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Journalism as Witness: Guardians of Memory, Sustainers of Community

Event Date:

November 10, 2022 | 5:45 PM EST TO 7:00 PM EST


Georgetown University Berkley Center
Healy Hall Riggs Library
O St NW and 37th St NW

Washington, DC 20007

Collage graphic: photograph of Father Columba Stewart/ map of Mali/ photo of Tomb of Askia in Gao, Mali

Reporting for Harper’s, Fred Bahnson will follow Fr. Stewart into the dusty mosques of the Sahel...


Growing up as a missionary kid in Nigeria, Fred Bahnson wrestled with the disconnect of seeing adult missionaries serving the local community while also building literal walls that separated themselves from those they had come to serve. Those childhood years of isolation led to his later interest in monastic spirituality, shaping both his interior spiritual practice as well as the subjects he writes about as a freelance religion journalist and Pulitzer Center grantee.

With support from the Pulitzer Center, Bahnson accompanied Fr. Columba Stewart, OSB, Georgetown University’s 2021 Costan Lecturer and the 2019 National Endowment for the Humanities’ Jefferson Lecturer, on a quest to digitally preserve manuscripts held by a prominent Muslim family in Mali. Along the way, Bahnson was forced to face the limitations of his professional and personal calling, captured in his Harper’s Magazine article, “Guardians of Memory: The Quest To Save Ancient Manuscripts.” 

Join us for a reflective conversation on this and Bahnson’s other profiles on monastic figures and the contemplative life, including an exploration of what it means to embrace “journalism as witness” in a secular world. The discussion will be moderated by Paul Elie, a Berkley Center senior fellow.

This event is part of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and is co-sponsored by Georgetown University’s Journalism Program. 

Public Health Measures: This event will take place in-person on the Georgetown University campus. Georgetown University requires all visitors to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or to attest to having a medical or religious exemption from being vaccinated. All visitors must complete the COVID-19 visitor registration for this event.


teal halftone illustration of praying hands



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