Saturday, November 3, 2012

Religion and Biotech

I am not going to write about ethics and what religions say about new technologies. This is one of our forte but not for this post.

Here, I want to share a recent activity we organized using a religion platform to reach to the public. Through our research we understand that religious concerns and perspective are very important for a country like Malaysia, where everyone upholds in one way or another religion of choice/birth. Religions play an important role in almost everyone’s life and a number of decisions are made based on one’s belief, varying from one religion to another.

However, religious scholars do not have good understanding of biotech and it isn’t their priority to address concerns on this subject unless, a crisis occurs. Government agencies too do not engage religious scholars in their biotech communication strategies.

So, we decided to break the norm.
It all started when I was approached by a Hindu based organization (Arulneri) to give a talk on biotech to their youth to encourage them to pursue studies and careers in biotech. I never imagined that it would be the biggest public seminar for MABIC. What was meant to be a simple talk and Q&A evolved to become a half day activity complete with talk on biotech, panel discussion, DNA extraction session, and media interviews. What more with more than 150 participants – students, teachers, parents, religious scholars, and media.
Excitement was in the air. The pathway towards getting into biotech and related programmes at public and private universities, career prospects, safety of biotech products, its potential and documented benefits, and impact to the environment were the common questions from the audience.

The audience was extremely contended with the knowledge gained on that day. And now we have a number of invitations from teachers for similar seminar at their schools. We were also featured on one of the programmes in Astro. (You can view the video here)

And the lesson we learnt as biotech communicators – that we cannot impose biotech communication onto religious scholars but we could use their platform to get quality and readymade audience. Where else could you get 150 captive participants?

By Mahaletcumy Arujanan

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