reflection, Dr. Joseph Mutei describes a unique program on Islam and Christian–Muslim
Relations at St. Paul’s University (http://www.spu.ac.ke) in Limuru, Kenya.
The program began in 2004 with a class of ten students and has offered
training to students from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities including
and not limited to: Kenya, Tanzania, D.R. Congo, Rwanda, Turkey,
Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Sudan etc. Both staff and students have also been widely
spread including some from Africa, North America, Asia and Europe.
rationale of the program in Kenya
Theological institutions in Africa,
as in any part of the world, make the teaching of other religions part and
parcel of the theological formation of students. The extent to which a
particular religion receives prominence depends largely on the environment in
which the student will eventually minister. In some parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, for
example, African Traditional Religions received prominence. This was because of
the understanding that adherents of African Traditional Religions constituted
the majority in Africa, and therefore was the environment in which the church
had to carry out its life and witness.
However in the recent past the religious environment of Africa, of which Kenya
is a part, has seen a growth in Islam. Muslim
populations in most countries today exceed those of adherents of African
Traditional Religions. It is recognised that all Africans maintain a reference
point with African Traditional Religions regardless of their formal religious
adherence. This calls for taking the study of Islam more seriously, as is the
case with African Traditional Religions.
Many theological institutions seem to be beginning to recognise this.
There are ample reasons why the
church needs to go beyond merely making Islamic studies an integral part of its
theological formation. Programs need to
single out Islam and Christian-Muslim relations for specific in-depth study at
the post graduate level. Some of the
Christians and Muslims form the majority of the religious
map of Africa general and Kenya, specifically. This means that Christians and
Muslims are bound to live together in peace if they accept their differences,
or alternatively struggle over their differences and ‘destroy’ each other. We
believe that an in-depth study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, by the
clergy, especially, could be an asset in the process of working towards
2. Christianity and Islam are currently the two great
missionary religions on the continent. Producing
Christian specialists in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations will facilitate
the principle of responsible Christian witness that will not unduly disturb the
spirit of good neighbourliness.
3. Inherited negative perceptions of Christians and Muslims of
each other are a potential recipe for conflict. The churches need to train
experts to help them mitigate against such negative attitudes.
4. There is an increase in Christian-Muslim collaboration and
dialogue on national issues. To train Christian specialists in Islam and
Christian-Muslim relations will facilitate informed collaboration and dialogue.
5. There is a need for lecturers in Islam and Christian-Muslim
Relations in theological institutions in East Africa and beyond. It is
envisaged that a post-graduate programme would facilitate the provision of such
academic personnel for other theological institutions, in Kenya in particular,
East Africa and other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa in general.
St. Paul’s University, Kenya has
been selected by the governing council and its European and North American
partners of the Project for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa (PROCMURA), as
one of three theological colleges in Africa to pioneer this endeavour. The
other institutions are Trinity Theological College in Ghana and the Faculté de
Théologie Protestante in Cameroon.
objectives of the program
The general objectives of the Islam
and Christian – Muslim Relations programme are essentially but not exclusively
Secondly, doing Christian mission in an
interfaith milieu: inherited concepts and practices of Christian
mission hardly recognize the interfaith environment which fosters the
aforementioned images (both good and bad).
The objective of the programme is to provide students with the
opportunity of evolving concepts of mission in an interfaith environment where
the other faith is equally ‘missionary’ and where there is competition as to
where to direct the human soul. The approach to be adopted, it is hoped, will
be to stimulate rather than undermine the need for redefined Christian mission
in the life of the church in Africa in the 21st century. Finally, the appreciation of the
Christian-Muslim presence in Africa and its meaning for Christian living. In the Christian-Muslim environment in which we
live, we either accept our religious differences and live together in peace,
or, alternatively, struggle over such differences and ‘destroy’ each other. The
objective of the programme is to help students appreciate that Christianity and
Islam are here to stay, and that Christians and Muslims will have to rub
shoulders all the time. To this end, questions will be raised as to how much
Christians and Muslims should allow themselves to be influenced by outside
religio-political forces to attack each other and destabilise society. Students’
research topics over the years have revolved around this area with the
objective of discussing whether we can talk about an African Christian within
the world-wide Christian community, and an African Muslim within the world-wide
Muslim community. This has greatly reshaped discussions as to which road
Christian-Muslim relations in Africa should take—the way that sees ‘my neighbour’
as one of the same religious community as oneself, be he/she far away, or as
anyone (in spite of religious affiliation) who is in need of help.
After ten years since the beginning of the program, 80+ students have been
trained and placed in different parts of the world for service of God and
humanity in the sphere of inter religious engagement. The two year program is split between taught
courses and field research. Some of the courses taught include: Introduction to
Islam Qur’anic Arabic Islam in Africa, Sufism, Christian-Muslim Relations, Islamic
Theology, and Islamic Law (Sharī‘a) etc.
The creative teaching of the program ensures that students don’t only
receive theoretical information but also get exposed to practical dialogue
forums at the Christian Muslim Relations Centre in Eastleigh, Nairobi amongst
VISION of St. Paul’s
A University of Academic Excellence Based on Christian Principles Producing
Graduates in Various Fields for Global Service.
MISSIONTo Develop Servant Leaders by Imparting
Knowledge, Skills and Values Through Creative Methods of Education, Research
and Christian Spiritual Formation.
A Christian Ecumenical Community Dedicated to the Promotion Of Knowledge and
Christian Spiritual Formation for the Good of Humanity and the Glory of God. St
Paul's is a Private Christian University Founded and Sponsored by the
Commitment to Christian Ecumenism, Quality Service and High Academic
Standards as Inspired by Christian Faith and Founded Upon Christian Values.
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Joseph M. Mutei is a Lecturer in Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations as well as the Head of Department of Religion & Mission Studies at St. Paul's University, Kenya.