ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Religion needs to cultivate a relationship with media to get its message out in this Age of Information and to overcome mutual distrust, panelists said at a conference this weekend.
The role of media was seen as vital in helping build a world in which values such as mercy, peace and love are encouraged.
And so even though coverage of religious issues has a long way to go, with most religious figures feeling a distrust of journalists, both groups are inextricably bound to each other, said the panelists at the "God, the Media and Mass Communications" seminar at the "God and World Peace: An Exploration of the Significance of God for a World in Crisis" conference sponsored by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace. The conference opened Thursday and ended Sunday.
"In bringing about the ideal of peace implicit in God's true love, it is most important that the various religions achieve harmony with each other and provide a model for the world," said the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, federation founder, in the keynote address at the opening plenary session Friday.
Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, some people preferred to place greater importance on technology than on religion, but that changed after the terror attacks on New York and Washington, one educator noted.
"After 9/11, I'm sure, ladies and gentlemen, that you will appreciate that our technology will not save us," media panelist Muazzam Gill, vice president of the American Leadership Institute, which is developing character education for high school curriculums, said Saturday.
"It can protect us for periods of time. What will save us are our values -- values such as mercy, pity, peace and love," Gill said.
"With the mutual distrust (between religion and media), religious people fail to get their message out to the world," said Larry Moffitt, United Press International vice president and one of the panelists at the media seminar Friday.
"The search for news and the search for God use methodologies that couldn't be more opposite," Moffitt said. "Religion's ongoing mission to judge sin, redeem lost souls, lift up the poor in spirit is difficult for a journalist to cover to the satisfaction of the religion's practitioners without it looking like the journalist is advocating for that faith," he said.
Moffitt cited comments by ABC-TV network anchor Peter Jennings in a speech at Harvard Divinity School:
"I have only recently come to understand how complicated and inadequate and, occasionally horrifying, media coverage of religion has been ... I would venture to say that in the overwhelming majority of newsrooms in America there is an appalling ignorance of religions and faith."
But media and religion have at least one thing in common, Moffitt said.
"Media and religion both embrace as their sacred mission the search for truth," he said.
The media panels Friday and Saturday were among several seminars presented at the conference. Other seminars dealt with God in connection with religions; political leadership and governance; educators and educational institutions; marriage and the family; business and economic development; science and technology; and the arts and culture.
About 315 people from 79 countries attended, including clerical leaders and scholars from the major religious faiths including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
At the plenary session, speakers' comments were simultaneously translated into Korean, English, French, Spanish and Russian accessible through headsets furnished to all convention participants.
"It is very important for the world religions to achieve harmony," said Moon, 82, noting that he has sponsored many conferences such as this one "to accomplish God's will" and "establish a family of goodness" on Earth.
At the end of Moon's 100-minute address, he received a standing ovation. His closing words to the audience: "May God bless you and your family and your country. I'm sorry it (his speech) took so long."
Chung Hwan Kwak, federation chairman, said at the conference opening banquet Thursday night that "The topic of God is too vast to be fully comprehended." Kwak is chairman of News World Communications Inc., the parent corporation of United Press International, The Washington Times and other publications. News World was founded by Moon.
"In certain respects the topic is avoided out of respect for the infinite complexity and mystery of the topic," Kwak said. "No one can fully grasp the depth, goodness, love, intelligence, power and creativity of God. We also tend to avoid the public discussion of God out of politeness and respect for the diverse range of opinions about ultimate reality. However, this topic is too important and too much is at stake to avoid the discussion of God."
Other speakers at the conference came from politics, academia and the arts.
"The United States of America has in many ways rediscovered the world" in the aftermath of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, against New York and Washington, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the audience at lunch Friday. He said the U.S. government has realized that there were intelligence failures because various agencies in the federal government were not in communication with one another. Also, he said, the government needs to balance security needs and individual rights. "There is no pat solution," Lugar said, finishing his address: "We are optimists in this room. We will make headway."
In an interview Saturday, Thomas G. Walsh, federation secretary general, said: "I think our goal at the outset was to bring together a wide array of people from different fields, leaders, to give attention to this topic (God and world peace) and to increase our appreciation of the significance of this topic. But most of all, we want to build momentum for a movement for world peace, which incorporates a mature, spiritual vision for all people of all races, religions, nationalities, working together, hopefully, so that we can at this time in history make some significant impact and make this truly a better world."
The conference participants on Saturday approved an eight-point resolution that affirmed "the absolute value of God as the foundation for true and lasting peace at every level of human experience, from the individual to the family, the society, the nation and the world." It also included a call for the United Nations to develop a council of representatives from the world's religions to work with representatives of member states "to solve heretofore intractable problems."