The Interfaith Experience; Bringing Stereotypes and Generalizations into the Light

Ever thought about your faith? What is it about your faith that unites different faiths?What is it about your faith that doesn’t accommodate other faiths? These are deep questions, which are not easy for many people. We all have different faiths and it defines who we are.

The participants are seated in groups of their individual faiths.

“What is it about your faith that brings people of different faiths together?”

“What is about your faith that creates division?”

The participants wrote it all down.

ASK ME ANYTHING

‘Ask me Anything’ is basically that, asking anything about the other persons faith! This was probably one of the heated sessions as people sought to understand each other’s faith.

Why don’t you eat pork?

Why do you wear shoes in church whilst it is a holy ground?

Why don’t women cover themselves?

What can’t a Muslim marry a Christian lady? What would happen if they defied this?

What is Jihad?

What is talaka?

Why are there so many denominations in Christianity? Which is the real Christianity?

The questions kept on coming and the answers flowed as freely. The participants had to be literally chased from the room to go for their health break – yes! It was that heated.

CONFLICTS

This was just a day of dealing with conflicts! The participants narrated the conflicts that they face as people of Tana River County.

Religious Leaders from Tana River addressed how things that bring conflicts among people of Tana County. Issues like tribalism, nepotism, misuse of resources, religious conflicts, corruption, political differences, ethnicity, family feuds and disputes, cultural differences, boundary conflicts and marginalization and profiling, and historical injustices caused major conflicts and clashes among their communities.

They did not stop at that, they brought up issues of insecurity caused by unemployment, illiteracy, peer influence, drugs and substance abuse caused by unemployment, being destitute, and addressed issues of natural calamities which causes things like famine, which led to poverty.

Then as if the emotional depth of that discussion was not enough, they were grouped in to small groups, separately and given different tasks and told to keep it as a secret but execute it effectively.

My group was asked to pick all the chairs in the room and place them close to the door, and if we managed to do that we would be crowned winners. The person leading this exercise was quite convincing and managed to excite us in to thinking we can actually win! Needless to say when we walked back to the conference, ready to be declared winners! 5 minutes in to the exercise it was proving not to be easy as we had been told – since the rest of the groups had the same ambition and determination as we did. The groups pushed, shoved, pulled, threw, basically did anything to be winners.

Does that sound familiar? Isn’t it interesting that the people that instigate conflicts and clashes never seem to be in the middle of the cease fire? They do it and leave the communities to suffer alone as they battle with their neighbors, friends and kinsmen? Property destroyed. Resources mismanaged. People hurt or killed.

It was only later that the groups found out that they were duped for they were given different instructions and each told they were to win no matter what because the other group wanted what was theirs and they deserved the win. They realized the person who instigated the whole thing was just watching silently from the sidelines and actually doing nothing to calm the conflicts.

What would they have done differently? Sat down and discussed in a fair way how to share the resources and still live peacefully? Not allowed someone who is not part of them to tell them what to do with their resources and who should have it? The discussions went on and on, on what they should have done differently.

THE BONFIRE – ‘WISDOM CIRCLE’

Who doesn’t love watching the flames, the way they dance gracefully to the wind?

The participants sat round the fire and talked about their kins, their parents and the small villages that they hailed from, who they were and their immediate families. Their stories, their narrations flowing in unison’s with the crackling of the embers of the fire.

1 hour later the participants walked off leaving the fire flames silently whispering and slowly dissolving in to the darkness that was at the resort.

By Mary Ndulili

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