Sherif, Social Media & a local church in Austria
STOP PRESS: Written Question in Parliament about Sherif:
This is has been a very weird, virtual week, but weird in a rather wonderful way. Virtual not because it didn’t happen but because some of the exciting things that happened occurred online. But first, let Emma & Sherif set the scene after Sherif’s 20 days of unlawful detention in Egypt.
The ReleaseSherif website only went up on Thurs night/Fri morning – and almost immediately Sherif’s situation changed. Egyptian Ambassadors around the world were beginnign to get letters and emails seeking his release – and suddenly he was too hot to handle or detain. Sherif ended up on a plane to Heathrow on Monday night.
Addendum: Now just to explain further (and to avoid misunderstanding) – I’m certainly not suggesting that this was the only or even primary factor in what happened. It perhaps sounded as if I was overinflating the case. For from the moment Sherif was detained on 9th November, many people were praying and working quietly but hard behind the scenes using various diplomatic and other channels to do what they could. All those involved certainly deserve great gratitude. And we want to encourage them in all the other ways in which they help the voiceless and marginalised. My point is simple: once the decision was taken to take the campaign public and online, the impact was incredibly rapid. And many many people decided to get involved. Such is the power of the web for good or ill.
It wasn’t restricted to people in the UK writing letters. We had emails from folks in the USA, Canada, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, Bosnia etc etc etc – all concerned, many saying that they’d written letters. And by using a Facebook group, people were able to share ideas about who to write to, what to say, when to say it… Within 48 hours, 5000 people had looked at the website, and we had just under 400 members of the Facebook group. And it is strange to think that some of those hits on the website were from Sherif’s captors…
Protests and Prayers were shared, multiplied and intensified all around the world. And the most significant thing to my mind is that as soon as the captors realised that their activities were not in the dark but under the full virtual glare of the world, they couldn’t get rid of him quickly enough. Which is quite a classic pathology, is it not?
But the weird world of the web was in my thoughts in other ways too. On Monday I did the second webinar (as part of my work for Langham Partnership) for a group of church leaders in Graz Austria – via Skype and a webinar presentation platform which enabled me to present my powerpoint and have fruitful real time discussion. We got used to it very quickly. I think it helped that I knew a couple of them quite well already. It also helped that they all spoke good English – much of the LPI work is done through interpreters, so I would guess that having to use an interpreter would have been a nightmare… Unless, I suppose, there was an interpreter sitting with me this end.
But all in all, it was a great success – and we’ll be aiming to do it monthly from January. Very exciting, very cheap, and very surreal.
Both the Sherif and Graz stories illustrate perfectly Seth Godin’s observation that now ‘The Internet eliminates geography.’
And then on Tuesday, i was helping out a bit with the EAUK’s Social Media conference which took place at All Souls. It was great fun to meet a number of people whom I only knew virtually or by avatar and username. We had a good time – though i certainly felt out of my depth with lots of people there far more experienced and knowledgable. For what it’s worth, here are the keynote and transcript of my short session on social media and the local church. The key thing it seems to me is that social media can enable us to be/do what we as the church should be/do ANYWAY, only (potentially) with greater effectiveness and depth.