Faculty Scholarship

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Book Chapter

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Africa is the most conflict-ridden region of the world and has been since the end of the Cold War. The Continent's performance in both development and human rights continues to lag behind other regions in the world. Such condi­tions can cause religious differences to escalate into conflict, particularly where religious polarity is susceptible to being exploited. The sheer scale of such con­flicts underscores the urgency and significance of interreligious engagement and dialogue: 'Quantitative and qualitative analysis based on a ... database including 28 violent conflicts show that religion plays a role more frequently than is usually assumed.' This ambivalent character of religion--its double potential for peace and its concomitant effects, such as socioeconomic development and human rights protection, but also for violent conflicts--is well understood and accepted.

Meanwhile, Christianity and Islam are outward-oriented religions that contain ideas for social action, engagement, and' social justice. Pragmatically, in many African countries adherents of both religions live and work side by side in cooper­ative coexistence. In addition, the ubiquitous African traditional religiosity, with its proclivity to accommodation of diverse traditional spiritualities and expres­sion, as well as practical integration of the secular and the sacred in all spheres of life--economic, social and political--prepares fertile ground for harmonious cooperation among the mainstream religions. [excerpt]