MANY NEWS STORIES do not make sense without understanding religion. Lapido Media is an internationally networked, British-based philanthro-media charity, founded in 2005, that seeks to increase understanding among journalists and opinion formers of the way religion shapes world affairs.*
It’s called religious literacy, a term we put in the public domain at our launch in 2007 which warranted a half-hour studio discussion on CNN’s Correspondents and an op ed by Dominic Lawson in the Independent. Our stringers practise the kind of religiously literate journalism we wish to see, going deeper to the sources of social motivations, and resourcing other journalists to do likewise. And we work with civil society groups on campaigns and media strategy development to improve the flow and quality of stories with a religion dimension.
Religion integrates human motives and organizes the world for better or worse. Future trajectories of nations are based on people’s deepest-held belief systems. Reporting that right or not can mean either life or death in too many places where opinion formers have simply glossed it out.* Culture is informed by religion – or no religion. It is the lens through which you see things, interpret them – and then act. ‘We didn’t see it coming’ has been the refrain of religion-blind journalists and commentators throughout the post-9/11, 7/7 and Arab Spring decade, where the yearning for freedom has been harnessed or suppressed by religious manipulators backed by self-interested western power blocs with often catastrophic unforeseen consequences.
At Lapido we did see plenty coming. Our credibility in research, publishing and event organizing made Lapido the most suitable independent organization to launch Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Roberta Ahmanson’s award-winning Blind Spot: When Journalists don’t get Religion for Oxford University Press in 2010. Our founders, Jenny Taylor and Mike Holdsworth, and our donors and supporters knew that the rhetoric about the decline of religion is increasingly inadequate to 21st century realpolitik. The press have more liberty and more justification to ‘do religion’ – with more insight - than was previously thought.
Founder and Executive Director -
An established media professional and author, she trained with Yorkshire Post Newspapers and became the first race reporter in the Westminster Press Group. She has reported from areas of conflict and poverty all over Asia and Africa, deciding to specialize in Islam and secularization, which resulted first in the book Faith and Power in 1998, co-authored with Professor Lamin Sanneh of Yale, and Lesslie Newbigin. She speaks and writes on the connection between faith and culture, on which she has addressed parliamentary, Commonwealth and media gatherings around the world. Her doctorate is from SOAS in London.
Monitor Publications Ltd. in Kampala, Uganda. He has also worked as Editor-in-Chief of New Vision in Kampala.was until recently the Executive Editor of
The Samosa. She divides her time between London and Karachi while continuing her studies in anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University.is a writer, photographer and artist, and occasional translator for the BBC. A scion of the famous family of Pakistan journalists, she is a contributor to a number of websites including
is a writer and researcher with Arab West Report based in Cairo. He is also the editor of Orient and Occident, a magazine of the Anglican Diocese of Egypt, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. He serves as local correspondent for Christianity Today and blogs regularly at A Sense of Belonging. Jayson has worked previously in Mauritania, Jordan, and Tunisia, and holds an MA in Islamic Studies from Columbia International University. Fond of all things Arabic, Jayson enjoys crossing boundaries to promote understanding, bringing the ‘other’ closer to home.
was born in Orissa, and lived alone for years in a remote Himalayan village working on women’s development. She now writes for us from Delhi. ‘Social development is my main pre-occupation with extensive experience in Africa and Asia, particulary on gender and disability issues. My Indian roots are an advantage in addressing injustices in this society. The Hindu caste system is the biggest barrier to development. Foreign aid should be tied to addressing human rights abused by religious practices. I am learning to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and to encourage others to do so. But there’s nothing like supporting people to speak for themselves.’
was the well-modulated voice behind Radio 2's Nick Page Programme for many years, and has clocked up 35 years behind one mic or another. As a radio anchorman and producer he hosted Nightline for the London Broadcasting Company as well as programmes for schools on BBC Radio 4. As a communication consultant, he choreographs public events and conferences around the world, and is Secretary of the International Christian Media Commission. He is a member of the panel of judges for the Andrew Cross Awards.
is an expert in Middle East affairs and Tasawwuf (Islamic spirituality), and studied at Al-Azhar University, Cairo as well as under the famous Imam Sayyid Habib ahmad Mashhur al Haddad Al Alawi. He is International Director at the Centre for Islamic Pluralism and a Visiting Fellow at The Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars (Washington). He has written for the Independent, The Guardian, The Times, as well as for The Weekly Standard, The Spectator, and many Islamic journals. He has translated many works into Arabic, English, Swahili and Urdu.
is Editor of Idea magazine. After gaining her BA in Theology & Religious Studies at Cambridge University, she became one of the country’s first ‘faith’ reporters - at that hotbed of religious radicalism, the Reading Evening Post. There she interviewed the Revd Jesse Jackson, and reported on an historic trip to Auschwitz with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. She has written for regional and national newspapers including the Guardian, the Sunday Telegraph and the Independent, and was former Editor of the Crown Prosecution Service’s legal magazine Eye Witness.
is a freelance writer on global affairs, and a social development consultant based in Mumbai, India. He contributes regularly to Global Asia, The Diplomat and Foreign Policy Association Blog.
* LAPIDO means to 'speak up' in the Acholi dialect of Northern Uganda. The Acholi lands on the Uganda/Sudan border are poor in natural resources, but rich in spirituality and courage. When President Museveni routed them from power in a coup in 1986, they took to the hills of southern Sudan to enact God’s revenge. As the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, they brought mayhem and terror to the north for more than 20 years. They did so according to a misreading of Ezekiel in the Old Testament. This, mixed up with traditional snake religion and muti sacrifice held an entire nation in terrified thrall. The secular world understood little of this, least of all the destructive power of a sin/revenge/fear culture in a lawless state. They ignored the situation, or dropped bombs on it (the US’ disastrous Operation Iron Fist). It was a handful of Acholi church leaders who alone among 1,000 intellectuals (who fled mostly to the UK, Canada and US), stayed to offer leadership, fight for justice and advocate relentlessly for a peaceful way through a terrible impasse that had become a by-word for child soldiering. In partnership with the Church Mission Society, of which Jenny Taylor was then head of media, they woke up the world with the Break the Silence Campaign. Bob Geldof went and filmed there; the UN tripled its aid budget, and the International Criminal Court made it their test case. Today, unique, traditional forms of reconciliation are being mediated by the church; the displacement camps are closing, and people are re-building their villages. Kony however is still at large - currently in Central African Republic where he continues to kill and prey on innocent villagers.