A little more compassion—also online

“Let’s create a better Internet together” is the slogan of the international Safer Internet Day campaign. How can I as a New Apostolic Christian contribute? What do I have to watch out for? nac.today has some tips.

“Communication is vital today and it has to play a corresponding role in our ranks.” It serves the purpose of exchange on a global level. “This is how we create an awareness of the various cultures,” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider explained recently in an interview. “We want to communicate in a Christian way: sincere, transparent, and respectful.” This applies to our personal conversations and to our dealings with each other in the congregation and in our online media.

Whether as a church or a private person, it is hardly possible to close oneself off from the Internet. Both are part of a society that also has a presence on the Internet. In addition to numerous sites offering information, the New Apostolic Church also operates a worldwide social network: nacworld.net. Am I safe on these websites? Is everything okay because a Church is behind it? The answer is a definite no. There is no absolute online safety. Just like in the real world, a few rules on online behaviour will, however, help to forestall problems.

The Internet can be a nasty place. Where do the dangers lie and how should those affected react?

  • Identity theft: Anyone who publishes personal data like names, telephone numbers, bank details, or other data that will identify them must ultimately expect that this data may one day be misused by a third party. One approach is to publish only as much personal information online as is absolutely necessary. You should also make sure that any data transmission is encrypted (SSL/https) and you should change your passwords regularly.

  • Trolls: People who repeatedly and deliberately sow discord in their posts in order to provoke readers or try to disrupt otherwise normal on-topic discussions are referred to as trolls or twits. The best approach is to keep calm and contact the forum operator or support team and report the troll. If necessary, the online community should be informed so that they are aware of the activities going on.

  • Cyber-bullying: If individuals or groups are repeatedly and deliberately harassed and insulted, are constantly ostracized or criticized, or rumours and gossip are posted one speaks of cyber-bullying. If you yourself are a victim or know of someone who is, the best approach is to contact the forum operator or the support team and report the attacks. In many cases, contacts can be technically suspended. In the event of repeated offences, it is recommended that you inform the police.

A very banal but more frequently occurring risk are conflicts arising from normal communication problems. The Church spokesman, Peter Johanning, recently proposed a workable approach: “I listen to what you have to say. Then I place my views next to yours. What you make of them is entirely up to you. Everybody—whether online, in the congregation, or in the family—profits from this kind of communication." Very closely related to this is the following aspect, “Everything that is to the detriment of my neighbour has to be stopped.”

“A safe forum for my brothers and sisters,” is what Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber wanted. The network nacworld.net, which is run by the Church, has been offering such a safe place since 2008. The platform, which was especially developed, is free and non-commercial, offers a mentoring program to protect under-age users, and deletes personal data completely when you log out. For technical questions or matters concerning content, brothers and sisters of the support team can be contacted around the clock.

But even in this Christian network, like everywhere else, it can happen that somebody is active under a fake identity, that there are misunderstandings, or that someone’s rights are violated. Whether here or elsewhere on the Internet: the Ten Commandments are a good code of conduct.

The Seventh Commandment—“You shall not steal”—applies to articles or photos by other authors as it does to foreign data. And the Eighth Commandment—“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour”—addresses how we talk about others. It all comes down to the following: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19: 18). If everyone were to comply with this, the Internet would quickly develop into a better place and today’s campaign would be a lot closer to achieving its goal.

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Oliver Rütten
Media, International