(Bishop of Musoma, Tanzania)
Dialogue is an encounter in which we seek to enter the other's point of view, the other's experience and understanding, his or her behaviour and values. We leave aside preconceived ideas or prejudices and allow each other to be who we are, thus bringing about mutual respect, understanding and appreciation. The first dialogue should be within the Church.
African Traditional Religion is part and parcel of life of the people in Africa. Dialogue with African Traditional Religion is both for mutual enrichment and neo-evangelisation for the penetration of the Gospel message into the hearts of the African people and to have their response and witness. Dialogue will eliminate the dichotomy of the Christian faith in Africa. This will make Christianity truly African.
Africa had inherited the rivalry existing between different Christian denominations. Fortunately in most of post independence Africa this animosity has very much diminished. While we are still far from reaching a Eucharistic communion with our separated brethren, we can co-operate in many social and civil spheres. As an example, in Tanzania, we have a joint commission for Social Services, joint Bible translations, Christian Religious Education Syllabus, joint policy in mass media programmes, common unity week prayers, joint dialogue with government and international organisations in defence of the weak and other similar spheres. These efforts will help to eliminate animosity and build our capacity to work together. A number of these should be tried not only on national level but also on regional and continental levels. This though should not make us forget the goal that is to work together for a complete ecclesiastic unity in Eucharistic communion.
At present, dialogue with Islam is difficult yet it should be intensified in order to avoid fundamentalism and other dangerous religious conflicts. Such dialogue should aim at creating peaceful co-existence, recognition of the equality of all peoples, appreciation of religious pluralism and promotion of mutual co-operation in advancing the values of the Kingdom.
Not to be forgotten is dialogue with our governments. Under normal conditions, the relationship between the Church and State should be a healthy relation of respect, openness and love. Unfortunately the Church in many countries of Africa is exposed to totalitarian and dictatorial governments. The Church should stand against these oppressive governments and their policies. The Church should promote social justice and freedom of conscience for the people. The Church should be the voice of the voiceless. The Church should defend the civil rights of the people like freedom to information.
Original text: English