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“Why are you here?” was the question posed at the start of the three-day IMBISA communications-training workshop held at The Lumko Centre in Benoni, Johannesburg in early November 2018. The Audience, of both clergy and laity had all travelled, many for days, each from one of the nine southern most countries in Africa.

“Why are you here?” came the question again, as the assorted audience of thirty-two tried unsuccessfully to avoid eye contact. As a co-facilitator and newly inducted member of CREC, I too pondered the question.

The IMBISA network exists to collect and distribute stories that have particular relevance to the nine participating countries. The simple answer is that we were all present to improve the way we communicate for the sake of the multitude impacted by the Bishops’ Conferences in those areas.

From the relative safety of basic communications theory we challenged the participants with practical tasks that evolved in complexity and culminated in each country group producing a story focused on a real, local or regional issue.

I witnessed courageous men and woman, applying their raw knowledge and nervously offering the results back for scrutiny.  We were not cruel, but neither were we soft in our appraisal. This was meaningful work, and real growth is painful.

By the end of the three days, the exhausted yet invigorated participants had conquered fears and proven to themselves and each other that they are able to plan, to write, to photograph, to post, and to share, content that has value for their Southern African context.

In hindsight the question is, “Why were we there?”

To share in God’s work of course, by helping to unite and embolden a family of African communicators to speak, courageously to, and on behalf of, the people of Southern Africa.

by Tim Harris (CREC Member)