Latin American nations, which were once the soul of Roman Catholic global society, are now facing rapidly growing secularization and intensifying religious competition from evangelical Protestants and cultural pluralism.
A mixture of old and new “hot” topics challenges mainstream media in the region. The new pope and new social media will be at the forefront at a regional conference early December in Buenos Aires. These issues together with longstanding tensions like faith and politics, conflict over land issues, and the devastating war on drug trafficking present important obstacles to effective reporting.
For centuries, faith in Latin America has been synonymous with Catholic rituals and rites. Yet Protestant evangelicals are on the rise – currently numbering slightly more than 12 percent overall in South America, and growing. Key countries like Brazil and Chile now have 22 percent and 15 percent Protestants respectively, while Guatemala and Guyana's percentage of Protestants number in the upper 30’s, according to Wikipedia.
At the same time the number of people with no religious affiliation has been growing in all countries in the region, with Argentina and Chile both near 12 percent. In Uruguay more than 17 percent are atheist and agnostics, growing to more than 23 percent if one counts those who “believe in God but with no religion.”
Mainstream media are both reporting on these trends in the various countries as well as contributing to a growing secularization and globalization, according to church leaders. Yet the new Argentinian Pope Francis has also gained worldwide popularity and is expected to strengthen the Catholic Church in South America.
During the first few days of December nearly 30 media professionals will meet in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to discuss the roles of religion and journalism in the region.
The conference will bring together journalists from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Pastor and radio host Salvador Dellutri from Argentina will kick off the event by addressing the topic “Hopes and fears with a new Latin American Pope.”
Other key topics for the conference will be:
• “A new and old war: The conflict over land ignites people, churches and others” by professor Rolando Perez from Peru.
• “Drug trafficking: Combatting a plague for people and media” by the Mexican journalist Daniel Valles.
• “Faith in politics and in the media: Does it really matter?” by the Argentinian journalist Evangelina Himitian.
• “The social networking revolution: How Facebook, Twitter and a million blogs are redefining media” by the Brazilian blogger Sergio Pavarina from pavablog.com.
The Board of The Media Project will also be present at the regional conference, and the Chair Dr. Paul Marshall will raise the issue “Is there a 'blind spot' in covering religion?” Also Editor in Chief (and board member) Emeka Izeze from Nigeria will address the issue "Warrior's in God's name challenging culture, society and the media. The impact of Boko Haram in Nigeria."