What do you think this desert capital – Ouagadougou – has in common with more posh venues like Monte Carlo, Venice and Cannes? SIGNIS!
SIGNIS is the popular name for the World Catholic Association for Communication. It was founded in 2001 with the merger of UNDA (the International Catholic Association for Radio and Television) and OCIC (International Catholic Organization for Cinema and Audiovisual) both of which trace their origins back to Belgium in 1928.
As explained in its recent report, SIGNIS is an international non-profit , non-governmental association that brings together communications and media professionals from across the globe. Its members, over 140 from more than 100 countries, are united in their belief in a culture of peace shaped by respect for human dignity, justice and reconciliation. Its website (www.signis.net) demonstrates its conviction that creative energy expressed in quality media and communications can transform violent conflict, build tolerance, celebrate diversity and construct a culture of peace in our world. Members comprise individual professionals, associations and organizations – some of which have been featured in this column in the past such as Salt & Light Television Productions in Canada, Pauline Communications in the USA, and Tele-Lumiere in Lebanon.
Officially recognized by the Vatican as a lay ecclesial movement for professionals in the communications media, SIGNIS is its members and represents the tangible benefits of solidarity and support that derive from a worldwide network of communicators with national affiliates. The diversity of cultures and variety of professional experiences it uncovers give rise to “creative applications of communications for social transformation and cultural development.”
At both the regional and international level, SIGNIS convenes its members in order to promote networking, to build capacity and to exchange best practices in the use of the media to promote a culture of peace and human dignity. Eschewing the “top-down” approach to organization, it encourages and relies on the “bottom-up” initiative and creativity of its members and in so doing builds on the distinctive Gospel-inspired expressions of human dignity unique to the varied cultures of its members.
A particularly inspired endeavor sponsored by this international association is its work with young adult “video journalists.” In its conferences and through its networking, SIGNIS trains these aspiring journalists – who, like all their generation, are already competent in the technology – to report on news in a way deferential to justice and human dignity.
SIGNIS also provides “juries” at international film festivals, tribunals of Catholic and non-Catholic professionals who judge and reward works not just for their artistic and technical merits but also for their edifying qualities. These festivals occur in a surprising number and variety of venues: Milan, Toulouse, Hong Kong, Montevideo, Santo Domingo, and – as mentioned above – Cannes, Monte Carlo and Venice to name but a few. This is where the capital of Burkino Faso comes in. Even Ouagadougou’s film fest has been blessed by the presence of SIGNIS.
Given the prevailing nihilism, violence and secularism that pass for entertainment and commentary today one could understandably hope that SIGNIS and all it represents will succeed as a counter-cultural force. Surely when talented lay professionals who are committed to the message of the Gospel collaborate on improving the world through their ennobling and creative artistry great things could happen. Indeed, the very name of this international association and the global embrace of its purpose bring to mind that vision Constantine had at the Milvian Bridge before that battle which so influenced the course of civilization: In hoc signo…….
The kingdom advances on many fronts.