South Africa’s Untold Success Story: A Christian Nation’s Peaceful History With A Muslim Minority


01CAPETOWN-web2-master675Growing up in early 90s South Africa I was not exposed to many different races, in that stifling, artificially divided environment apartheid left us with. But I was immersed in a rich religious melange that formed my understanding of community. My neighbours on my right were Hindu, on my left were Christians and opposite me were Muslims. I heard stories about Ram’s love for Sita from Mrs Moodley, about Christmas from the Davids next door and about the Prophet (PBUH) at madressah. There were at least five temples, mosques and churches in my area alone (often right next to each other) and our parks were littered with white rocks that mark Shembe outdoor prayer sites. In town, outside the bustling African traditional healer’s market was the Catholic Emmanuel Cathedral and right next door was the largest mosque in Durban, the Juma Musjid Mosque dating back to 1880.

While we may have been segregated by race, there were no clear rules about religion and it is perhaps one of the reasons that faith bound us to one another so strongly. Religion was not only a source of strength and comfort during apartheid, it was also a means of resistance against a system designed to divide. And yet religion, the one thing that has divided the rest of the world so starkly, has not done so here. This has perhaps been one of the most remarkable stories of post-apartheid South Africa, but the least told.



African prelate says answer to Muslim/Christian divide is democracy

Bishop-Matthew-Kukah-690x450Despite heading a diocese in a region of northern Nigeria known as a Boko Haram stronghold, Bishop Matthew Kukah insists that there is no real Muslim/Christian divide in his country, and that clashes perceived as religious are generally a ‘cover’ for the government’s failure to foster a genuine democracy in the country.

ROME – One of the Catholic world’s most experienced prelates in terms of living cheek-by-jowl with Muslims insists that there is no real divide between Christians and Muslims in Africa, above all in his home country of Nigeria, and that clashes perceived as religious are generally an index of the failure to build a genuinely democratic state.

“There isn’t really a Christian-Muslim conflict in Nigeria, that’s a cover for something else,” said Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria, an overwhelmingly Muslim area in the country’s far north which has been a stronghold for the radical Boko Haram movement.

“What people call Christian-Muslim conflict, there’s nothing inevitable about it,” Kukah said. “I think the Western media has constructed it, and it’s very popular. And it’s also very popular in Nigeria, but I have said over a 30-year period, there’s no real conflict between Christians and Muslims.

“The same Muslims and Christians work together in the bureaucracy. They serve together in the army and in other arms of government. What we call violence between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria is really the failure of law and order,” he said.

Kukah spoke to Crux on March 24 during a summit on the African church sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, and held at the university’s Global Gateway center in Rome.

Despite heading a tiny diocese and being fairly diminutive in stature himself, Kukah has an outsized presence in Nigerian public life. Holding a Ph.D. from the University of London, he’s one of the most trusted and admired religious leaders in the country, having served on a national commission for political reform, and having led negotiations to end a conflict between the Shell corporation and the Ogoni ethnic group over oil operations in the Niger Delta.


The biggest divide between African Muslims and Christians isn’t their religion

rtx143iw-e1483956070345In many countries across sub-Saharan Africa, Muslim and Christian communities coexist side by side. But a huge gap exists between them when it comes to educational attainment, with African Christians more than twice as likely to have formal schooling than their Muslim counterparts, a Pew Research Center study shows.

The study, which looked at the number of years of schooling both groups received based on age and gender, showed that 65% of Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa had no formal education—the highest anywhere in the world. By contrast, 30% of Christians in the region had not enrolled or completed any form or level of schooling.

The Pew findings drew on census and survey data from 151 countries—36 from sub-Saharan Africa—and analyzed educational levels among believers of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and the religiously unaffiliated. In 18 out of 27 countries with substantial Christian and Muslim populations in the region, Muslims trailed Christians by at least 10 percentage points. Nine countries had education data on Muslims only (Comoros, Gambia, Niger and Somalia) or Christians only (Cape Verde, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe).

Christianity and Islam are the two dominant religions in sub-Saharan Africa, together accounting for more than 93% of the population. Given the dropping child mortality and high fertility rates in the region, much of the worldwide growth of Islam and Christianity is expected to take place there in the coming decades. By 2050, for instance, four out of every 10 Christians in the world will live in sub-Saharan Africa.


Nigeria’s Subversive Love Stories

Nigeria Subversive Love Stories

In this photo taken Sunday, April 3, 2016, Suleiman Maharazu, centre, the owner of Maharazu Bookshop, sells books to young girls in his shop in Kano, Nigeria. In the local market, stalls are signs of a feminist revolution with piles of poorly printed books by women, as part of a flourishing literary movement centered in the ancient city of Kano, that advocate against conservative Muslim traditions such as child marriage and quick divorces. Dozens of young women are rebelling through romance novels, many hand-written in the Hausa language, and the romances now run into thousands of titles. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

KANO, Nigeria — Nestled among vegetables, plastic kettles and hand-dyed fabric in market stalls are the signs of a feminist revolution: Piles of poorly printed books by women that advocate forcefully against conservative Muslim traditions such as child marriage and quick divorce.

They are part of a flourishing literary movement centered in the ancient city of Kano, in northern Nigeria, where dozens of young women are rebelling through romance novels. Hand-written in the Hausa language, the romances now run into thousands of titles. Many rail against a strict interpretation of Islam propagated in Nigeria by the extremist group Boko Haram, which on Sunday posted video showing dozens of the 218 girls militants abducted from a remote school in April 2014.

“We write to educate people, to be popular, to touch others’ lives, to touch on things that are happening in our society,” says author Hadiza Nuhu Gudaji, whose views have gained a recognition unusual for women in her society.

Gudaji’s novellas are so popular that she is invited to give advice on radio talk shows. She describes how she was able to influence the future of a 15-year-old who called in, begging the novelist to persuade her father not to force her into marriage.

“We said: ‘The father of this girl, you are listening to us, you hear what your girl is saying,” Gudaji recounts. “‘If you force her, maybe the marriage will not end so well, maybe the girl will run away and come to a bad end.'”

A few weeks later, the girl called to say thank you, and that she was back in school — a striking example of the kind of power the author wields.

The novellas are derogatorily called “littattafan soyayya, meaning “love literature,” Kano market literature or, more kindly, modern Hausa literature. Daily readings on about 20 radio stations make them accessible to the illiterate.


A Christian-Muslim crisis of faith in Africa

car_full_380With Christians and Muslims killing each other in the Central African Republic, the country needs more than foreign troops. A group of interfaith religious leaders are banding together to make peace real.

The last time the world watched Christians and Muslims kill each other by the thousands was in the 1990s during the Balkan wars. Now, two decades later, a similar massacre is occurring in the Central African Republic – and with a brutality just as shocking.

As with the Balkans, world leaders are again wringing their hands over how to stop the sectarian slaughter in the Central African Republic, an impoverished and landlocked country the size of Texas near the heart of Africa. They are hoping for local solutions.

Since early December, when a Muslim president was forced from office, Christian and Muslim militias have been engaged in religious cleansing of villages and town. About a quarter of the country’s 5 million people, which is majority Christian, have been displaced. Many more need food aid.

As the mass killing of people based simply on their faith has intensified, so too have international efforts to intervene. Some 7,000 troops from France and other African nations have so far tried to suppress the militias. But the United Nations is weighing whether to send more forces.

“Our common objective is to end the violence between Muslim and Christian communities,” says UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. “We must act without delay.”


Central African Republic (CAR) Muslims, Christians Sow Peace Hopes

CAR-Muslims,-Christians-Sow-Coexistence-HopesBANGUI – As sectarian violence rips Central Africa Republic, some regions in the capital Bangui remain as oases for coexistence and hope for an inclusive future for Muslims and Christians in the war-torn country.

“Here, we have a mixture of populations that do not exist in other areas,” Bash, a 28-year-old Muslim resident who wished to be identified only by his nickname for security reasons, told France 24 on Tuesday, December 17.

“This diversity has prevented us from sinking into violence.”


As Bangui descends into chaos with the recent wave of religious conflict, areas Boulata and Ramandji neighborhoods were still save from divisions.

The neighborhoods, where a mixed population of Christians and Muslims co-habit, have remained calm over the past months.

“We grew up together, people have intermarried,” Bash explained.

“Here, you can find a child with a Muslim name in a Christian home because the father is Muslim,” he added.

At least 450 have been killed and hundreds more injured since the beginning of December when Christian militias, loyal to the CAR’s ousted President Francois Bozize, launched multiple attacks from the north, according to the UN humanitarian office.

The country has been thrown into violence after President Michel Djotodia declared himself the country’s first Muslim leader after ousting Bozize on March 24.

Taking the helms of power, Djotodia has struggled to rein in members of the now-dissolved Seleka group that swept him to power nine months ago.

According to news reports, rogue former rebels turned warlords have set up little fiefdoms and sown terror in villages.