The International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) and the Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII (FSCIRE) are pleased to announce that freelance journalist Robin Sheeran was awarded the 2024 Piazza Grande Religion Journalism Award for his piece on the divide between Catholic and Protestant education in Northern Ireland, Keeping the kids apart.

IARJ’s Executive Director Peggy Fletcher Stack announcing the recipients of the third Piazza Grande Religion Journalism Award, at the EuARe annual conference, with Herman Selderhuis, EuARe President. Photo Credits: EuARe

The international jury awarded second place to war correspondent José Pedro Frazão for his piece about a Ukrainian church in times of war, Em Kherson, o Sagrado Coração católico ainda bate sob bombas e mísseisIn Kherson, the Catholic Sacred Heart still beats under bombs and missiles.

Third place went to Austrian freelance journalist Wolfgang Machreich for Robotersegen nicht allen gelegenRobot blessings–not everyone likes.

The jury also gave a special mention to journalist Lennart Nijenhuis of the Netherlands for his article How Indi Gregory made global headlines.

The winners of the award and the special mention were officially announced by IARJ Executive Director Peggy Fletcher Stack at the annual conference of the European Academy of Religion (EuARe), in Palermo – Italy, on 21st May, 2024.

Here are the jury’s statements on the winning entries:

First place

Keeping the kids apart, by Robin Sheeran for New Humanist

A strong piece with anecdotal stories showing how the divisions between Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland didn’t come to an end with the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998. 

Describing how children experience segregation in schools and the struggle of the integrated schools movement, the story carries a powerful message about the importance of integrated education for the future of the country to prevent another inter-religious war in the future.

In his fair reporting, Sheeran shows an extensive knowledge of the issues presented and deals with a sensitive subject in an informative way, presenting a way forward. 

The story is well edited and provides perspective and background. 

Second place

Em Kherson, o Sagrado Coração católico ainda bate sob bombas e mísseis, by José Pedro Frazão for Rádio Renascença

This is a story about the life of a Ukrainian church in times of war. With good storytelling and strong on-the-ground reporting, the author captures the spirit that drives the church to continue its work under the most difficult circumstances. The story is properly contextualized and plenty of descriptions showing the condition of Ukrainian Catholics along the front line, where faith moves in the depths of the conflict.

Third place

 Robotersegen nicht allen gelegen, by Wolfgang Machreich for Wiener Zeitung

This is an Interesting and well written story about technology and faith, with a focus on the Catholic prayer robot “Celeste” and the Protestant blessing robot “BlessU-2“, considered the avant-garde of Christian theological robotics.

A fascinating and innovative topic, presented in an engaging manner, which shows how religion reporting can embrace the most diverse topics and dimensions. 

The author provides a positive outlook and parallels to other religions, including various voices and points of views.

Special mention

How Indi Gregory made global headlines, by Lennart Nijenhuis for Christian Network Europe

Indi Gregory’s moving story of a critically ill baby girl and the conflict between her parents and medical staff were widely reported in the UK, but this story tells how various Christians responded to the issue. The author gives international context to it and offers different viewpoints which show the division between Catholicism and Protestantism in seeing this sensitive life-and-death issue. 

A well-written story, with good storytelling, and several dimensions to the subject.

The Piazza Grande Religion Journalism Award was launched by the IARJ and FSCIRE in Bologna in March 2019 during the annual conference of the European Academy of Religion (EuARe) to honor the work of journalists covering faith and religion in Europe and the countries surrounding the Mediterranean basin.

The IARJ and the FSCIRE thank all of the participants in the contest for entering their stories to the third edition of the Piazza Grande Religion Journalism Award.

The jury included the following journalists: Jelena Jorgacevic (Serbia), Amanda Coakley (Poland), Endy Bayuni (Indonesia), Larbi Megari (Algeria), Alberto Melloni (Italy), Peggy Fletcher Stack (United States), and Delphine Nerbollier (Germany).

Elisa Di Benedetto of Italy was the IARJ coordinator of the award.