Grassroots Interfaith Brings Together Christians & Muslims in Mombasa, Kenya
There have been relatively good relations between Christian and Muslims in Mombasa, Kenya's second largest city, until the onset of terror attacks on churches from the start of 2012. After the Kenya military incursion into Somalia to fight Al Shabaab, various arson and grenade attacks were carried out on Christian places of worship: bringing with them fear, hatred and distrust. The aftermath was felt immediately in Kenya's schools: integration was reversed. Where schools were predominantly Christian, there was a significant drop in Muslim student enrolment and vice versa.
To try and address these tensions the Global Ministry Universities (GMU) San Jose, California, USA in partnership with Bishop Hannington Institute of Theology, Mombasa have undertaken a programme of interfaith training for teachers. This year the annual Interfaith seminar for Mombasa teachers was held from 10-12 April, 2017 at the Lotus Hotel, Mombasa. The teachers were drawn from both Primary and Secondary schools in Mombasa, bringing together Muslim and Christian teachers to learn together about the commonalities of the Abrahamic faiths.
The speakers brought together various theological and practical examples of coexistence. Prof Gerald Grudzen highlighted the history of Global Interfaith dialogue and discussed the opportunities and challenges of interfaith today. Fatih Akdogan, head of Quba Muslim School, Mombasa (Affiliated to Gulen Movement), with over 1000 mostly Muslim students, explained how they have Christian Religious Education for the few Christian students who study there. Teachers from various schools explained how either Muslim or Christian owned schools now have common prayer together every morning for students. Fatih, also through his Respect Foundation, shared on how they have been able to teach respect to all religions in several schools in Kenya.
John Baya, priest for the African Indigenous Religion (AIR) shared with the teachers the understanding of AIR and the need to respect all religions in schools for peaceful coexistence. The seminars objective was to come up with recommendations and activities to be included in the Kenya Curriculum for schools in order to cultivate interfaith values to children while they are still young. Marita Grudzen led group discussions to come up with activities to be included in the curriculum.
During the seminar, Prof Gerald Grudzen together with co-authors Fatih Akdogan and Martin Olando (Writer of this article) launched their book Burying the Sword, Confronting Jihadism with Interfaith Education, which traces the rise of radicalisation and various Interfaith models in Kenya. At the end of the seminar many teachers had an informed view of respect and tolerance of each others religion, which they could share with their students.
Rev Dr Martin Olando Wesonga is the Principal of Bishop Hannington Institute of Theology, Mombassa and is active in interfaith work in Kenya.
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