The students from Hekima University College attended an open day at Jamia Mosque in Nairobi-Kenya, on Saturday, 27/10/2018. According to the Jamia Mosque Committee, the event served: firstly, to enhance a better understanding of Islam; secondly, to promote harmony between different religious and cultural groups; and thirdly, to demystify Islamic practices and traditions. The event was also attended by students from other universities around Nairobi. Seven students, accompanied by Rev. Dr. Peter Knox, SJ, Dean at Jesuit School of Theology, represented Hekima.
The event started off with a brief introduction to the symbols and rituals conducted by Muslims when they are praying in the mosque. This included the five prayers done during the day and the meaning of some Arabic words, to get a better understanding of Islam. For the following session, the participants were invited to Mihrab, the niche of the mosque that indicates the qibla (direction of Mecca), and in which the Imam stands to preach. The Iman of Jamia Mosque thanked the participants for having honored their invitation and emphasized the fact that as human beings, we come from the same God (Allah). Consequently, all human beings are called independently to their religion to live in peace and respect one another. According to him, Christians are closer to Muslims than any other religion. Muslims and Christians are called to cohabitation and collaboration. In addition to that, Muslims strictly respect the message that comes from God and preached by all prophets, including Jesus. Hence the prophet Muhammad constitutes the achievement of all prophecies.
For the last session, the Jamia Mosque Committee invited participants to the Multipurpose Hall where participants were invited to ask questions and give some remarks about the event. The questions asked by the participants were around the controversial verses in the Qur'an, the role of women in Islam, the importance of Jihad and hadith in Islam, Sharia, religious extremism, interfaith dialogue, conflict in the Middle East involving Islamic countries, etc.
From Hekima University College, Fernando Baleia SJ, a student of MA in Peace Studies, gave a brief remark on the significance of the event and congratulated the Jamia Mosque Committee for having organized the event. It was especially appreciated because two weeks earlier, Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations had organized its Third International Conference which focused on Religious Extremism and Violence in Africa: Reviewing the Practice of Intervention & Inter-Religious Dialogue.
In closing, the event allowed participants not only to learn about Islam but also to interact with one another as a better way to promote interfaith dialogue.
All the participants went home with an English translation of the Holy Qur'an from the Muslim Community as a sign of gratitude. We hope that other similar events will be organized in order to promote peace and avoid conflicts between religions.
Fernando Baleia SJ