The African Christian and Islam Accra Conference

From the 6th to 10th July, 2010, some African Christian scholars of Islam met in Accra, Ghana to search together for a critical African Christian approach to Islam.

The objective of the conference was to examine the various ways in which African Christians have encountered, responded to and engaged with Islam and Muslims over the years with the view of gaining insights and learning lessons for a much more biblically, theologically and missiologically sound ways of engagement in the contemporary African context.

The Facilitating Institution was the Centre for Islamic Studies of the London School of Theology (UK). The Principal Convener/Facilitator of the Conference was Rev. Dr. John Azumah, Director of the Centre for Islamic Studies – London School of Theology. The conference was sponsored by the Center for Early African Christianity – Eastern University, Philadelphia – USA, and the World Christianity Initiative – Yale University, Yale, Connecticut – USA.

The key Note Lecture was given by Prof. Lamin Sanneh, on ‘The African Christian and Islam: Learning from the Early African Church.’ The conference was chaired in a very brilliant and well appreciated way by The Most Rev. Dr. John Onaiyekan, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja-Nigeria. He also delivered the Conference chair on ‘The African Christian and Islam: The Roman Catholic Perspective’.

We were around 50 from different Christian churches. There were 4 Catholics. They were all priests of which one bishop. The bishop was Archbishop Dr. John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Co-President of the Nigerian Inter-religious Council and Co-President of the African Council of Religious Leaders (ACRL). The priests included Moussa Serge Traore, a member of the Society of Missionaries of Africa, working in Rwanda. Boniface Maasoayele is a diocesan priest of Tamale, director of the centre for Muslim-Christian Dialogue of the Diocese of Tamale, Northern Ghana. Fr. Matthew Hassan Kukah is currently Chairman Vicar General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kaduna, Nigeria. The other participants were from different churches: Presbyterian, Baptists, Evangelical… We were from different countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, South Africa, Kenya, Madagascar, Egypt, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom, and United States of America.

The conferences were divided into 3 types: 3 Bible reflections; 12 Main Papers; and 9 Country studies.

The participants were very pleased with the initiative. They consequently expressed those wishes: Christians should be more united; they should form one body in their witness to Muslims. We should include the francophone countries experience of Muslim-Christian relations. We need to collaborate with specific institutions and religious orders like the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) involved in the Muslim world of Africa. We should continue to deepen some live question like the relation with African Traditional Religions, the question of the crusades in Muslim-Christian Relations, A Magna Carta of religions in Africa. The Programme of Christian Muslim Relations (PROCMURA) in Africa should be empowered. We need reflective practitioners in Africa: our reflections should impact the grass root. Potentially vulnerable groups like the youth should be included in our reflection. There is need to rethink and rewrite our African history and the history of Christian and Muslim relations in Africa from our African perspective. This initiative should be institutionalized. Our peculiar African approach would need more cooperation in areas of study, keeping our scholars in a network, empowering the existing institutions. We may need to bring together not only scholars but Christian African religious leaders on the same issue of our African approach of Islam.

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