Global Newsroom

*Illustration by Manon Michelle Monhemius

Interfaith dialogues in Kenya

Thursday, 6. August 2020

 

In Kenya the team have been very active with their online trustbuilding activities, with a Ramadan dialogue, an interfaith dialogue with both Muslim and Christian clergy and two parallel Zoom sessions about the challenges of trustbuilding – with one session for women and one for men.

12 May Ramadan Dialogue

One of the barriers to trustbuilding between Muslims and Christians is a lack of understanding of the other group’s faith. The Ramadan dialogue was organized to give Christian people a chance to ask questions and receive answers about the tenets of Islam.

One of the questions was about which people might not be eligible for fasting during Ramadan, and how they compensate for not fasting. Here the Christian participants learned that people who are advised not to fast, such as those who are sick, pregnant or breastfeeding and those traveling long distances. The Muslim leaders also spoke about some ways people could possibly compensate for not fasting, like having another special time for fasting or donating towards charities who serve those less privileged than themselves.

The dialogue provided a much-needed opportunity to grow mutual understanding and take away some bias and critique.

30 June interfaith dialogue with clergy

This interfaith dialogue between Muslim and Christian clergy was of preceded with a very educative and transformative virtual workshop session with our teams from Garissa and Mombasa on 27 June titled Healing the Wounds Of History.

There were 18 participants for the clergy dialogue, that largely focused on exploring the issue of people from different faiths living together in peace, but not in trust with each other. Matthew Freeman and David Campt, both from USA, joined as speakers.

Several issues were raised regarding the topic. Most believe that peace is important, irrespective of religious beliefs. Unfortunately, the participants feel that politicians use religion to divide the masses for their own (political) benefit, just like they feel that often parents and spiritual leaders are also spreading seeds of hatred and mistrust. One of the Pastors reiterated that the religious leaders mislead their congregants by teaching what they want their people to believe. He gave an example of using propaganda that is largely experienced in the political world.

The dialogue ended with a session that provided a path forward in terms of working towards the issues. It was suggested that the religious leaders attending the dialogue cultivate the habit of coexisting peacefully with people from different faiths, which leads to trust among the parties involved. An example of this is Pastor Collins, who has young Muslim men guarding his church to protect worshippers from terrorists.

25 July parallel interfaith sessions

The topic of these interfaith meetings, separated by gender, was the challenges of trustbuilding for (wo)men in the community.

Joining from locations across Kenya, 20 male participants participated in the dialogue for men, five of whom were new to trustbuilding. The main speaker was a participant from Mombasa who has been with the program since the first dialogue. He shared three key points as challenges to trustbuilding for men:

  1. Communication - both verbally and non-verbally. Several men may have the right intentions but are challenged in articulating the information.
  2. Insincerity and lack of tolerance - leading to a failure in fulfilling the commitment.
  3. Lack of empathy - how do we support people who need help?

There were 25 participants in the women’s dialogue which included guest speakers such as Amina Khalid (UK), Cleo Mohlaodi (SA), Jane Jilani and Sureya Hirsi (Kenya - Mombassa) and Sr. Evelyne Ingotse (Kenya - Garissa). Each are inspiring women with different positions of influence.

The dialogue focused on the unique issues faced by women. Besides the difficulties that both genders face, like language, age, religion and culture, there are specific issues that women encounter such as:

  1. High expectations from society – multitasking with family life and professional life.
  2. Distance and security – sometimes the distances needed to travel to a community for trustbuilding work is far and this is not always safe for women.
  3. Gender stereotyping – women are not always taken as seriously as men in similar situations/positions.

The team discussed the challenges to achieving maximum trust in communities, and unanimously agreed that there are issues that need to be ‘unlearnt’ in order to keep going.

 

*Illustration by Manon Michelle Monhemius

 

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The Trustbuilding Program is aimed at addressing divisive issues at the international and national levels, on the premise that only those who have undergone the internal process of becoming trustworthy themselves can close gaps across the globe. The Program was launched by Initiatives of Change International in 2019 with projects in Kenya, Canada and France.