“Tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.” ― Timothy Keller
If we are to love our neighbors and the community around us then it is imperative that we have a dialogue on things that separate us such as our faith, belief or values and simply learn to coexist with one another. Having a dialogue and acknowledging the validity of each other’s religion, faith or belief requires one to understand in order to appreciate the similarities and embrace the differences. “One must realize that people created their belief systems in order to make sense of their worlds or the chaos around them. Therefore, every religion is reflective of the culture and history of its followers.” – IvyPanda.
It is a beautiful Thursday in Mombasa County and close to 30 interfaith youth are seated inside Swahilina Mosque and are slowly chatting as they await for the activity to start. Despite the required protocols and regulations of COVID-19, which has minimized the number gathered, the youth are still eager to interact, learn and create new bonds. Conversations and dialogues like these draw youth together to enable them to achieve a common goal of increasing respect and tolerance of each other’s religion and belief. Some of the youth have never been to such an event and this is all new to them thus are eagerly waiting for the conversation to start.
You need to dialogue, just sit and listen to the other person’s point of view, in order to understand where they are coming from to ensure peaceful consistence in the society.”
The youth address the similarities that bring them together and the differences that threaten to draw them apart. One of the interfaith youth representative, urged the rest of the youth to embrace the different youth in the community in order to ensure that there is peace and harmony among them. “As youth in Mombasa we need to understand that our differences is what makes us who were are. My, being a Muslim and you being a Christian is what we can use to tame extreme violence and radicalization in our society and also embrace peace by advocating it among our peers in the community” – Omar Chai, Interfaith Youth Member.
Pastor Ouma one of the clerics attending the forum while addressing the youth demonstrated how different views could influence our perception and approach to different situations. He did this by using letter ‘M’, ‘E’, or ‘W’ depending on where you are looking at it from. He carefully drew the letter and asked the youth what the letter was – they all gave different varying answers. Then he explained sometimes you need to dialogue, just sit and listen to the other person’s point of view, in order to understand where they are coming from to ensure peaceful consistence in the society.
The Host Imam then took the youth through a session of discussing the differences and similarities between the different faiths. He gave the youth an opportunity to ask various questions about the Islam faith. He slowly and keenly demystified some beliefs and assumptions towards the Islam religion. This discussion continued for over 2 hours with questions directed to the 2 Imams and Pastor in the room.
The youth cleaned the compound and planted trees as a way of conserving the environment. This also brings the youth together and demonstrates what they can achieve when they work together.
‘Welcoming the Other’ is an Inter-Religious Council of Kenya activity in partnership with Mensen met een Missie (MM) under the project “Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB)”. It seeks to strengthen the local platforms, interfaith relations and cooperation for sustainable dialogue and action, promote tolerance and inclusiveness and reduce radicalization in the region. It is about demystifying practices and traditions among faith groups whilst promoting inter religious tolerance, harmony and relations among distinct faith groups.
Through different activities IRCK has witnesses a changed perception of youths from other faith communities on how they perceive each other religions.