Bishops’ Seminar on Islam
Ignorance is bliss, so they say, but may be not always.
Following the mounting tensions between Muslims and Christians in Tanzania, and East Africa in general, the church has been frequently caught in surprise. From the rise of mihadhara in the late 1980s to the recent church burnings, things have came up like a thief in the night.
It may be too judgmental to say that the church has been playing ostrich. However it can be challenged for not taking enough measures timely enough to either heal hurt relationship with Muslims or educate itself on the matter at hand.
CCT has learnt that ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is expensive, rather! In terms of Christian – Muslim Relations, ignorance has brought up three major sides as far as Christians are concerned: One is the side of those who collect all Muslims in one basket labelled “Bad”, “Evil” or some other word with sinister connotation. Another is the side of those who are slightly or well informed and therefore can see through the fog. The last group, the largest one, is a don’t–care group. A fellow in the last group is equipped with repulsive statements like: “Ah, I think we just have to pray for that” or “Ah, it just a small group of people”, or even “Will dealing with that help me go to heaven?”
Christians are paying a price for their ignorance because some have wrongly harboured bitterness against their Muslim neighbours while others have failed to take proper measures thinking that it is not a big deal. It is proper to think that if the Church knew better it would have done better.
In that light 20 bishops gathered at Bagamoyo for two days for a short training on Islam, particularly on Christian Muslim Relationships. The two days seminar, under facilitation of five scholars of Islam, took bishops through matters like history of Islam, Christian Muslim Relations in Tanzania, Islam and Politics and a few more.
Bishops were also helped to understand different schools of thought in Islam. This helped them to know why some Muslims will preach peace while others preach war, or why different Muslims dress differently. Moreover this part of the seminar highlighted a few things on how to respond on issues raised by Muslims from different schools of thought.
In the winding remarks Bishops thanked the facilitators as well as secretariat of CCT for the seminar. In their observation, if the training was carried to all bishops it could significantly enhance Christian Muslims Relations on top of equipping Christians with greater understanding of one of the most influential religions in history.