Media practitioners around the country and the general public have been challenged to practice open communication to avoid conflict and misunderstandings.

The call came from the Director of the Pastoral Centre and Catholic Monsignor William John- Lewis when the country joined the international community in observing World Communications Day on Sunday, 21st May.

In quite the twist of fate, this was also, sadly, the day that veteran broadcaster, legendary journalist, and seasoned communicator Ken Richards died at the Dominica China Friendship Hospital.

Ken Richards had an illustrious career that left a mark on the media landscape in Dominica – having worked at DBS Radio, Voice of Life, and Dominica News Online, to name a few - around the region - especially Observer in Antigua and WINN FM in St. Kitts - and London (as a broadcaster with the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC).

Pope Paul VI established world Communications Day in 1967 as an annual celebration that encourages people to reflect on the opportunities and challenges that the modern means of social communication (the press, movies/films, radio, television and the internet) afford the Church to communicate the gospel message.

This year's theme for World Communications Day was "Speaking with the Heart".

Monsignor John-Lewis says the theme is poignant and highlights the importance of using it to deal with everyday conflict and come to amicable solutions.

"In terms of communicating, we communicate, of course, non-verbally. But we communicate by what we say and words we choose. And that comes out of the heart. It reminds me of the passage, 'One is not defiled by what one eats, but by what comes out of one's heart." The passage taken from the Book of Matthew is further complemented by a passage from Luke, which says in part, a good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart... For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.'

The reason behind using charity to purify the heart was described as necessary if individuals were to speak at all. Monsignor John-Lewis firmly believes that there has to be enough love in a person's heart to have the desire to communicate with another individual.

"I have seen people speak, and it is not really a dialogue; it is two people speaking at each other, and neither of them is listening. And they are going at each other, but nobody is listening; they are not really communicating," Fr John-Lewis said.

Monsignor John-Lewis emphasises that effective communication would mean speaking to others in a manner that lends to finding solutions to issues and not at each other, which often leads to greater conflict.

"The first part of it is recognising that an individual has tremendous potential, has tremendous strengths, has tremendous ideas. In other words, the person is so unique that we have not yet begun to understand," he said.

Monsignor John-Lewis believes miscommunication often results from anger and indifference in the human heart. Therefore, dialogue must be open and unbiased, emphasising each other's views and opinions.

"And I think communicating cordially involves that aspect; that when whoever is communicating with me, I recognise the potential in the individual. I am talking to someone unique, gifted, and with a story to tell. And therefore, I listen with my heart. Also, because this individual is worth my listening to… I can learn something from him," he said.