By Caroline Boyani

Religion is a strong weapon that can be disastrous if radicalized or beneficial if positively applied. Religion stems from a strong belief in a supreme being, Christians in God, Muslims in Allah, and so on. Religion is so important in a way that inspires the congregation to follow doctrines. Radicalization masterminds have used this notion to mislead people and cause havoc, therefore is a need for inter-religious dialogues in the country and the world to address societal issues such as insecurity, environmental degradation, and economic injustices.

In Mombasa County, the inter-religious dialogue council was started to counter tribal and religious conflicts. It has grown over the years to address various other issues such as women empowerment, youth exclusivity and discourage drug abuse and misuse. It is comprised of catholic priests, pastors of various denominations such as A.I.C., and sheikhs among other religious leaders. It works hand in hand with the Coast Interfaith Council of Clerics with Fr. Richard Airo who is the parish priest at St. Joseph Tudor, Mombasa being its director and member of the cleric’s council.

” People realized that when disasters strike, they don’t spare a certain religion or denomination and wipe the other so it was important for everyone to collaborate to find possible solutions,” said Fr. Richard. Among the achievements he highlighted were that the council had a youth desk and a women’s desk where one can get assistance or guidance. ” Other than religious issues, the council collaborates in terms of know-how, development, and investing so that when issues are presented to the county or national assembly, we speak in one voice” he elaborated.

The unity has reduced radicalization and extremism. Their community involvement was visible during the previous general elections in 2022 where they involved the community in civil education and a peaceful ambassador role. ” What the government is advocating for the scrapping away of orphanages is an Islamic idea, which was spearheaded by prophet Mohammad and was brought to light through inter-religious dialogue” He divulged. He elaborated how putting children in an orphanage can impact their mental health as some get abused and lack essential care but putting them in a family setup might make them feel like a part of a family.

Some of the challenges that face the council include financial constraints, especially with the harsh economic conditions and they plead with the government to be considerate. In addition, some individuals still treat others with suspicion due to their religion which they hope in a few years will have been dealt with through frequent sensitization on the importance of collaboration.

The county government through the office of the governor has been supportive and they hope the National government will take the initiative of supporting interreligious dialogues in the various counties, this will go a long way in improving peace and harmony. So much can be achieved if we stop focusing on our differences and focus on what unites us. Religion should be embraced but let us not misuse it to cause harm to others.

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