efforts’, he concluded.

In his message, Most Rev.Albert Hemrom the Chairman of NESCOM exhorted the members of NESCOM to use various media platforms especially social media platforms for the dissemination of vital information to people, the vulnerable sections of our region who do not have access to modern means of communication needs attention. Bishop requested the Catholic Dioceses, religious congregations to augment communication activities.

Bishop Albert specific areas of communication involvement such as creating awareness through posters, charts, songs, youtube videos, in as many languages as possible. We need to help our people to get themselves registered with online vaccination. For this creating awareness is needed. In the current context we cannot do many things but the little that we can do we must do to save lives. Trusting in Jesus, the risen Lord we need to go ahead in our efforts. Let us have the mind of St. Paul who said, I can do all things in him who strengthens me. (Phi 4:13).

Fr.Tom Mangattuthazhe presenting the theme of the day dealt on topics like the goals of the Communication campaign by NESCOM, key messages for prevention, selection of audiences, channels of communication and the available tools for communication. There are lots of communication materials and platforms available in cities. However, our villages are not safe from the virus. Once the virus gets transmitted at the community level it is important to spread awareness about it in both urban and rural spaces. He added that the vast majority of our people in NE region do not even relate to COVID-19 as a real danger to their lives as many tend to think lightly, also nothing like this has ever been experienced by them. They don’t relate to things like staying alone, without any social life, work and wages.

Fr.G.P.Amalraj, the deputy secretary of NEIRBC in his message articulated the need for forming and coordinating the works of covid task forces in each state, district, village and dioceses of the region. The task forces are indeed channels of vital communication and community engagements through online and offline methods.

Mr. Allen Brooks, the spokesperson of UCFNEI and ACF underlined the need to reach out to people with the SOPs which are given by the government from time to time. This will reduce the impact on health and social life in these troubled times. Important messages for prevention of covid like frequent and proper handwashing, maintaining social/physical distancing, avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth, disinfecting surfaces and objects, Early detection and diagnosis are key aspects of communication campaigns.

The highlights of the meeting were presented by Fr. Blasius Tete SDB, the Headmaster of St. Joseph's High School Shajouba, Manipur.

Bishop Albert in his closing remarks observed that the audiences of communication need to be prioritised so that the risk of transmission is controlled. In exercising the work of communication the role of influential people like community and social leaders can be engaged to educate and appeal. The media platforms both in print and electronic media need to be engaged for these humanitarian tasks. Besides, the use of mobile phones, video and audio messages are excellent means of communication.

The meeting ended with a prayer and blessing by Bishop Albert.

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