Priest: Africa Shows Peace in Coexistence

Says Interreligious Dialogue Is Key

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 2, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Africa has the potential of becoming an example for the rest of the world of peaceful coexistence between religions, especially with Islam, said a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.



Monsignor Chidi Denis Isizoh stated this in an interview with L'Osservatore Romano, published Aug. 28, in which he spoke about the topics due for discussion in the upcoming Synod for Africa, planned for October.
 
A native of Nigeria, Monsignor Isizoh explained that the experience of dialogue between religions is lived in Africa daily, in all realms and at all levels. He added that conflicts exist in only a few countries.
 
According to the priest, in most places, Christians, animists and Muslims live and work together, despite the central part that religion plays in their life.
 
In Africa, religion "is not something separate from other activities of life; it's the lifestyle," he said.
 
The monsignor stated that the dialogue between religious is based "on life and cooperation, in which each person expresses the ideals of his religion: to be good neighbors, to be honest, to help those in difficulties, to put money and talents at the disposition of the common good of the people, to take part in decision-making and to fight against crime."
 
Specifically, he pointed out that in the case of Islam and other faiths, the relation is good in most countries, and conflict is more the exception. "This is good news that is often not reported by the social means of communication," he asserted.
 
What is more, Monsignor Izisoh reported, in cases of conflict, often political leaders and special interest groups "manipulate religious sentiments to attain their own objectives."

Mutual understanding
 
"The dialogue between Christians and Muslims in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa has an important advantage: African religious tradition offers a socio-cultural context that gives both the opportunity to understand one another," he explained.
 
In fact, he said, this dialogue is necessary in education, public management, the struggle against poverty and the establishment of morality in public and private life.

The priest commented on the topic of the upcoming synod: "The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace." He stated that one of the main obstacles to peace in the continent today is the legacy of colonialism.
 
He continued, "Mainly, African countries suffer the consequence of the inadequate and forced fusion of different peoples -- which the media often describe as tribal groups -- carried out by colonialism."
 
This arbitrary division of the territory has always caused tensions between these peoples and struggles for power to control resources, as is evident in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Sudan, among others, he explained.
 
The monsignor added, "It's true that after many years, the smaller countries with fewer ethnic groups have been able to accept this forced union, but the larger ones will have to negotiate and seek compromises for many years to come."
 
He affirmed that this is one of the factors that creates most obstacles to development in these countries. Others include "greed, the desire for immediate wealth, corruption and the lack of confidence in political leaders."
 
In addition, Monsignor Izisoh stated, there is the "brain drain" caused by poverty, immigration and illiteracy, as well as "the iniquitous conditions of international trade."
 
He affirmed: "All of us are praying for the success of the synod. The choice of topic shows how the African Church is vital in her responsibility towards the continent."
 
The Church, in stressing reconciliation, "is the voice of the voiceless," the priest continued.

He affirmed: "She speaks in the name of the oppressed and marginalized of society. She leads wounded persons to reconciliation. The way in which to do it will probably be one of the most important points of discussion at the forthcoming synod."