Regional Religions to Initiate Dialogue
February 12, 2003
Representatives from various religions in East Africa have laid the foundation for dialogue across faiths in the region.
Forty delegates from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania held a one-day seminar on Saturday February 8, 2003 at the Methodist Guest House, Nairobi, under the theme ‘Healing Nations.’
The Inter-Religious Seminar brought together delegates from Christian Churches, the Islamic and the Bahai faiths.
Among key fruits of the seminar was the suggestion to forge an inter-religious forum for East African, with legal and other accreditation given by the East African Community.
According to Dr Johnshon Mbillah of the Program for Christian Muslim Relations in Africa (PROCMURA), such efforts at dialogue should include all religious groupings, but tread carefully where theological principles are concerned.
“In the Christian-Muslim encounter,” he said, “There are those who gather and those who scatter. Cooperation is about those who gather. [But] We cannot afford to leave out the bigots and the zealots. Bring all on board.”
“The theological encounter,” he cautioned, “is reserved for the experts.” Participants examined what aspects of religion caused friction among the believers, and which promoted unity. They proposed to promote the latter.
The seminar was sponsored by German-based organizations: Bread for the World, Misereor, and the Islamic Community Milli Görüs represented by Dr Mustafa Yoldas at the event. It was organised in East Africa by Chemchemi ya Ukweli, an interfaith organization in Kenya training people for active non-violence.
Chemchemi was given the mandate to liaise with inter-religious organizations in Uganda (and Tanzania towards establishing the regional body, and explore possibilities of holding a follow-up conference in about a year.
Christians were drawn from the Catholic and the Evangelical Lutheran Church and from the Christian Social Services Commission (CSSC), an ecumenical body of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) and the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT). Others came from the Quakers, the Church of Uganda.
Muslims present at the seminar represented national Islamic organizations in the three countries.
There were delegates from national inter-religious bodies from each country as well.
Already in each country, there are inter-religious organizations or achievements attributed to such joint efforts.
Uganda has the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU), formed in 2001. The Inter-Religious Program (InterPro) there even has a regular publication, entitled ‘TOGETHER’. Tanzania has the Christian-Muslim Commission for Peace, Development and Conflict-Resolution in Tanzania (TUWWAMUTA), which had its first official consultation in 1999. In Kenya, faiths have achieved much in the social and political sphere under the umbrella body Ufungamano.
The seminar acknowledged that after September 11, 2001 attacks in America, the old divide between Islam and the West has been revived by voices on both sides of the divide.
The Nairobi seminar could be a product of an October 21-23, 2002 international conference in Germany that sought to explore possibilities of initiating inter-religious dialogue between Christians and Muslims and adherents of other faiths at all levels of the society in Africa.
©Copyright 2003, Catholic Information Service for Africa (Nairobi, Africa)
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