Hungarian soldiers and police search refugees and migrants entering the country at Beremend, a village along Hungary's border with Croatia. Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants from Syria and other countries flowed through Hungary in 2015, on their way to western Europe. Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
About 50 Christian communicators are expected to gather April 10-12 in Helsinki to address the global phenomena of hate speech and disinformation.
Organized by the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC)-Europe region and the Conference of European Churches (CEC), the event will be hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.
“As Christian communicators we are committed by our faith and profession to freedom of expression, free press, media diversity and other communication rights,” said Stephen Brown, President of WACC Europe region. “So how do we respond to the seemingly growing proliferation of hate speech and fake news online?”
Participants will “take stock of our European reality, a communication rights framework for the digital world, and case studies and strategies to address hate speech and disinformation,” said Brown.
The theme of the gathering is “What makes us so angry? Hate speech, fake news, and communication rights.”
The conference will start in Helsinki April 10 and continue on the Viking ferry to and from Stockholm April 11, returning with arrival in Helsinki April 12.
Highlights of the gathering include a theological reflection on “Fake Theology, Fake News,” by the Very Rev. Anders Gadegaard, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, who chairs the Communication Task Force of the Conference of European Churches.
WACC General Secretary Philip Lee will provide a global overview of "Communication Rights in a Divided World."
Sara Speicher, WACC Deputy General Secretary will moderate a panel discussion, Setting the Scene: Hate Speech and Disinformation in the European Context. Panelists include Max Arhippainen, Director of Communications of Finland’s Ministry of Defence; Agnieszka Godfrejow-Tarnogorska of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland; and Dóra Laborczi, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary.
In Stockholm, the Rev. Kimmo Saares, Head of Programmes at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland, will facilitate a session looking at examples and strategies to address populism and hate speech. Session speakers include Church of Sweden Bishop Eva Brunne, Church of Sweden Youth Organisation President Jakob Schwarz, and the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland’s Ralf Peter Reimann, who is involved in the WACC Europe project, Communication Rights and Refugees: Bridging the Social Media Divide.
Participants will also have an opportunity to visit the Swedish chapter of Pen International, a worldwide association of writers which promotes freedom of expression.
The WACC Europe Region will also hold its Assembly, electing officers and a regional executive committee to serve for the next four years.