Pluriel International Congress

The second PLURIEL international congress took place in Rome from 26 to 28 June 2018 on the theme: “Islam and belonging”.

PLURIEL is the University Platform for Research on Islam in Europe and Lebanon, of which PISAI is a partner.

The interventions of the congress will be put online in the coming weeks.

For more information please visit: https://pluriel.fuce.eu/

Photos: Taken during Gianluca Parolin’s lecture with the moderator, Father Diego Sarrio of PISAI

Living together

“Living Together” … This was the theme proposed by Algeria to all the countries of the world, through the UN, to celebrate May 16 each year. Thus, already the day before, on May 15, a rich debate took place on the Algerian radio and television on this theme with notably the participation of Mgr. Henri Teissier and other personalities of the country. The next day, a beautiful fresco was inaugurated at St. Augustine House, where precisely a group of people is called to share their daily life as ordinarily as possible “day after day”. But these are the people who already carry the weight of age, who have had, most of them, quite important responsibilities. Today, they are forced to get help from others. But they also have the task of making themselves ‘bearable’ to each other. Algerian and foreign friends are there, close to them to facilitate their task. We all know similar situations in our families, with our parents and relatives.

All of this echoes the meaning of the afternoon conference of May 16, at the Diocesan House, where a large audience of about 200 people, Muslims, Christians and freethinkers exchanged on this topic of “Living together”. A very nice introduction presented by some members of the Muslim brotherhood, named “Tarique des Alouines”, then by Mgr. Teissier and many other speakers who came spontaneously from the room, facilitated the depth and richness of the exchanges. With each example cited, it follows that if we would like to advance on the road to peace, it is essential to respect one another, whether one is a Muslim, a Christian or a free-thinker. Thinking about the future beatification of the 19 martyrs of the years 1990 – 2000, we note that the life of each martyr was precisely a testimony of simple life, true and engaged in the “coming and going” of every day. By putting yourself in tune with the “ordinary” we realize “the extraordinary”! That is to say: love each other!

Having been all my life in touch with the disabled, migrants, refugees, “people unlike everyone else”, I could feel, how hard it is to be accepted in the difference and to feel different.That’s why a day on the theme “Living together” is important. Building “bridges” between different opinions and different religions is important, I would say an obligation for everyone. This day of May 16 reminded us all of this.

« The ftour »

(Ftour or Iftar (Arabic: إفطار‎ ʾifṭār ‘break fast’) is the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset. Muslims break their fast at the time of the call to prayer for the evening prayer. This is their second meal of the day; the daily fast during Ramadan begins immediately after the pre-dawn meal of Suhur and continues during the daylight hours, ending with sunset with the evening meal of Iftar. (Wikipedia)

It is in the sense of this text above that we were able to live in the “Sources” (a district of Algiers), a week later, May 25, a convivial meal of Ramadan where were present not less than 75 people, mostly Muslims, but with the presence of some Christians and in the house of a Christian.

The beginning of the Ramadan meal invariably begins with the wish “Ghafrou Baadakoum” (forgive one another). The meal was followed by a beautiful evening of poetic songs that touched our hearts. We really parted in a deep atmosphere of peace and well being. But other similar signs could be observed during this holy month. Despite all the painful and sometimes brutal repressions at the borders of sub-Saharan migrants, positive moments have been experienced in several places. Every evening, when I went to the bus station of Algiers, migrants were welcomed with “open arms” at the table of the “ftour” before accompanying them to the bus for a voluntary return to their country of origin. It was really touching. Moreover these moments of conviviality towards those who had nothing to eat were repeated for many in the city and in the country. . We saw them share at the El Harrach railway station. Then in the street of Didouche Mourad in Algiers. There a table of more than a hundred meters was erected so that all those who wanted to sit there could have a meal, including women.

Yes, we can say that this year, the time of Ramadan was also a grace filled time of meeting each other, putting into practice the beautiful theme of May 16: “Living Together”.

Algiers June 15 2018
1st day Aïd Seghir
Jan Heuft, M.Afr.

Feast of ‘Id al-Fitr

Very soon our Muslim brothers and sisters will celebrate ‘Id al-Fitr to mark the end of the month of Ramadan.

A visit of courtesy to the neighbouring family, a cordial greeting, a message of blessing send by SMS, wishes expressed via WhatsApp, a phone call, and where it is possible, a presence in the ceremony, are so many concrete gestures by whom we can express our open-mindedness, respect, goodwill and benevolence, and wish deeply a good feast day to our brothers and sisters in the Muslim faith.

The message of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue for the feast of ‘Id al-Fitr invites us all to “establish a solid foundation for peaceful relations, moving from competition and confrontation to an effective cooperation for the common good. This particularly assist those most in need, and allows us to offer a credible witness to the Almighty’s love for the whole of humanity… So that we may further peaceful and fraternal relations, let us work together and honour each another. In this way we will give glory to the Almighty and promote harmony in society, which is becoming increasingly multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural.”

Let us live our solidarity through our prayer and through our personal effort to build peaceful and fraternal relations!

May the merciful and loving God grant us Peace in our daily life!

Andreas Göpfert, M.Afr.
Coordinator of JPIC-RD

“Katholikentag” : a large gathering of Catholics in Germany

From May 9th to 13th, 2018, the big gathering of Catholics took place in Münster, in the north of Germany. Several Missionary Sisters of our Lady of Africa and several Missionaries of Africa participated. Together they welcomed many visitors to their common booth. Some sisters and confreres came from Poland to participate and to visibly enrich our internationality and interculturality. Many were the visitors who stopped in front of the stand for a personal conversation, to look for information on our missionary institutes and on Africa. Sometimes attracted by the sound of “tam-tams”, many people came out of curiosity or out of nostalgia from a previous stay in an african country, or because one or the other has an acquaintance among our sisters or confreres.

On several occasions we have experienced the joy of reunion. Lost from view after so many years, the stand allowed to meet again, to meet and exchange.

Apart from these interesting and rewarding encounters, the booth has conveyed messages about our missionary priorities and our various fields of apostolate.

“Seek peace through interreligious dialogue”: the example of Northern Ghana

The organizers of the Catholic Rally (“Katholikentag”) invited a delegation from northern Ghana. So our confrere Mgr. Richard Baawobr, Bishop of Wa, was able to come to Münster. At a conference on intercultural dialogue, he shared his experience on Muslim-Christian dialogue. Together with Dr. Hazic Hussein Zakaria, Imam of the Quran Mosque of Tamale, they gave many examples of the dialogue lived in the society in Northern Ghana. At the conference, two experts and the public had the opportunity to pose questions to the speakers to better understand the context and interreligious practice. The challenges of dialogue are particularly at the level of mixed marriages, mixed schools attended by students of different religions and the sensitization of religious leaders at the grassroots level.

Personally, I retained a message that deeply touched me: The God of love created Muslims and Christians, not so that they should fight against each other, but so that they could learn to live together and to commit together for more peace in the world.

Andreas Göpfert, MAFr

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.

Lavigerie through the prism of three White Fathers

Here is the recording of a lecture given (in French) at the Generalate by Mr. Rémi Caucanas, Doctor in Contemporary History and specialist on Christian-Muslim relations in the Mediterranean. Though not as such an event for the 150th Jubilee Celebration, it does contribute to prepare us to celebrate. His lecture was introduced by Diégo Sarriò M.Afr., of whom he became the friend and collaborator. A large number of confreres of the house were present as well as thirteen White Sisters of Rome. Here is the transcript of the presentation of Mr. Rémi Caucanas by Father Diégo.
Continue reading “Lavigerie through the prism of three White Fathers”

Happy Feast of Eid el Fitr

We congratulate all our Muslim Friends who successfully completed this month of Ramadan and wish them a very happy feast of Eid el Fitr.

Please find attached the Message from the Vatican
sent to all Muslim friends at the occasion of Eid el Fitr.

And for our readers, a little reminder taken from
http://icalendrier.fr/religion/fetes-musulmanes/aid-el-fitr.

Origin of Eid el Fitr

Eid el-Fitr, or festival of rupture, is the commemoration marking the end of Ramadan fasting. This celebration is the expression of the forgiveness granted by Allah to the Muslims who, during the month of Ramadan, were able to show their submission in order to atone for their sins of the past year.

When he created the ceremonial attached to Eid al-Fitr, Muhammad (Mohammed in French) insisted on the attitude of righteousness and piety that was to be attached to it so that the believers could begin a new year in the most Virtuous.

Celebration of Eid el Fitr

Aid al-Fitr marks the end of the fast of Ramadan. It is customary to start this festive day at dawn by going to the mosque for the first prayer of the day. This is an opportunity for children to receive new clothes and gifts.

It is also a time of reunion and charity. It is good visiting one’s parents, one’s friends and celebrating around this feast, but it is also important to make gifts to the needy and to share.