In the face of intolerance and violence, faith groups step up their game

Most religions provide people with values such as empathy, love for strangers, forgiveness, offering moral warrants and normative symbols for understanding and respect for cultural and religious diversity. For example, Christians and Muslims share concepts such as peace/salam, forgiveness/afu, compassion/rahmah and human beings in the eyes of God/fitrah.

Yet, according to Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project, between 23% and 30% of Tanzanians, Egyptians, Kenyans and Ugandans are “very concerned” about extremist religious groups in their country. A review of global metrics on pluralism shows downward trends in the region. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance notes high levels of social exclusion. Transformation Index BTI deplores high conflict intensities. The Fragile States Index notes a high intensity of factionalized elites and group grievances in Burundi, Egypt, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda.

Faith to Action Network members have extensive experience in promoting interfaith and intercultural understanding. Rev. Canon Grace Kaiso - Chairman of Faith to Action Network and General Secretary of Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa – calls on faith organisations to raise their efforts: “Faith organisations need to leverage their political and social influence to promote cultural diversity and respect for equal dignity of all men and women”.

Al-Azhar and the Coptic church have founded ‘Bayt al-Eila’ to promote inter-faith dialogue in Egypt. The Imam-Priest Exchange is one of its most dynamic projects. To date 840 imams and priests have participated in interfaith lectures, sessions, discussions, trainings and visits to churches, mosques, monasteries, hospitals, schools and other projects. In a recent event Bishop Mouneer encourages young people to work together positively to develop Egypt: “Don’t curse the dark but learn how to lighten a candle”.

Anglican churches in Central and Eastern Africa, including Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan run football for peace events targeting 3,000 young people on average. These are interfaith fora organizing peaceful sports competitions, offering life skills training and conflict analysis. In the last sports event in Mbeere, youth identified instruments of violence, buried them and made declarations to uphold peaceful co-existence.

From 2018, Faith to Action Network will roll out a pluralism initiative in collaboration with Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, African Council of Religious leaders and All Africa Conferences of Churches to support such efforts. The programme will:

  • Support 16 local, rights-based interventions to promote interfaith & intercultural understanding and counter youth radicalization.
  • Generate knowledge on effective interfaith and intercultural dialogues and approaches.
  • Promote pluralist discourses, practices and tools amongst religious and cultural leaders, youth leaders and women leaders.
  • Improve the capacity of religious, cultural, youth and women leaders to scale up interventions for intercultural understanding, interfaith cooperation & countering youth radicalization in their institutions.

Easter celebrates the passing of Jesus from death to life.  Passover commemorates the crossing of the people of God from slavery to freedom. Across the world, on different occasions, diverse faith groups recall that life, reconciliation, justice and peace will prevail. In the coming years, Faith to Action Network will work with passionate faith groups to upscale their efforts and come closer to this vision.

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