Faith-based communities need to engage with young people outside of formal religious institutions, showing interest in their everyday lives and challenges, and should make use of technologies like film and media to help start a dialogue and address the socio-economic challenges young people are facing.
This is the believe of Prof Anita Cloete, an associate professor at Stellenbosch University's (SU) Faculty of Theology, whose research and teaching are focused on youth, youth culture as well as religion and media. Educating and empowering South Africa's youth through teaching and research within the discipline of practical theology has been Cloete's mission for years.
She recently published a book, Interdisciplinary reflections on the interplay between Religion, Film and Youth, which focuses on the intersection of religion and media and how these two institutions influence and shape each other, as well as the youth in the country.
According to Cloete, this book project was a highlight for her career and created the opportunity to bring together researchers from different universities, locally and abroad, as well as from different disciplines.
“This research project flows from my research done in previous years focusing on religion and the media. This project was definitely a highlight as I am interested in new and more current ways of being religious and spiritual that are specifically informed and shaped by the media.
“It was interesting how much we depend on technology and digital media during the COVID-19 crisis to increasingly fill the gap of contact in education, church, etc. Religious institutions such as local congregations should also be aware that there are other cultural text like film that speak about social and religious matters which may have greater impact on the lives of youth and that these should be utilised to stimulate dialogue with youth."
Cloete grew up in Namaqualand and always felt that she had a calling to study theology. She says she has always found religion a fascinating phenomenon and believes that it can effect change in society.
“The continued technological development is such a cultural force that shapes our lives, values and worldview and specifically religion. One of my primary research interests is understanding religion as described and expressed by people in their everyday life. I hope that religious institutions will take note of my research and use it in how they approach ministry in general and specifically with youth."
According to Cloete, the COVID-19 pandemic has given her an opportunity to rethink life and her priorities. She hopes to continue making a difference through her research and work and would like her students to focus on their education and surround themselves with positive people that are interested and care about them.
The book is available at www.sun-e-shop.co.za and africansunmedia.store.it.si (e-books) at www.africasunmedia.co.za.