Gospel story today
Christians and the mass media: open to the world, rooted in the Gospel
The "Logia" Project
Interview with Erik Hendricks
How to communicate Christian values to a wider public that often has a different approach?
The criteria of much of the mass media are action, conflict, and simple, funny, often superficial messages. But is that really all people want to hear? Or can the message of universal fraternity also be offered through these means? We spoke with Erik Hendriks, who for 25 years has been running, together with others, a well-known Belgian TV production company which tries to transmit the values that have marked their lives since their youth. Ten years ago, a new experience was born. It is still ongoing and is now present in other countries.
Together with some friends and acquaintances, you asked yourselves how to be more present as Christians in the mass media of your country. Later the "Logia" project was born. Could you briefly tell us who is part of this experience and how it was born?
As CEO of a well-known TV production company, I encountered many people in our country, including a Christian woman who had been a minister for many years. Knowing that I was motivated by my Christian experience in trying to present values such as justice, solidarity, unity, universal brotherhood in our programs for a wide audience, she asked me if I had a project in mind. At the time she was president of a foundation committed to offering a vision enlightened by Gospel values which would be more present in the media.
In fact, for a number of years I had had a business which originated from professional research entrusted to an agency. The question we asked people was: in our secularized media - and more precisely in Northern Europe - is there a need for the Christian point of view? Surprisingly, the answer, even from people of non-Christian and post-Christian extraction, was clearly affirmative.
Together with some friends I then began to develop this idea. We realized that so often the view is restricted to the thought of the Church as an institution. It seemed to us, however, that Christianity can be an inspiration for many. "Logia" was born from this conviction: to make public opinions of Christian inspiration and proactive concepts regarding current issues present in the media.
A think tank of 220 people
How did this project materialize, how is it articulated and what is its incidence?
We have created a think tank composed of people capable of influencing public opinion. The background of the components is very varied: from justice to economics, from social challenges to the world of culture, sport and education, public health; teachers, doctors, social workers, ambassadors, sponsors, etc.
We follow, and this was their choice, certain criteria. Even if "Logia" is not an official body of the Roman Catholic Church, those who are part of the project must be Christians They belong to different denominations and are loyal to their own Church. They are all convinced of the importance of Christian values for today's society. Moreover, they cannot have a political mandate (there are two former government ministers) nor be representatives of the institutional Church, with the exception of two priests from Pax Christi who are committed to refugees.
There are currently 220 members of this think tank. Among them are many of a mature age but there are also young people, undergraduate and PhD students. There are 180 in Flanders and 40 in the French-speaking part of Belgium, where we began only two years ago. They participate in conferences, seminars, etc. to train themselves both in terms of multimedia communication and of content and spirituality. There are also moments of professional training on some technical aspects of the media (for example, how to write an opinion article for a newspaper or acquire digital strategies), on the teaching of the Church, etc.
To organize the meetings, take care of the content to be dealt with, contacts with the media and the training of members, an office was created where two full-time and two part-time people work, two in Flanders and one in the French-speaking part. The aim: to ensure that all the members of the think tank are prepared to offer their opinion in the media through interviews and testimonies in the form of writings and the audiovisuals of the digital age, each in their own name and never in the name of "Logia".
We have made some basic rules for the talks: we are open to the world; we enter into dialogue and do not act in defense or offence; we find our inspiration in the Gospel and in the social teaching of the Church.
After ten years the results are very positive: every year more than 250 talks are given in the most important media in Belgium (newspapers, TV and national radio) and there is an increasing presence also in social media. Currently some members of "Logia" are very present in the public debate. Another important effect is that these people form a living Christian community.
Formation so as to present the Christian vision in an open, never defensive way
What topics have you tackled and what is the way ahead? What kind of echoes have you had from the public?