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Zimbabwe Christians and
Muslims seek cooperation

-- 8/26/98

Ecumenical News International

HARARE | Different religions in Zimbabwe should co-operate to become "the voice of the voiceless" in the country, a Zimbabwe inter-faith gathering has been told.
    The call was made by a University of Zimbabwe lecturer, Ezra Chitando, at an interfaith dialogue seminar between Christians and Muslims recently held in the city of Kwekwe, south-west of Harare, the capital.
    In his speech about the religious situation in Zimbabwe, Mr. Chitando said that dialogue and cooperation was needed between Christians, Muslims, practitioners of African traditional religions, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and new religious movements, if religion was to make a positive impact on people.
    "Different religions in the country should cooperate," Mr. Chitando told more than 100 Christians and Muslims who attended the meeting, according to the Ecumenical Documentation and Information Center for Eastern and Southern Africa (EDICESA), one of the organizers of the meeting.
    "Religions of Zimbabwe may become the voice of the voiceless, if only they can cooperate," according to Mr. Chitando, who noted that Islam, had grown from being a tolerated minority to a significant force in Zimbabwe.
    Mr. Chitando said that there were 1.2 million Muslims in Zimbabwe.
    Other estimates put the figure at 200,000 Muslims. According to the SBS World Guide, published in Australia, approximately 50 percent of Zimbabwe's population of 10 million people follow mixed Christian and traditional beliefs, 25 percent profess Christianity alone, 24 percent follow indigenous beliefs, and there is a "small Muslim minority."
    Earlier this year Zimbabwe hosted the 4th meeting of the World Islamic Call Society of East, Central and Southern Africa. The meeting was opened by vice-president Simon Muzenda.
    The seminar was organized by EDICESA and the Zimbabwe Islamic Mission. It sought to find ways to enable Christians, Muslims and other religions to be united in their diverse religions and cultures and to explore ways of working together to serve "all the people of God in Zimbabwe."
    Addressing the seminar, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Islamic Mission, Professor Adam Makda called on Zimbabweans to live a life of "purity and goodness" so that peace might continue to prevail in the country.
    "These two universal faiths based on the word of God Almighty have great potential in leading our respective followers in becoming disciplined, faithful and patriotic citizens to build a dynamic new nation of dedicated believers in God Almighty," he said.
    The Kwekwe seminar was told of the need to address serious challenges facing the nation such as corruption at all levels of society, HIV/Aids, which is currently killing up to 700 people per week and the economic difficulties, the country is going through.
    The secretary general of the Zimbabwe Students Christian Movement (ZSCM), Mandla Akhe Dube said that it was important that Zimbabweans of different faiths did not seek to convert the other party but rather sought to establish understanding based on mutual respect.
    "Unity in diversity can naturally follow from informed decisions," said Mr. Dube, who appealed to Christians and Muslims to desist from judging each other's faith through the behavior of individuals.
    A local clergyman, the Rev. E.T.C. Ngadziore, chairman of the Kwekwe Pastors' Fraternal, said: "I think this is the best meeting that we have ever held here and I think it has opened our minds, especially with the understanding that there is a lot we can share with the Muslims."

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