Interreligious Exchanges, Community Development Projects and Interreligious Education”
By Justine John Dyikuk and Isaac Umaru Abba
Media professionals across Africa have pledged to entrench peace and dialogue towards reducing escalating conflicts in the continent.
This commitment came at the heels of the just concluded refresher programme for the African Catholic Press Union of Burkina Faso (UCAP-Burkina) recently held in Cotonou, Benin Republic.
A statement by organisers released on August 17, indicated that the Eighth “Refresher Programme” of West African Catholic Journalists and Communicators featured paper presentations on the implication of inculturation, security, the family and on faith in Africa.
In his presentation entitled “Inculturation: opportunities and limits for the faith,” Father Justin Bocovo, an Islamologist and Head of the Diocesan Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism, argued that the Church was born to evangelize, insisting that inculturation and dialogue with traditional African Religion is a sine qua non because the Christian Faith is currently confronted with various challenges.
Father Bocovo, pastor of Our Lady of the Visitation of Gbèdagba in Benin insisted that inculturating the faith requires dialogue between the Church and African Culture hence, the need for refinement.
In their separate speeches, the Divisional Commissioner of Police, Abdoul-Hazizou Bah and a representative of the Ministry of the Interior of Benin called for collaboration within the West African sub-region towards ending violent extremism and terrorism.
Dorothée Akoko Kinde Gazard, a parasitologist and former Minister of Health of Benin, spoke on “Family, protection of life and promotion of peace: Education of young people for peace and protection of life” and argued that the Christian Family and Institution of Marriage remain the foundation of the human society and the source of human life.
“Communication professionals” should entrench peace, interreligious dialogue
Guy Constant Ehoumi, who delivered the message of the Vatican, stated that media and communication professionals have a unique role of entrenching peace and interreligious dialogue.
Julien Akpaki, an official who represented the President of High Authority for Audiovisual and Communication, said that a “journalist is the one who collects, processes, verifies and disseminates information” which is why “he must know that his microphones, cameras and feathers are as dangerous as weapons.”
Bishop Bernard de Clairvaux Toha Wontacien of Djougou and president of the Episcopal Commission in charge of Benin Interreligious Dialogue, urged Muslims, Christians and traditional religionists to eschew violence and live in peace stressing that “Benin is an illustration of the good cohabitation between several religions.”
He encouraged intermarriage between people of various ethnic and religious groups citing plurality as the way to go.
Using his childhood experience of going to a Quranic school with children of other religious denominations, Bishop Djougou advised all to embrace peace and respect for the religious views of others.
According to him, “interreligious dialogue is not just about promoting peace, but also about sustainable development. Without peace, there is no development. It is a powerful tool that promotes the creation of a peaceful world.
“Frank dialogue, interreligious exchanges”
Bishop Djougou recommended that all should embrace “frank dialogue, interreligious exchanges, community development projects and interreligious education.”
In their recommendations, participants called for a sincere interreligious dialogue, respect of the principle of secularism in countries, and a responsible press. They urged religious leaders and heads of state in West Africa to expedite action for interreligious dialogue and peace in the continent and beyond.
The UCAP continental event which had the theme: “Interreligious dialogue and promotion of peace in West Africa: Contribution of communicators and media professionals” was co-organized by the Beninese Association of Catholic Communicators and Journalists of Benin (ABCJ/KTO) and UCAP. The gathering drew eighty participants from nine countries — Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.