03 May, 2011

Mosques, Churches and Temples of Eastern Africa

Through out history, religions have caused joy, great hope and comfort; and, many times too, religions, especially conflict between people with different religions, have caused immense suffering and sorrow. But, come to think of it: one can say the same thing about racial prejudice and conflicts between races; and of economic inequality. Take for instance the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth: the USA; racism and racial prejudice; and wealth and income disparity - have, through out America's history, caused the most misery and pain to most of its citizens than any other things. Indeed, the same can be said about most nations. In Eastern Africa, economic inequality, political turbulence and many times: racial differences, have been the greatest causes of distress and wretchedness. But, very rarely: religion.

I do not know of any where else on Earth where people of all religions and faiths live and coexist so peacefully and in harmony as in Eastern Africa. During discussions or debates, many if not most, repeatedly say that this can not be so; many keep on saying that, Muslims and Christians can not live peacefully together. In Eastern Africa, they do. The reasons for Rwanda's horrifying genocide and Somalia's brutal and very destructive ways of tearing itself apart, have never been religious; to the contrary, both these countries are overwhelmingly dominated by single religions: in Rwanda by Catholics and in Somalia, by Sunni Muslims.

Whenever in East Africa, I feel very comforted and very much at peace knowing that my religion is not an issue; be it in Nairobi or Kampala or Dar es Salaam or Addis Ababa or any where else. In Eastern Africa, it is very normal to have people from the same family having different faiths: in-laws, cousins and even siblings; it is very normal to have parents having children with different religions; it is very normal to have neighbors having different religions; it is very normal to work in a place with workmates of varying faiths; it is very normal for a mosque being close or next to a church or a temple. And it is very normal and very comforting for me, knowing that I can wait for a friend outside a church while he prays; and when I enter a mosque to have my prayers, a Christian friend can be patiently waiting for me. Outside the mosque.