Regional Faiths Lay A Foundation For Dialogue
February 17, 2003
Reported by Henry Neondo
Representatives from various religions in East Africa have laid a foundation for dialogue across faith communities in the region.
At a one day seminar held here on February 8, participants suggested forging an inter-religious forum for East Africa, 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 towards dialogue should include all religious groupings, "but tread carefully where theological principles are concerned".
The inter-religious seminar brought together delegates from various Christian churches, and representatives of Islamic and Bahai faiths under the theme Healing Nations. "In the Christian-Muslim encounter, there are those who gather and those who scatter," said Dr Mbillah.
"Cooperation is about those who gather. [But] we cannot afford to leave out the bigots and the zealots. Bring all on board," he went on.
Participants examined what aspects of religion caused friction among believers, and which promoted unity. They proposed to promote the latter.
The seminar was sponsored by German-based organisations: Bread for the World, Misereor, and the Islamic Community Milli Görüs, represented at the seminar by Dr Mustafa Yoldas.
It was organised by Chemchemi ya Ukweli (Chemchemi), an interfaith organisation in Kenya training people in active non-violence.
Chemchemi was given the mandate to liase with inter-religious organisations in Uganda and Tanzania towards establishing the regional body, and explore possibilities of holding a follow-up conference in about a year. Already in each East African country, there are inter-religious organisations or achievements attributed to such joint efforts.
Uganda has an Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU), formed in 2001. A second one, Inter-Religious Program (InterPro), has a regular publication titled Together.
The Christian-Muslim Commission for Peace, Development and Conflict-Resolution in Tanzania (TUWWAMUTA), had its first official consultation in 1999, while in Kenya, different faiths have achieved much in social and political spheres, under an umbrella body, Ufungamano.
The Nairobi seminar could be a product of an October 21-23, 2002 international conference in Germany, that sought to explore possibilities of initiating dialogue between Christians, Muslims and adherents of other faiths, at all levels of society in Africa.
It came amid growing friction between Christians and Muslims in Kenya over proposals for exclusive courts for Muslims in a new draft constitution, yet to be adopted.
©Copyright 2003, African Church Information Service (Nairobi, Africa)