Religion and Conflict, Religion and Peace: KAAD-Africa Seminar in Lingen in June 2016 and Joint Academy of KAAD and Cusanuswerk in Arusha / Tanzania in August 2016

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Participants of the Academy in Arusha/Tanzania

Religion (s) and conflicts and the peace-making potential of religion(s) – this topic has for long been in the focus of the thematic work of KAAD. Apart from the situation in the Middle East this has also become increasingly important in region Africa South of the Sahara, particularly when it comes to the coexistence of Muslims and Christians. Some scientists argue that here runs the new frontline of Jihadism and the “battleground” for fundamentalists of both pages. There were two KAAD events that specifically looked at this issue this year and also tried to explore how the (revival of) traditional peaceful relations between religions can serve as a resource for peace-keeping in many parts of Africa. Two very significant regional examples came in focus here: (Northern) Ghana and East Africa, especially Tanzania. In both places KAAD is represented by many alumni and current scholars, as well as connected through various contacts with local church representatives and universities. Here you can find the programs and another photo selection of both events.

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Fr. Dr. Elias Opongo, SJ

At the KAAD-Africa-Seminar in Lingen it was, for example, emphatically pointed out that currently emerging tensions in Northern Ghana (where Islam is traditionally very strongly represented) must by all means be checked by means of great dialogue efforts. An excursion during the joint seminar of Cusanuswerk and the KAAD-Association KASEA (KAAD Association of Scholars from East Africa) brought the participants to the Church of Olasiti, which had become target of an Islamist terrorist attack three years ago. The parish priest of that time, together with representatives of the parish, gave an impressive account of what happened. They openly acknowledged that there have subsequently been no serious efforts towards interreligious dialogue and trauma healing of the victims of the attack was not tackled adequately either.

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Discussion with Dr. Marco Moerschbacher

The seminar was used by several representatives of the Tanzanian Episcopal Conference to shape further awareness and exchange views on interreligious dialogue and coexistence. Fr. Benedict Shemfumbwa of the Catholic Secretariat in Dar Es Salaam discussed the plan of Tanzanian Bishops to establish interfaith committees in all areas of the country. Both the KAAD-Africa Seminar in Lingen and at the Seminar in Arusha featured a particular study about religious violence in Tanzania which was financed and launched by missio Aachen. In Lingen, Dr. Marco Moerschbacher was the presenter (desk officer for Africa at the Missiological Institute mission), while in Arusha Fr. Dr. Elias Opongo, SJ introduced the mentioned study. He is a Jesuit and head of the “Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations” in Nairobi, which carried out the study on behalf of missio.

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Holy Mass in Arusha

An account about her concrete work for interreligious dialogue was given by Annika Baum, who works as AGEH peace worker in the Archdiocese of Mombasa. At the Kenyan coast the question of religion and violence is particularly precarious because the Islamic terrorist militia “Al Shabaab” recruits fighters there and uses the uncertain socio-cultural situation for attacks. Annika Baum is the wife of a Kenyan KAAD-alumnus who has graduated as a Master in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Marburg. Another classmate of them is Raphael Nabholz, a former KAAD-employee in the Middle East Department. He now works also as AGEH peace worker, but in Palestine. He also spoke at the conference in Arusha on interreligious work in a difficult area.
A different example was given concerning Northern Uganda, where violence of allegedly religious origin was wreaking havoc for many years in the shape of an apparently Christian fundamentalist group: the “Lord’s Resistance Army” (LRA). The fact that this violence has ended there is to a large part due to the effort of multi-religious committee of leaders in the affected region. The Ugandan KAAD alumnus Dr. Frederick Kisekka-Ntale, who received his doctorate in Leipzig in peace and conflict studies, presented this example and drew lessons from it.

A special feature this year was the cooperation between KAAD and Cusanuswerk: Already at the KAAD-Africa-Seminar in Lingen arusha-safarithere were two German scholars of Cusanuswerk alongside the 32 African participants. The seminar in Arusha was then planned from the beginning as a cooperation between the two agencies. 21 Cusanuswerk scholars were visiting Tanzania for two weeks, exploring and learning from various project supported by missio and from encounters with KAAD alumni in various political, social and academic positions. The conclusion of stay of the Cusanus-Group was the joint event with KASEA from 24.-28. August in Arusha. As a conclusion of the joint seminar, KAAD and Cusanuswerk Scholars jointly went on an excursion to nearby Tarangire National Park, where the wealth of African flora and fauna can be encountered in a fascinating way.