Seeds of Conflict in a Haven of Peace

From Religious Studies to Interreligious Studies in Africa


On 7 August 1998 the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were bombed and 200 people lost their lives. These bombings shattered the image of Africa’s tradition of peaceful religious coexistence. Since then inter-religious dialogue has been high on the agendas of ecclesial and religious organisations, but not so much of faculties of theology and departments of religion in East Africa. This book investigates why this is so. How are interreligious relations dealt with in Africa, and more particularly, how are they and how should they be taught in institutions of higher learning? This book is based on fieldwork in Nairobi from 2001 onwards. It shows why Africa’s tradition of peaceful co-existence is not going to help Africa in the 21st century, and recommends a shift in the education in inter-religious relations: from religions studies to inter-religious studies.

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Frans Wijsen is Professor of World Christianity and Interreligious Relations in the Faculty of Religious Studies, Professor of Mission Studies in the Faculty of Theology and Director of the Institute for Mission Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands. He worked in Tanzania from 1984 till 1988. Since then has conducted periods of fieldwork in East Africa annually. Among others, he is author of “There is only one God” (Kampen 1993), co-author with Ralph Tanner of “Seeking a Good Life” (Nairobi 2000) and “I am just a Sukuma” (Amsterdam – New York 2002), and with Bernardin Mfumbusa of “Seeds of Conflict” (Nairobi 2004). Since 2004 he has been visiting professor at Tangaza College, Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Nairobi, Kenya.
Chapter One: Preliminary explorations
Chapter Two: Transformation of religion in Africa
Chapter Three: The study of religion in Africa
Chapter Four: Education in interreligious dialogue
Chapter Five: Religion, conflict and reconciliation
Chapter Six: Synthesis, extremism and dialogue
Chapter Seven: Fully committed and fully open
Chapter Eight: Africans in diaspora
Chapter Nine: Towards a dialogical and diaconal church
Chapter Ten: Renaissance or reconstruction?
General conclusions
Appendix 1: Institutions and informants included in the research
Appendix 2: Questionnaire