Religious Pluralism and Interfaith Coexistence: Ecumenicalism in the Context of Traditional Modes of Tolerance
In many parts of the developing world, religion is singled out as the cause for violent clashes. At the 2007 TrustAfrica workshop in Dakar, the conference of religious leaders, scholars, and experts from 12 African countries and the Diaspora explored this concern under the theme "Meeting the Challenges of Religion and Pluralism in Africa." It was observed that religiously justified conflicts were often the repackaging of community concerns regarding issues of social, economic, and political injustices, inequities and exclusions. Consequently, a project on “religious pluralism and interfaith coexistence in Ghana” was funded in 2008 as part of the efforts to examine the role of local traditions as a foundation to interfaith dialogue. Earlier in 2005, a similar project on the theme of Islam and tolerance, with funding from Harvard and Michigan State University, was conducted in Ghana. Several issues emerging from the field conversations are pertinent to topics of how history shaped Muslim relations with their non-Muslim hosts in West Africa. It is often argued in the literature that Islam’s inherently adoptive attitude toward African religious culture made it possible for Muslims and their non-Muslim hosts to co-exist. However, this research contends that, in the case of Ghana, it was the traditional local culture as defined by indigenous religious values that shaped and moderated the environment that sustained peaceful interreligious relations. The authors express concern that as the country experiences rapid urbanization, Westernization, proliferation of charismatic churches and aggressive Christian evangelization, the traditional values that underpinned pluralism and peace in historic times might be threatened (George Bob-Milliar and Karen Lauterback, 2018).
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