Nairobi Conference on Religion and Violence Aims to Establish an International Research Group
CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 08 September 2016
Organizers of an international conference on “religion and violence,” which kicked off in Nairobi Thursday, September 8, are hoping to set up an international research group in view of promoting peace in Africa through dialogue.
The three-day conference, which has a focus on Africa, is an outcome of the partnership between Missio-Aachen and the Nairobi-based Tangaza University College (TUC) through the department of Islamic Studies.
According to Marco Moerschbacher of Missio-Aachen, one of the objectives of the conference is to establish an international research group called “Missio-Network African Theology,” which “will follow up some salient points raised at this first conference in order to deepen and widen the reflection on the issue of religion and violence and the contribution of religions to dialogue and peace.”
Speaking at the opening of the conference, the Head of the Department of Mission and Islamic Studies of TUC, Father Felix Phiri, said the conference is part of an initiative that attempts to uncover, through research, specific situations of violence on the continent, subjecting the findings “to critical, biblical, ethical and cultural reflections.”
“We are still at the beginning of such a daunting task,” Father Phiri said during the opening of the conference, expressing the hope that the three-day discussions will result in “new avenues of research, reflection and common action.”
In his word of welcome to facilitators and participants at the conference, TUC Principal, Father Steven Payne, expressed his pleasure for the choice of the venue saying, “From its beginnings 30 years ago, Tangaza has always looked for opportunities to reach out to the larger society, and to foster peace-building.”
“Down through the centuries, wars have been fought and terrible devastation inflicted in the name of religion,” Father Payne said in reference to the topic of the conference and added, “Some claim that the exclusivism of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) is itself the root cause of much of the violence.”
He went on to cite peace-building initiatives by the staff and students of TUC, giving the example of TUC’s Institute of Youth Studies and Social Ministry in Mission program of training trainers in peace-building, “a collaborative effort among the tertiary institutions in Kenya” that has recorded a positive impact.
“Even the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Dr. Fred Matiang’i, is happy to note that since the start of this initiative there have been no major riots in the universities,” Father Payne revealed.
Father Elias Opongo who directs the Jesuit Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations in Nairobi presented the case study of Tanzania as the starting point of the research on religion and violence in Africa.
Firmin Randos Andih and Ange Zirihi, both members of St. Egidio Community in Abidjan, presented the case study of Ivory Coast.
On Friday, the conference will have presentations and discussions on the following themes: Biblical perspectives on the issue of religion and violence, with reference biblical approaches and pastoral implications; Ethical perspectives of religion and violence, within the Christian and African contexts; and the socio-economic underpinnings of violence, including structures of social marginalization and violence against women.
On the last day of the conference, Saturday, focus will be on employing interreligious dialogue as a means of overcoming violence as well as group discussions on possible future areas of research.