Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Thou Shalt Not Text?

Home to Europe's second most text-happy mobile users, a growing group of Italian bishops are encouraging their young to abstain from SMS on the Fridays of Lent:
Renouncing texting would enable young people to "detox from the virtual world and get back in touch with themselves," said Monsignor Benito Cocchi, the bishop of Modena in northern Italy, who launched the campaign.

He also called for computer games, iPhones and social networking sites such as Facebook to be avoided.

His appeal has been adopted across Italy, with several other bishops urging young people in their dioceses to give up texting....

Giving up texting was not only an act of self-denial, Catholic leaders said, it also carried a geo-political message.

A crucial component of mobile phones and laptop computers is the mineral coltan, much of which is mined in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and has been dubbed "Africa's blood metal".

Just as "blood diamonds" have fuelled war in Sierra Leone, the pursuit of coltan in central Africa has created "a civil war which has caused the deaths of four million people in 10 years," according to Francesco Panigadi of the Catholic Missionary Centre in Modena.

Father Gianni Fazzini of the Venice diocese told La Repubblica: "If people renounce things individually, it can produce a collective change.

"It's a reaction to the economic crisis: in changing our consumer habits we can also meet our responsibility as Christians to safeguard....

But the text proposal has divided Italy's Catholics. "It will be a complete flop," Bruno Dallapiccola, a professor of genetics and the head of a Catholic scientific organisation, told La Stampa newspaper.

"Very few kids listen to the guidance of the Church and even fewer will renounce SMS messaging. Do we really think that they'll stop contacting their friends just because a bishop tells them to?"

Giani Gennari, a theologian who writes for the Catholic newspaper Avvenire, said: "Good Friday marks the pain of Christ and to suggest a ban on texting as a way of commemorating it is a ridiculous idea. It's like suggesting that we should turn off all electric lights and sit in the darkness."
In another, er, unique Italian proposal this Lent, the church in Naples has called for fasting... from bottled water.

PHOTO: AP/Matt Sayles