BF: Solidarity but not division!

Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner 
28th May, 2019

Theologians, pastors are looking for a way to display solidarity without accentuating ethnic and religious divisions

Anti-Christian attacks in Burkina Faso are continuing.

On Sunday May 26, heavily armed individuals entered a Catholic church during Mass at Toulfé in the north of the country.

Opening fire on the faithful, they killed four people and wounded several others.

On April 28, terrorists entered a Protestant church in Silgadj, killing the pastor, his sons and three members of the faithful.

On May 13, as the Catholic church celebrated the funeral of a priest and five members of the faithful who had been killed the day earlier in Dablo, four others were killed at a Marian procession in the neighboring province.

The messages of friendship and calls for prayer that circulated afterwards indicate the depth of emotion felt as well as growing concern at the determination of jihadist groups to sow terror in this small country of the western Sahara, which has long enjoyed a reputation for religious tolerance.

As has occurred after each anti-Christian attack in Sri Lanka, Egypt or the Philippines, the same question keeps returning. How to show solidarity with the victims without increasing religious division and thus assisting the terrorists’ in their objective?

“We must not fall into their trap and making a lot of noise is precisely what they are seeking by attacking religious institutions,” argues Father Anselme Tarpaga, the provincial of the White Fathers in the Maghreb region and originally from Burkina Faso himself.

Instead, those who wish to show their support should commence by informing themselves of the local situation. Although the authors of the attacks share the same ideology, the context and thus the resources available always differ.

In fact, tribal and family links have created a strong interreligious network in Burkina Faso where interreligious marriages are the norm, according to Father Tarpaga, who has a Muslim father and a Christian mother.

Similarly, Congolese Father Pascal Kapilimba, the director of the Institute of Islamo-Christian Formation in Bamako, Mali, sees this phenomenon as a means of countering the jihadists “by focusing on what unites us rather than what divides.”

“Rather than speaking of Christian victims, it is better to say they belong to the Yampa or Sawadogo tribes because when we say that, all Yampas and Sawadogos feel concerned, whether they are Christians, Muslims or practice traditional religions,” he believes.

While Wahhabi Islam – a form of Salafism – is growing, it is mainly based on the rural exodus.

“Since people are far from their families, young people are more easily seduced by the discourse and money of preachers formed in Saudi Arabia,” said Father Kapilimba.

“They may allow themselves to commit acts that are regarded as reprehensible by traditional Islam,” he says. “Moreover, they prefer to desert their villages because they will be viewed badly there.

“Father Christian Delorme, who is responsible for interreligious relations in the diocese of Lyon, identifies more fuel for the Salafist contagion in “the accumulated anger, jealousies, and feeling that the West – and therefore Christians – are to blame for all the evils of the world.”

For this reason, it is equally indispensable, in his view, to “display our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Africa and our refusal to normalize such actions” and to “refuse the fracture and the fatality of war.

“This can be achieved, he argues, by refusing to distinguish between “good and bad victims” and raising our voices against “all forms of violence.

“In a statement condemning the Dablo attack as “ignoble and unjustifiable,” the Federation of Islamic Association in Burkina Faso noted that imams have also suffered.

“The jihadists’ aim is to increase insecurity among all those who refuse to adopt their vision of the world,” said Father Delorme.

“It happens that attacking Christians has a greater impact than attacking victims practicing traditional religions,” he said.

Highly concerned by the attacks in his country of origin, Father Tarpaga has shared on social media the text of a practicing young Muslim Burkinabe who witnessed publicly to his gratitude to the Salesian priests with whom he “played football while young.

“Foreign Christians “must aid the Churches in Burkina Faso to keep their social and charitable works going,” he said because if they also give in to “the closing in, they will end up justifying the terrorists.”

Election is over – SACBC statement

After the election taking place in South Africa over the weekend, the South African Catholic Bishops Conference has issued the following statement :


We congratulate the Independent Electoral Commission and all political parties for creating a conducive environment for free and fair election. While some parties have recorded discontent about certain incidences during the election, these do not appear to have significantly impacted on the integrity of the election. Nevertheless, we appeal to the Independent Electoral Commission to take effective measures and address all the problems in the voting system before the next municipal election, including the threat of multiple voting, shortage of voting papers and staff inefficiencies.

One of the key messages that the citizens of South Africa have delivered through the 2019 election is that the current social contract, which is based on the Constitutional negotiations in the early 1990s, needs both renewal and repair. The citizens should not be taken for granted. The dwindling in the voter turn-out as well as the incidents of protests during the election are a stern warning to all the political parties that, twenty five years into Constitutional Democracy, there is a need to renegotiate the social contract between the ruling elite and those living in the margins of the economy.

In the previous 25 years, the Constitutional Democracy and its embedded social contract have failed to create tangible dividends, especially to the poor, in terms of acceptable levels of access to quality education, quality health care, job opportunities, and decent housing. In the next five years, the mending of the social contract will therefore depend on the extent to which the ruling party, working with the oversight functions of the 6th Parliament, have managed to rebuild the economy while tackling the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

We therefore expect all the political parties in the 6th Parliament, and not just the ruling party, to put the country first and work collectively to develop effective measures to arrest the collapse of the economy and the looting of the state resources, and to spur economic growth so that it creates jobs. In particular, we call on the ruling party to develop a national strategic plan, with measurable targets that can be subject to accountability, to address youth unemployment, which is a ticking time bomb and has at some level contributed the disenchantment and voter apathy among the youth.

An issue of grave concern to many citizens in our country, which also poses a serious threat to our young democracy, is that of high levels of corruption. Now that the election is over, we expect the President of our nation to dispense with the politics of expediency and show firm hand in dealing with those implicated in corruption and state capture. In particular, we expect the President of the country:

  • To ensure that those suspected of corruption and state capture are not appointed into the cabinet and the Parliament.
  • To ensure that the country’s bloated cabinet is reduced by half.
  • To introduce new measures to strengthen the investigative and prosecutorial arm of the criminal justice and its ability to operate without political interference and prosecute those involved in corruption and state capture
  • To reverse the collapse of good governance and widespread looting at state owned entities (SOEs), like Eskom, SAA and others.
  • To introduce more effective measures to protect the integrity of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).
  • To introduce stronger measures to address irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure in the government departments and municipalities.

Bishop S. Sipuka – SACBC President

For more information kindly contact Archbishop W. Slattery (SACBC Spokesperson): +27 83 468 5473


How to help the Mozambique Sector

Some communities seem not have received the letter from Mozambique sector requesting help :

Dear confreres and Friends and Benefactors and People of Good will, greetings from Beira.

The cyclone Idai that hit Mozambique on the night of 14th -15th March 2019, left the people of the Central region of the country with pain and helpless: hundreds of people reported dead.   

People around us have neither food nor shelters as their houses have been damaged. Our parish community in Dombe is in the worst situation. More than 600 people there are taking refuge at the parish school. Our workers and neighbours in Beira have no houses. Sussundenga is not better.

In the Sector house, we lost part of our wall and part of our house.

At Nazaré Centre of Formation, a good number of structures are left roofless.

Our confrere Raphaël Gasimba escaped death as he fell into waters that crossed and split the road, with his car on a journey to Dombe where he is serving. The Toyota Hilux Double Cabine which he was using and some of his personal belongings are lost.

Grateful to God for the safe lives, we are calling upon your generous support in any of the areas mentioned. We thank you for your concern and prayers. Will update you on how the general situation unfold.

Details of our Bank

Missionários de África
Account in US Dollars: 20877214
Account in MZN: 4370627
Swift code: BIMOMZMX

Yours sincerely,

Boris Yabre, M.Afr.
Sector Superior


Update on the Mozambique situation

We have just received the following message from Boris Yabre, M.Afr., Provincial Delegate for Mozambique.

Dear confreres and Friends and Benefactors and People of Good will, greetings from Beira.

Six days ago, I sent you a SOS message sharing with you about what we are living on the ground and appealing for help.

We want to thank each and every one of you for your constant prayers and growing concern. Some of you have already sent your contributions to alleviate the pains of the people around us; others are still looking for the ways and means to do so. We wholeheartedly say thank you.

On Tuesday, the Archbishop of Beira called for an urgent meeting of the pastoral agents of the archdiocese. About hundred people or so were present. we shared about the current situation of the people at the various places of the diocese.

Putting aside the lost lives, people are in extreme need of food, drinking water and shelters. Some incidents occurred by which the population went and broke some shops in order to get food without fearing the police presence.  There is no guaranty and certainty if the humanitarian aid is reaching everywhere. Bureaucracy, protocols, greed can be a hindrance to that.

The majority of the parish churches, chapels and schools are down or roofless. Many convents and presbyteries suffered.  The archbishop suspended all the pastoral planned activities until further notice. The urgency of the time is to be with the people, share their pains and give them hope regardless of their religious, political and ethnical affiliation. We were reminded not to lose sight on what the Lord may want to tell us through this calamity.

This 4th Sunday of Lent celebration is dedicated to pray for the victims of the cyclone Idai all over the archdiocese of Beira. Each parish will make special collection today to help its most affected people.

The sad reality is that in the market places the prices of essential products have gone higher. The price of iron sheet and cement have gone up in a moment where people are in dire need. The lusalite (asbestos) sheets cannot be sold to ordinary people. It is reserved for government use in order to fix first the public structures: Government offices and schools.

In the Sector house and Nazaré Centre of Formation, what occupied the mind these last days was to make some cleaning up: gathering the iron sheet left here and there by the wind, clearing the ground as most of the mango and coconut trees were down, in order to give way and protect ourselves. So far there is no electricity. Only the ‘chosen few” have access to it. At least, the Central Hospital have electricity and the Health Centres are using generators. Right now, the city of Beira is running out of generators on sale. To have one there is need to order it from Chimoio or Tete.

Sussundenga has no electricity neither. Those who lost their houses are given only tents by the Red Cross. The fields are swept away by the waters giving way to despair and the imminence of a year of hunger.

In Dombe there is rising need of food, shelters, and drinking water. For whatever reason, it is one of the forgotten places of the country. The fields got flooded and the crops are gone.  Our community chapels in some villages which partly fell are where some families are living.

On the estimates you can add ‘we shall try to come up with so concrete figures by the end of this week for what our Confreres may need for their missions and in order to contribute to helping the needy…

So far, we cannot give any estimate of what could cost the reconstruction of our structures: Nazaré Centre of formation, the Sector house. It seems to be too soon to have clear references, giving the general chaos we are in. We shall try to come up with so concrete figures by the end of this week for what our Confreres may need for their mission and in order to contribute to helping the needy.

The families of our candidates which we managed to contact are safe. They do also have some challenges like anybody else. Our confreres and stagiaires are doing well. They continue to be close to the people and to face with them the test of time.

Boris Yabre, M.Afr.
Provincial Delegate

  • The big chapel of Nazaré
  • Desolation in Nazare
  • Desolation in Nazare
  • Dombe, what remains of maize fields
  • Dombe camp of tents for the homeless
  • Maize fields swept by water in Sussudenga.
  • Some people trying to regain their villages after the flood for a new giving with almost nothing in Matarara- Dombe
  • The remaining of a community chapel serves as a shelter for this family
  • Improvised homes
  • Drinking water has to be supplied...

Cyclone Idai – News from Hugh Seenan (Facebook)

Thanks to all who have been worried about me here in Malawi or worried about Beira, getting in touch with me or my family. Where I am in Malawi, where I’ve been for the last year, we have had good weather. I was in Beira for 10 years before that. It’s been devastating seeing the reports. Over the years I’ve been in all the places from Beira to Chimanimani in Zimbabwe, even in Buzi where you see everybody on top of buildings without food. It is only in the last couple of days that I started getting news from friends and former neighbours. Slowly they are clearing up trying to repair their homes. It’s good to hear. Nazaré Centre , Beira Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre, where I worked, was badly hit. Some pictures follow. They have started cleaning up but it will be a while before they can receive groups. All going well, I will go there for Holy Week. Thanks for remembering me. Pray for everyone affected and the relief teams. God Bless,

Hugh Seenan, M.Afr.


Beatification : a responsability (Mini-lien n° 481)

The Church in Algeria almost disappeared several times: at independence, during nationalizations and during successive attacks. Cardinal Duval and Bishop Teissier’s intuition was to say: “Our premises, instead of remaining empty, let us put them at the service of the people (1). “Our premises must become platforms for service and meetings,” said Pierre Claverie. And as a result, churches, presbyteries and communities became places of life, service and animation. This Church has really set itself up to serve and has established very close friendships with many Algerians.

In the Church, not just anyone is beatified. We observe life but then, “the blood spilled” speeds things up. In the lives of these men and women religious, what is it that makes them beatified? Some have studied theology, Islamology, but all have said the same thing in one sentence: “I freely choose to remain in the country despite the risk, out of fidelity to Christ, to the Gospel and to this Algerian people.” It’s not the fact that they were killed that counts, it’s the very fact that they stayed out of love.

Why did the bishops ask for this beatification? “Because it is an example for today.” Hence the publication of this work by Jean-Jacques Pérennès: “Pierre Claverie, La fécondité d’une vie donnée (2).” Already in bookshops, there are dozens and dozens of books on the shelves, not to mention the written press of all confessions ; the film: “Des Hommes et des Dieux” was watched by millions of people in a secular France; Adrien Candiard’s play : Adrien Candiard’s play: “Pierre et Mohammed”, created at the Avignon Festival, has exceeded 1200 performances. It is played in front of Muslim audiences, which shows that there is an obvious fertility and that friendship is possible. It is a message for our time: listening, meeting without fear of the other.

In Algeria, it is significant that the authorities have accepted that for this beatification, 1200 people would travel. So the Algerian authorities have accepted and this is a strong message. Algeria acknowledges that they died out of friendship for that country. The bishops, in their communiqué announcing the beatification, said: ” As far as we are concerned, we do not want to distinguish our martyrs from the 150,000 Algerian dead, we want to emphasize the friendship which we want to maintain with this country. “It is therefore not a beatification that accuses Muslims, on the contrary. It is to be hoped that it is the same in France and in Europe where we are afraid of migrants. It is an invitation to “not be afraid”, said Saint John Paul II. Let us not be naive, it is not simple, but we must build and dare to meet, which can be very enriching.

For many of us, it is rather amazing to see someone with whom we have thought, worked and washed dishes, walked and participated in retreats, be beatified. Often we bless someone who had founded a movement or congregation in the 19th century. But these are our contemporaries with whom we have lived. The apostles said: “What we have seen and heard, we proclaim to you also, that you too may be in communion with us…” There is a little bit of that for us.

Beatification shows the fruitfulness of these given lives, and this fruitfulness shows the responsibility of the Church of today and tomorrow.

Bernard Lefebvre, M.Afr.
(French Sector – Mini-lien n°481 du 1er février 2019)

(1) Je me suis inspiré de l’interview du 8/12/2018 de Jean-Jacques Pérennès sur KTO.

(2) Jean-Jacques Pérennès, Pierre Claverie, La fécondité d’une vie donnée, Cerf 2018.


Interview with Paul Desfarges

This post is based on an article from Jeune Afrique in December 2018 and is restricted to M.Afr. members for copyright reasons. Written originally in French, the post is translated quickly with the help of modern tools of traduction. In case of doubt, please refer to the original French version. 

Interview with Paul Desfarges

« This beatification is an opportunity to prepare for the Pope’s coming »

Monks of Tibhirine, relations with the authorities, interreligious dialogue, evangelical proselytism: the prelate shares his vision of the role of the Catholic Church in the country.

(Interview by Farid Alilat)

Nineteen religious Catholics, monks, white fathers and nuns, murdered in the 1990s during the Black Decade, will be beatified on December 8 at the Basilica of Santa Cruz in Oran. The memory of 114 imams who were victims of terrorism will also be honoured. Jean-Paul Vesco, Bishop of Oran, John Mac William, Bishop of Laghouat-Ghardai, Jean-Marie Jehl, Administrator of Constantine and Hippo, and Paul Desfarges, Archbishop of Algiers, will attend. For JA (Jeune Afrique), the latter explains the meaning of the event and discusses the place of the Church in Algeria.

Jeune Afrique : How was the decision of the béatification of these 19 religious taken?

Mgr Paul Desfarges : It is the result of a long investigation that gathered all the testimonies concerning the lives and writings of these men and women of faith. At the end of a long work, Pope Francis signed a decree authorizing their beatification. It is right that these 19 people should be shown as examples of life according to the Gospel, models of self-giving to God and humanity, and people of deep faith.

What is the symbolism of this ceremony and of the decision of the Pope?

For our Church, they are a testimony of brotherhood beyond what may appear to be barriers. We can witness, Christians and Muslims, seekers of meaning and people of good will, that we can live together because deep down there is a human fraternity that unites us. We are in a climate of forgiveness, peace and reconciliation.

Who are those 19 religious being beatified?

There are the 7 monks of the monastery of Tibhirine, kidnapped and killed in the spring of 1996. There are also 4 white fathers murdered in January 1995 in their presbytery in Tizi-Ouzou, Kabylia. We also have Brother Henri Vergès and Sister Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond, who were tortured in May 1994 in their library in the popular district of La Casbah, in Algiers. There are Esther Paniagua Alonso and Caridad Álvarez Martin, two Spanish nuns killed in October 1994 in the same district. Also to be beatified 3 missionary sisters murdered in Algiers in September and November 1995. And finally, Bishop Pierre Claverie of Oran, murdered in August 1996 in the explosion of a bomb placed in front of his bishopric, which also killed his driver. As far as the 7 Trappist monks of Tibhirlne are concerned, the investigation has not yet shed full light on the circumstances of the abduction that led to their murder. The case continues to generate tensions and unease between Algiers and Paris. Will this beatification ease these tensions? This is not at all the concern of our Church. We have always thought that they died because they had, in fact, taken the risk, knowing that they were threatened, of remaining at the monastery of Medea and among the Algerian population. Their relationship with neighbours and partners was more important than protecting their lives. That’s what makes them witnesses and martyrs. Moreover, it was not us, as a Church, who asked for an inquiry into their death. We are close to the people of Medea, and it is obvious to them that they were kidnapped and killed by an armed Islamic group. I have no further information. And once again, that is not the meaning we want to give to this beatification. They had already given their lives when it was taken from them.

Do you know who will represent the Algerian authorities at the ceremony?

Since the beginning of this process, we have been very well supported by the Algerian authorities, in particular the Minister of Religious Affairs, who has done everything possible to ensure that everything goes smoothly. He will be present at this ceremony, as well as imams. We want to celebrate this beatification not among Christians but with our Muslim friends and neighbours who also suffered and lost theirs own friends and relatives during this black decade. We also want to honour the memory of the 114 imams, men of faith and fidelity to their conscience, who lost their lives because they did not want to sign fatwas and endorse the violence of armed groups. Not to mention the journalists, intellectuals and artists who died during those years.

It is therefore a time of communion between Christians and Muslims…

We feel that it is a time of communion, peace and coming together, which will not be turned towards the past but towards the present of living together. The 19 martyrs took the risk of dying rather than leaving those with whom they lived and who were the meaning of their lives.

Why is it that Pope Francis, who will be visiting Morocco in March 2019, is not going to attend this ceremony of beatification?

I think there have been delays, and the Pope does not systematically come to beatifications. We are close to the [Algerian presidential election of 2019]. The authorities have made it clear to us that it is better to wait a little while. It is only a postponement.

A possible visit of the Pope to Algeria is therefore in discussion with the authorities? 

Algerians are available and favourable to the coming of the Holy Father. We have been assured of this, but the conditions are not yet in place for a visit. I think that this beatification is an opportunity to prepare for the Pope’s visit after the next elections.

What is the place of the Catholic Church in Algeria today, when we have witnessed the emergence of evangelical Protestantism in recent years?

We follow our vocation as a universal Church. We are an international church with a community of expatriates, diplomats, students from sub-Saharan Africa, migrants from this part of Africa, as well as Algerians of the Christian faith. Our vocation is to love and serve, as St. Augustine said. We are part of the long tradition of Saint Augustine.

Are you concerned about the proselytism of the Evangelical Churches? Or is this part of the practice of religious life?

Our Catholic Church does not proselytize. We believe in witnessing in love and brotherhood, and every sincere believer bears witness to his or her faith. We are not going to look for anyone because it is God who converts. We only convert to God. Our evangelical brothers have another practice of religion. We have fraternal links with some, but each one has his own vocation.

Do you feel a religious revival in Algeria?

Yes. We feel that this people is proud of its Muslim faith. We also note that, in society, there are questions that arise. There are people who are looking for an open and tolerant Islam, a larger space of freedom.

How has interreligious dialogue evolved in Algeria in recent years?

We can speak to each other with much more truth and recognize ourselves in what brings us together. Despite the differences, the essential thing is spiritual communion. Our 19 martyrs are for us a path to this spiritual encounter. We can meet between Christians and Muslims in moments of sharing, prayer and meditation without entering into theological discussions. The spiritual persons of each religion can meet at the deep level of faith.

As Archbishop of Algiers, what relations do you have with the Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs?

Excellent personal relationships. My brother bishops also have very good relations with Minister Mohamed Aïssa. He is attentive to the life of our Church and, whenever we raise an issue, he is attentive.

Precisely, one of the problems raised is the refusal of the authorities to grant visas to certain religious people. Has it been resolved?

It is not settled. It is one of our difficulties. We don’t always understand these refusals. The problem of visas does not only concern religious men and women. Nor is it an absolute refusal. Some visas are granted. Others take a long time to obtain. We are still in dialogue with the Minister of Religious Affairs, but this question does not completely depend on him.

Victor-Luke Odhiambo SJ — A life lived where few dare go

A tribute to Jesuit priest Victor-Luke Odhiambo who was slain while serving at a teachers’ training college in South Sudan. Francis Anyanzu SJ, a Ugandan-born Jesuit priest now living and studying in South Africa, reflects on his life of service in a remote place of great need. Continue reading “Victor-Luke Odhiambo SJ — A life lived where few dare go”

A new network in Ghana

Consecrated Persons against Human Trafficking

From March the 12th to the 16th 2018, took place the Training against Trafficking in Persons for ReligiousWomen and Men at the Divine Word Conference Centre Nsawam in Ghana. It was led by the worldwide organization Talitha Kum Arise. Many Religious Congregations, some already involved against slavery and human trafficking, were present. The Society of the Missionaries of Africa were represented by Haile Gazena M.Afr. and Amani BulamboDieudonné M.Afr.. The workshop aimed at training religious and lay persons on how to become active members of the counter-trafficking world-wide network. Talitha Kum works towards preventing human trafficking at its grass roots level and helpsvictims and survivors of that modern day phenomenon.

The training highlighted the menace of modern day human trafficking and its human cost.

The first part of the workshop provided good information about slavery and human trafficking, such as:

  • The global framework: roots, constitutive elements, dimensions of trafficking. The phenomenological and juridical framework of human trafficking. Special attention was given to the geopolitical and economic realities of the post-cold war era that led to the rise of human trafficking in destination countries.
  • The international law, its flaws and its inability in prosecuting the perpetrators of such heinous acts, due to the weakness of the very law which is meant toprotect the victims of trafficking.

The second part of the training was focused on:

  • How to prevent human trafficking and how to protect its victims and survivors through networking.
  • It also offered tools of empowerment, models of prevention, examples of good practices and a description of burn out signs of those committed against human trafficking.

Finally, the participants and the mother network “Talitha Kum Arise” founded a sister network which will be known as ConPAHT (Consecrated Persons Against Human Trafficking)/ Talitha KumGhana which will carry out anti-trafficking campaigns and prevention in Ghana; it will interact with the networks of other sister organizations and with the international network in Rome too.

The group vision and mission are as follows:

Vision Statement:

We, the members of Consecrated Life in Ghana,
moved by our faith in God,
respect for human dignity and freedom,
commit ourselves to counter human trafficking.


Mission Statement:

We, the members of Consecrated Life in Ghana,
are committed to address the menace
of human trafficking
through the following strategies:
massive awareness creation
towards prevention;
provision of support for survivors;
building knowledge and skills of practitioners
and collaboration with groups
of/with similar interests.


Haile GAZENA Demissie, M. Afr.
St. Monica’s Parish – Nyankpala

Inter-religious Dialogue Seeking Peace in Tanzania

In Tanzania, the office of Justice & Peace and Inter-religious Dialogue has had several activities with the Muslim fraternity. The main event was in February, 2018, when we held a two day conference on inter-religious dialogue and peacebuilding in Tanzania, with a special attention to the case of Dar es Salaam. It was a top level diplomacy approach. We invited several dignitaries from embassies and the European Union and the American cultural centre. The conference was graced by his H.E. Most Rev. Marek Solczynskinew, Apostolic Nuncio to Tanzania. The speakers and key players were university lecturers and researchers who presented very concise research findings. The Muslim leadership in Dar es Salaam was well represented and the leaders gave their views.

The main event of the conference was the launching of the book on “Religious extremism and violence in Tanzania – the case of Dar es Salaam”, by Dr. Elias Opongo SJ, and Dr. Felix Phiri (M.Afr.).

The conference on inter-religious dialogue in Tanzania was held at Atiman House of Missionaries of Africa. The Nuncio flanked by  two Sheikhs on either side with Br. Elvis standing right behind the Nuncio.

The primary objective of the conference was to analyse the situation of religious extremism and violence emerging in Tanzania in close association with the current global situation whereby many parts of the world have become destabilized by religious intolerance. Although the Tanzanian situation could be a typical case, considering the country’s history, it could nonetheless contribute in some way not only to understanding the roots of religious extremism and violence but also in providing possible means of pre-emptying the occurrence of such incidents in the interest of a more constructive interreligious coexistence globally.

At the conference, it was reported that in coastal region of Tanzania like Tanga, radicalization of the youth was slowly gaining momentum. It is a known fact that Tanzania has suffered terror attacks in the recent past. However, there are some sections of the Tanzanian civil society who do not feel comfortable to say that there is a problem of religious extremism in Tanzania, fearing that it could paint a bad image of the country. The temptation therefore is to choose to keep silent about it. Unfortunately that would not be the right approach to eradicate religious extremism in Tanzania. We need to address the problem before it gets out of hand. Feeling bad about having fundamental extremists in one’s own country is normal but choosing to keep silent about the problem is very dangerous. There is need for a paradigm shift in the analysis, and strategic response to the problem of religious extremism and violence in Tanzania.

Our conference indicated that the problem of radicalization was gathering pace on the coastal area due to many factors such as perceived economic injustices, lack of employment among the youth, political power agenda, and foreign geopolitical strategic interests. In addition, it was observed that in regions like Tanga where the young population are very much exposed to wrong teaching and could easily fall victims of religious radicalisation. Another factor is the proximity between Tanga and Mombasa where the al-shabaab easily infiltrate in the local population. However, all these factors tend to hide under the guise of religious fundamentalism. We cannot deny that religion has been instrumentalized to justify these extreme acts of violence. Moreover, we need to dialogue as religious leaders of different religions and answer the question “what is our role and how can we help reduce the damage?” At the end of the conference, we all agreed that inter religious dialogue is vital in deconstructing the ideology behind religious extremism.

One can say we have hope for more collaboration between Muslims and Christians (i.e. Catholics) in Dar es Salaam. Our task is to coordinate with our muslim brothers in Dar es Salaam and see how we can reach out to other coastal regions such as Tanga and help the young people to stay away from wrong teaching.

The future research would look into the implementation of long term approach to addressing root-causes of religious extremism and violence; such as socio-economic and political marginalization, unemployment, victimization, uncoordinated response, and lack of effective strategy to addressing the problem.

Religious extremism and violence in Tanzania – the case of Dar es Salaam, by Dr. Elias Opongo SJ, and Dr. Felix Phiri (M.Afr.) – Here the cover of the book translated in German by Missio.

About the next conference, one of the researchers challenged us that most of these dialogues are conducted among elderly men. Often we exclude women and the youth. To the contrary the reports on radicalisation show a lot of young people as the major human capital. Recently, we have seen the number of women participating in radicalisation increasing too. Thus, we have to see how to engage young people and women in these dialogues. We hope to contact universities to see if we could hold round table discussions with the students at the campus and eventually hold the conference with the youth.

Bro. Elvis Ng’andwe, M.Afr.