In Africa, Benedictine monks often have good contact with Muslims. According to the coordinator of Muslim-Monastic Dialogue, the American Benedictine Father William Skudlarek, several monastic confreres in Africa have indicated that they absolutely trust the Muslim employees of their monastery.
People in many Western countries hear too little about such positive experiences, so the members of the Monastic-Muslim Dialogue group are seeking to promote these efforts towards peace and reconciliation. The radio broadcast below, with audio in German and its transcript in both German and English, provides information on this work currently underway in Kenya. The broadcast highlights in particular the efforts of the Missionary Benedictines of Saint Ottilien, who have been in East Africa for more than 100 years and have been working in Kenya since 1972.
An African proverb states, “If you understand, you forgive!” This deep truth reflects how if we understand the motives of others, then with God’s help, we can forgive misunderstanding and wrongdoing more easily. Such a truth also applies when dealing with members of other religions, and Monastic-Muslim Dialogue shares how a foundation for human coexistence may be discovered there. This work communicates the central themes of forgiveness and reconciliation through ongoing dialogue, so that a deeper understanding of the human heart may be found.
With Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, Benedictines have established good contacts with Muslims at an international level and have become friends. This dialogue allows members to share in honest discussion in an atmosphere of mutual respect and love. Such efforts have great potential to bring together positive experiences so as to build a renewed, peaceful relationship between Christians and Muslims.
Another old African proverb reflects, “I am because we are – We are because I am”, which expresses the interdependence of all people. Such insight also reflects the importance of interfaith dialogue, according to the Kenyan Missionary Benedictine Maximilian Musindai: “When you open your heart to another person, he opens his heart to you. It is important for me to see in the other a creature of God who has the same dignity as me. Relationship with the other is therefore decisive for the success of interreligious dialogue. Friendships break down barriers between people. We open the doors through which others can enter our world. And then, without fear, we can discuss the most difficult questions.”
In 2017, Abbot Primate Gregory Polan traveled to Africa to take part in these significant efforts even more directly in person. He underscored the great strides that have been made in bringing about deeper understanding and reconciliation between Christians and Muslims in Africa through Monastic-Muslim Dialogue. Abbot Primate Gregory would like to strengthen international relations even further, involving the Benedictine Confederation to develop this dialogue of peace of reconciliation especially in its work in Rome: “This dialogue seems to me an excellent basis for organizing events at Sant’Anselmo that bring Muslims and Christians closer together. In today’s Europe, there is a lot of fear that is based on uncertainty. We should design more courses and conferences to help Europeans better understand their Muslim brothers and sisters.”
Expanding these dialogues in the face of today’s violence in the world provides each one of us to become better ambassadors of peace and reconciliation. Learning to respect and understand each other in the spirit of God’s love, we then will be equipped better to help people of all countries and religions to collaborate more fruitfully together towards peace, and to find commonly acceptable solutions to the world’s problems.