Workshop on ‘Ecumenical Dialogue: a call for a prophetic commitment’ (Part 4)

Ecumenical Dialogue of Action: Promoting peace and Caring for the common home, our planet

Andreas Göpfert helped us reflect on how dialogue, including ecumenical dialogue, can be a catalyst for peace and social cohesion. During the private audience with the M.Afr. and MSOLA on the occasion of the 150th celebrations, Pope Francis encouraged the missionaries of the Lavigerie family to be bridge builders in order to create peace and inspire hope.

The promotion of integral ecology and care for our common home can be a great opening for ecumenical dialogue. Venerato Babaine shared with the participants his experiences working in this area in Zambia. He sees ecological principles and practices as an inevitable door for ecumenism and missionary activity. Referring back to Laudato Si’, we can see that there is a clear interconnectedness between the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. Christians of all denominations should work together to safeguard our common home and in doing so promote human dignity and social justice.

What is the contribution of the Orthodox Church to ecology? Frans Bouwen informed us that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomaios, was one of the first in the Christian world to highlight the spiritual dimension of the current ecological crisis. In fact, the roots of this crisis are spiritual and ethical: self-sufficiency, selfishness, consumerism, destruction of nature, etc. Orthodoxy promotes an ‘ecclesiology as ecology’ and proposes an ascetic ethos as an antidote to modern consumerism and a Eucharistic vision of thanksgiving as a life attitude which respects the integrity of creation.

Serge Traore explained to us how the upcoming Synod on the Amazon (6-27 October 2019) will provide new pathways for the Church and for an integral ecology. Its aim is to fashion the Church with an Amazonian face. At the same time, this synod offers the Church an opportunity to reflect on the interconnectedness of its mission, especially in relation to its JPIC-ED dimensions. There will be many possibilities for ecumenical activity in favour of the preservation of the ecosystem and social justice issues. We also see a shift toward a ‘South-South’ cooperation at the ecclesiological and theological levels. What could the Church (and missionaries) in Africa learn from the experience of the Church of the Amazon?

Sr. Sheila Kinsey, FCJM, concluded our series of conferences with a presentation entitled: Laudato Si’ and Ecumenical Dialogue: a call for prophetic engagement’. She reminded us that Pope Francis calls all religious to be prophets of hope, full of passion and open to new opportunities: The current social crisis demands a personal and community-level ecological conversion. She gave us an overview of how to use the UISG website ‘Sowing Hope for the Planet’ and told us of an initiative to create ‘tents of martyrs’ during the upcoming Synod on the Amazon to honour all those who have given their lives for the protection of God’s creation.

After all these informative presentations, giving us an excellent panorama of the Church’s vision and commitment to ecumenism and what we Missionaries of Africa are doing to integrate it into our various apostolic activities, the workshop participants split up into small groups to generate some concrete recommendations to help ensure this dimension of the Church’s mission is fully integrated into the life of our Society.

Workshop on ‘Ecumenical Dialogue: a call for a prophetic commitment’ (Part 3)

Ecumenical Dialogue in Africa

Bernhard Udelhoven explored the topic: ‘Where contagious faith empowers the poor: Pentecostal challenges and lessons for the Catholic Church’. He underlined how the new Pentecostal churches in Zambia have managed to empower people, especially the poor. They offer responses to the needs of the local people who in general desire to conquer evil powers such as witchcraft and social misery. We Catholics are invited to go and encounter these churches and learn why they are able to attract so many followers.

Paul Reilly provided a presentation on ‘Ecumenical Dialogue in Ethiopia: Particularity, Stakes, and Challenges’ highlighting the ecumenical work of the M.Afr. among the Orthodox in Ethiopia. Since the arrival of the first confreres in 1967, ecumenism has been a way of life in Ethiopia. Despite the evident challenges of being Latin rite missionaries working in oriental rite dioceses, as well as historical tensions between Catholics and Orthodox, our confreres do their best to adapt to this ecumenical reality with patience and humility.

Andreas Göpfert gave an overview of how ecumenism is integrated into the two Synods on Africa using Ecclesia in Africa and Africæ Munus as reference texts.

How do we M.Afr. and how do our local churches receive these official texts? Andreas also helped us to reflect on how we can integrate ecumenical dialogue into our different missionary activities today. What are the different types of dialogue?

Who is dialogue destined for?

Why it is so important to be involved in the ecumenical dialogue?

How can we help educate people to discern ways to live and practice ecumenical dialogue?

Answering the following questions might be a good step to get more involved in the ecumenical dialogue today:

  1. How can we awaken the interest of confreres to discover the Christian brothers and sisters of other denominations who live around them? What can we offer them?
  2. How can we encourage our confreres to encounter Christian brothers and sisters of other denominations? By what means?
  3. What can we offer our confreres to reflect on the five dimensions of ecumenism so that they can take them into consideration in their pastoral work?

Workshop on ‘Ecumenical Dialogue: a call for a prophetic commitment’ (Part 2)

This is the continuation of the report – as well as the texts of the conferences, often in their original language – of the workshop held at the end of March at the Generalate on “Ecumenical Dialogue, a call for prophetic commitment”. The first part of the report was published on April 14. Enjoy your reading.

Ecumenism in the world

Frans Bouwen provided the workshop participants with a brief reminder of the official documents of the Catholic Church regarding ecumenism. These are: Unitatis Redintegratio (1964) [Decree on Ecumenism from Vatican II]; Ut Unum Sint (1995) [John Paul II]; and the Directory for the application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (1993). In fact, there is no such thing as ‘Catholic Ecumenism’, but rather ecumenism tout court. The Church already now experiences a ‘real although imperfect communion’. How can we help it grow towards its fullness?

What is the ecumenical commitment of Pope Francis? This topic was covered by Andreas Göpfert and highlighted the five dimensions of ecumenism: 1) ecumenism of encounter; 2) practical ecumenism (ecumenical dialogue in action / ecumenical diakonia); 3) theological ecumenical dialogue; 4) prayer for Christian unity; 5) ecumenism of blood (of martyrdom). Pope Francis says that we are all called to be ecumenical Christians. We are pilgrims ‘en marche’ towards the promised land which is visible unity. Are we M.Afr. committed to walking along this route of ecumenism ‘en marche’?

Prof. Gioacchino Campese, CS gave a talk entitled ‘Together Towards Life: Reflections on the Ecumenical Mission’. He presented the document ‘Together towards life. Mission and evangelism in changing landscapes’ (TTL) which was drafted by the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME of the WCC), approved by the WCC Central Committee in 2012 and presented officially in 2013 during the Busan (Korea) WCC assembly. This document reminds us that mission is a vocation from God’s spirit who works for a world where the fullness of life is available to all and that ‘catholicity’ is a quality that describes true ecumenism and not just a term which defines a particular Christian denomination.

Leo Laurence focused on the Common Commemoration of the Reformation (2017) between Catholics and Lutherans as a point of no return towards Christian unity. Being a Christian today means being ecumenical and celebrating unity in diversity. Are we prepared to question our own prejudices?

Frans Bouwen offered the participants a ‘Panorama of the Eastern and Oriental Churches’ which highlighted the important distinction between ‘diversity’, which allows for a deeper understanding and a fuller expression and celebration of the faith in Christ, and ‘division’, which contradicts the essence and mission of the Church. Both played an important role in the origin and history of the Eastern and Oriental Churches. The differences are not only liturgical, but also in the way they received and lived out the Gospel in their particular contexts. For those who would like to work for inculturation, it is good to know their history.

There are different ways of presenting the ecumenical movement. Should it be represented by the “delta” rather than by the “river”? In his presentation, Andreas Göpfert took up some thoughts of Pastor Jane Stranz.

Workshop on ‘Ecumenical Dialogue: a call for a prophetic commitment’ (Part 1)

From 28th March to 4th April, a workshop on Ecumenical Dialogue was organised in Rome by Andreas Göpfert, coordinator of JPIC-ED. The participants to the workshop were:

    • Richard Nnyombi, JPIC-ED coordinator for the sector Uganda (EAP)
    • Frans Bouwen, JPIC-ED coordinator for the sector Jerusalem (EPO)
    • Paul Relly, JPIC-ED for the sector Ethiopia (EPO)
    • Babaine Venerato, Provincial delegate for the sector Zambia (SAP)
    • Bernhard Udelhoven, from Fenza (SAP)
    • Maria Joseph Leo Laurence, in formation at St. Anselme (Rome)
    • Ignatius Anipu, assistant in charge of ED (Generalate Rome)
    • Martin Grenier, assistant in charge of JPIC (Generalate Rome)
    • Andreas Göpfert, coordinator of JPIC-ED

Beginning of the session

After the introductory prayer led by Martin Grenier (assistant general in charge of JPIC), the first day of our workshop was officially opened by Ignatius Anipu (assistant general in charge of Encounter and Dialogue – Ecumenism). In his opening speech, Ignatius invited the participants and all the missionaries of Africa to be active actors of ecumenism in their missionary activities. Linking the present workshop to the 150 years of the foundation of the society, Ignatius pointed out the fact that ecumenism has always been part of our charism since the lifetime of our founder Lavigerie.

Andreas Göpfert, coordinator of JPIC-ED, presented the timetable of the session and the methodology which is based on SEE, JUDGE and ACT. He explained the workshop objective ‘Undertake a process which aims to deepen our ecumenical orientation and to integrate it into our missionary commitments for the care for our common home, peace, and social cohesion’. He insisted on the interconnectedness of all those topics.

"SEE": Ecumenical commitment of M.Afr – past and present

Frans Bouwen started off a series of presentations regarding the M.Afr and its ecumenical commitment past and present with his talk on St. Anne’s in Jerusalem as the first concrete M.Afr. commitment to ecumenism. This presentation helped the participants situate themselves into the historical context of Cardinal Lavigerie and the ecumenical activities of the Society in the Middle East and with the Eastern Churches.

A second presentation, given by Richard Nnyombi, focused on the evangelization of Uganda and helped the participants see that the first confreres who arrived in central Africa did so in a context of inter-religious dialogue and competition among different Christian churches. Despite conflicts which took place between Catholics and Protestants, there have been as well fruitful examples of collaboration as well as the poignant example of ‘ecumenism of blood’ as both Catholics and Anglicans martyrs were united in suffering for their faith in Christ.

Ignatius Anipu offered the participants an overview of how the most recent General Chapters of the M.Afr. treated the subject of ecumenism. All were interested to learn that much more has been said about our M.Afr. commitment to ecumenism in the chapters than we previously thought. This gave rise to the question: do we take the content of our chapters seriously?

Andreas Göpfert, JPIC-ED Coordinator of the Society, provided a summary of the ecumenical activities in which our confreres are involved throughout the world. He urged us all to consider how we can integrate an ecumenical dimension into each one of our M.Afr. apostolates.


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:

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.

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“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.

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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.