The monthly JPIC promoters meeting was held on the 20th of February 2019 at the headquarter of UISG in Rome. This meeting was organised by the African Working Group and focused on the topic “State of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa: providing keys for better understanding of the expansion of Islam”.
After the opening prayer prepared by Sr. Ignatia Asoh (TSSF) and Sr. Caroline Njah Bongnavti (SUSC), and the presentation of the 20 participants of various Religious congregations and institutes, Fr. Mariano Tibaldo (MCCJ) introduced the speaker. Fr. Felix Phiri is former Director of the Islamic studies in the Tangaza University of Nairobi and former Professor and lecturer at Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamology Studies (PISAI). He is at the moment actually in charge of the Southern African Province of the Missionary of Africa.
At the beginning of the conference, Fr Phiri explained the territorial expansion of Islam in its early existence. Next, he focused more on the Islam in sub-Saharan Africa showing how Islam spread in Africa. The speaker then stressed the conceptual frameworks underlying the Islamic expansion. He offered comprehensive explanation about “Da’wah” which refers to Islamic missionary activities in modern period. He stressed the different types of “Jihad”, the inner and outer jihad, and its extremist forms which are actually spreading out in various African Countries such as Nigeria, Mali and Kenya.
The Da’wah movement is encouraged by several agents of Islamic propagation, such as Islamic governments, Muslim International Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations and individual Muslim Initiatives. The Islamist infrastructure worldwide relies heavily on “zakat”, the mandatory charity demanded by Islam, usually 2.5 percent of one’s annual earnings.
The agents of Islamic propagation explore various strategies such as media, schools and universities, social welfare projects as well as funding of mosques, Islamic centres and madrassas. There are also different ways used to national politics, economy, society, family life, education, language and daily cultural habits.
Fr. Phiri concluded by saying that although a religion with a universal outlook, Islam foresees a coexistence with other religions. In its expansionist thrust, Islam needs no one’s permission, emphasised Fr. Phiri, on the contrary Muslims would gladly see Islam become more accepted in society. (click here for the content of the conference)
During the second part of the conference, the participants asked questions on cohabitation of Muslims and Christians. The answers given by Fr. Phiri were clear and realistic. He encouraged the participants to live their witness through authentic Christian life in coherence to the message of Jesus. To the question about Pope Francis’ landmark visit to the United Arab Emirates, the speaker underscored the important gesture of encounter, the coming as a friend, the importance of collaboration between Muslims and Christians.
At the end of the conference, the moderator, in the name of all participants, expressed deep gratitude to Fr. Felix Phiri for his very interesting and impressive conference on Islam in sub-Saharan Africa.
Before concluding the meeting, Sr Sheila (executive secretary) gave some information about the future events organised by the JPIC commission.
Andreas Göpfert (MAFR) and Mariano Tibaldo (MCCJ)