By Zanzibar Interfaith Centre
Zanzibar Interfaith Centre opened officially in April 2009. It works in collaboration with the Eastern & Coastal Diocese of the Lutheran Church in Tanzania and Danmission, a Danish Mission and Development organization, contributing to the existing interfaith activities in Zanzibar. Since its establishment, the centre has been doing several activities, such as continuing to support the Joint Committee of religious leaders for peace in Zanzibar (henceforth Joint Committee), arranging exchanges and study tours for youth and religious leaders and assisting the joint committee in forming local peace committees in the Shehia level (Shehia is the lowest local government administrative level in Zanzibar). Currently there are about 300 local peace committees. The centre has also been conducting seminars, sports and art events, workshops and various trainings, which goes in line with the goal of the centre: to promote good relations between people of different faith.
Supporting Religious Leaders
In August 2005 the Joint Committee was officially established. It consists of seven partners: The Mufti’s office, the Qadi’s Court, WAKF & Trust Commission, the Muslim Academy, the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and the Lutheran church.
Zanzibar Interfaith Centre supports the Joint Committee by;
– Its efforts to promote peace during elections,
– Establishing and developing 300 local peace committees,
– Mediating interfaith conflicts when they occur
– Making joint statements in the media to address pertinent issues.
The Joint Committee has been going through a tough time since it was prevented from performing any activities in the public in November 2011. As part of our support for Religious Leaders, we decided to produce a handbook on conflict resolution skills on behalf of the Joint Committee.
The booklet was written in close cooperation with Sh. Abdulla Talib Abdulla, the executive secretary of WAKF & Trust Commission, and both the Catholic Bishop and the Mufti of Zanzibar endorsed it. The booklet became an instrument for the Joint Committee in regaining its public space.
Supporting the Youth works
Youth Interfaith Forum of Zanzibar (YIFOZA) is a forum of young Muslim and Christian leaders planning and conducting interfaith activities for youth. Since 2009 this forum has done a number of interfaith youth activities including seminars, workshops, arts and sport.
This has proven to be a very powerful combination. The game of soccer is in fact a practice of a conflict in itself. There are two teams with “incompatible goals” – which is a common way to define a conflict. The challenge on the field as well as off the field is, how do we solve our conflicts without violence? How do we respond when we are met with violence? The practice of conflict on the field enables us to use concrete examples in our teachings and makes it easier for the youth to relate our teaching to everyday situations off the field. The youth team has enrolled in the third division in the Zanzibar league, and currently it is playing in the finals hoping to be able to play in the second division next year. Before every game the players pray a Muslim and a Christian prayer and they get opportunities to explain why they have formed a team of both Muslims and Christians and that they are there to “struggle for peace”, which is also the slogan of their jerseys.
The Youth Interfaith Forum also formed a drama club for youth. The intention is for the drama club to be able to produce short movie clips about Christian-Muslim relations. They produced four movies and a tribute song for the Interfaith Soccer Team. They received training from Action for Conflict Transformation from South Africa in order for them to improve their understanding about identity and tolerance. In partnership with Action for Conflict Transformation, we hope to be able to give them another course in the year to come. There is a lot of potential in the drama club as the youth are committed and with the right skills, they will be able to reach many people that we would not get in contact with otherwise.
At Zanzibar Interfaith Centre we offer short computer and English courses for youth. We are currently establishing a diploma course in Intercultural Relations in cooperation with Tumaini University in Dar es Salaam. Through the course offering we hope to be able to build the capacity of the interfaith practitioners in Zanzibar and beyond.
We already have a small library and we invite students at all levels, from Tanzania and abroad, to come and make use of our facilities.
We have cooperation with a University in Bergen in which we host Norwegian BA-students of Intercultural Understanding during their fieldwork in Zanzibar.
A visionary image is emerging, which through the diploma course, places Zanzibar Interfaith Centre as a resource centre for Intercultural Relations and Christian-Muslim Relations in particular, not only in Tanzania, but also in the East African Region and beyond.
“Because religion is part of the problem it also needs to be part of the solution!”