Pfarrer Dr. France A Davis, Pastor der Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, Utah
The Rev. Dr. France A. Davis. Photo by Elisa di Benedetto.

In 2020, regular readers of the IARJ website will be able to enjoy occasional columns featuring stories that connect religion writers on different continents. The IARJ’s mission is building peer-to-peer relationships that promote fairness, accuracy and balance in reporting on the vital role of religion in our world.

One way we do that on a monthly basis is by linking journalists in distant corners of the globe who focus on important stories that would rarely reach a global audience.

The American holiday honoring the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is an occasion on which two of our leading members cross paths in highlighting an icon of civil rights in Utah, the heartland of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As a young pastor in the 1960s, the Rev. Dr. France A. Davis was an ally of Dr. King, marching twice with the civil rights leader. When he first arrived to work in Utah in the early 1970s, he was immediately barred by his new landlord when the building owner learned that Davis was black. Through decades of hard work, coalition building and even occasional threats, Davis and his colleagues have made significant headway on inclusion. However, there’s still much more that needs to be done, Davis tells us.

Italian journalist Elisa di Benedetto visited Utah for the first-ever North American conference of the International Association of Religion Journalists in October 2019. The primary event organizer was Pulitzer-prize-winning Salt Lake Tribune religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack. At the conference, journalists from around the world heard a stirring talk by Dr. Davis, then not long after the conference, Peggy wrote an in-depth profile of Dr. Davis, headlined: Utah civil rights legend France Davis retires from the pulpit after 46 years, but his life remains a sermon in service.

This week, to honor Dr. King’s holiday in the U.S., Elisa published a column about Dr. Davis in ReadTheSpirit magazine, which is edited by the IARJ’s media consultant David Crumm. In that column, Elisa also reflects on Peggy’s profile of Dr. Davis.

Together, Elisa, Peggy and David effectively collaborated on bringing Dr. Davis’ prophetic voice to a worldwide audience.