Gruppo di riflessione sull'Islam

Cairo, 17-22 Ottobre 2005


Partecipanti  p. 3
Programma  p. 4
Reports from the Provinces   p. 5
Lavori dei Gruppi (17/10) p. 16
Theological Principles and Ways of Dialogue (Fr. Scattolin) p. 17
Conditions of Christians In An Islamic Society (Fr. Van Nispen) p. 40
Work Group (18/10)  p. 41
The Proselytizing Mission of Islam in Africa (Fr. Paul Annis) p. 43
Discussione in Assemblea (19/10 )  p. 49
Plan of Work (20/10)   p. 50
Decisioni Finali  p. 55
On the "Ratio Missionis" p. 56
p. 58




Zolli Fernando                       Segretario Gen. Evan. 
Paul Annis                             Khartoum                    
Luigi Cignolini                      Khartoum                    
Scattolin Giuseppe                Dar Comboni – Cairo  
Claudio Lurati                       Egitto                           
Achilles Kiwamuka Kabozi  Dar Comboni - Cairo  
Kyankaaga J. Richard           Dar Comboni - Cairo  
Simon Mbuthia                     Dar Comboni – Cairo  
Samiha Ragheb                     Comboniane - Egitto   
Anna Maria Scaranella         Comboniane - Egitto   
Paolino Tipo Deng                Ciad                             
Renzo Piazza                         Ciad                             
Kanyke Edward                     Malawi-Zambia           
Cosimo Spadavecchia           Italia                            
Alberto Lamana                    Southern Sudan           
Austine Odhiambo Radol      Eritrea                          
Tesfaye Tadesse                    Ethiopia                       
Antonio Campanini               Mozambico                           (C/o Padre Provinciale)
Giovanni Zaffanelli               Centrafrica                  


Monday 17:    Morning
07.00   Lauds and Holy Mass - Presider Fr. Claudio
08.00   Breakfast
08.45   Discussion on the time table
09.00   Reports of each Province
10.30   Break
11.00   Reports of each Province- Resumed
12.45   Midday Prayer - Lunch
16.00   Discussion in groups [What do we hope to achieve in this meeting and how ? ]
17.00   Break
17.30   General Assembly
19.15   Vespers - Supper
Tuesday 18:    Morning
07.00   Lauds and Holy Mass - Presider (from the Province of Tchad)
08.00   Breakfast
09.00   Understanding Islam: Reasons And Areas of Dialogue - Fr. Dr. Scattolin mccj
10.30   Group Work
11.30   Break
11.45   General Assembly
12.45   Midday Prayer - Lunch
15.00   Conditions of Christians In An Islamic Society Fr.Dr. Christian sj
16.45   Break
17.00   Group Work
18.15   Break
18.30   Assembly
19.15   Vespers - Supper
Wednesday 19: Morning
07.00   Lauds and Holy Mass - Presider (from the Province of Central Africa )
08.00   Breakfast
08.45   Discussion on the time table
09.00   The Proselytizing Mission of Islam in Africa. Fr.Paul Annis
10.30   Break
11.00   Group Work
12.45   Midday Prayer - Lunch
14.00   OUTING         El-Azhar, Zamalek, Dar Comboni
Thursday 20: Morning
The same time table as above
Lauds and Holy Mass - Presider (from the Province of Mozambique (
Planning for the future :
"Do we feel the need of a guideline for our pastoral approach among Muslims ? "
"What about a scholasticate in an Arab country? Which?" (Ch.A.68 (
Afternoon: Conclusions

Lunedí 17 Ottobre 2005

Reports from the Provinces

Reports of the Provinces on Islam.


No written report due to a problem of communication between Sudan and Malawi Zambia.
Muslim presence in Zambia is very low
Malawi Muslims around 16%
Islam started with the slave trade on the costs. People Islamised the tribe he Yao by two important chives Makanjira and Mponda situated in Mangochi area now.  The Catholic diocese is called after Mangochi
At this time of fundamentalist are those Muslims who came from India and Pakistan less than 10 years ago. The influx of Muslims from India and Pakistan where mostly traders who then contributed to the spread of Islam.
The plan of Islamisation through building Mosques very close to our churches was one manifestation of a deliberate promulgation of their religion.
The previous president of Malawi is a Muslim. The main importer of fertilizers into Malawi by al-Qaida. They started radio programmes, on Islam in Arabic or in Chichewa, or Yao.
The economy is in the hands of Muslim Indians.
Area of proselytizing through poverty, education, marriage to girls… many Christian boys and girls are marrying Muslims. Maternal society has the heritage line from the mother not from the father. Also Muslims accept to marry in the church and the children will follow the religion of their mother (according to the maternal family).
DIALOGUE in Malawi
We try to live peacefully with Muslims. We try exploiting the cultural base and not religious to form a bed for dialogue.
The problem will come with politicians who might use religion to divide.

At the boarder of Zambia Chipatta, Chikowa, Chingi there are not many Muslims those areas.
Islamic organisations they build social centres and schools. Which organisations exist in Malawi?

Two realities in the North and South
Islam in the south is connected with economy up to 1969 there was peaceful co-existence.
In’79 the ‘celebre’ called for Muslims to fight against Christians. The war polarised the North and South of the City. The Combonies where called by the Bishop at Alemena to form a bridges of peace. The community is in the North of the city. All the institutions of the church are in the South where the majority are Christian.
45% Christians, however the statistics are unreliable.
Two ways through which Islam entering:
1- From Morocco , Niger through commerce and formed Islamic confraternities (Suffi).
2- Another way was their entry from Sudan, where they introduced the Arabic language.
L’Abeche became the city of light of Islam. Confraternities like the Arabia, Tigania, Sennusia, Ahmmadia, and the establishing of the Qur`anic schools Tigania. There is another type of Islam with the actual president who came to power with help from the Sudan, establishing a relationship with the Islamic regime of the Sudan.
Wahabbites arrived in 1960’s and had already tensions, they are increasing through intellectuals. With the Wahabbites came the Muslim brothers from the Sudan. Organisation of the Muslim conference. The Da`wa Islamiyya al-`alamiyya bringing Lybian books. Finance from the Saudi Arabia construction of mosques. The Islamised area of Tchad maintained their tribal traditions, thus their Islam was seen by the Wahabbites as in need for purification.
Attempts to Islamise the South is visible with the one thousand Mosques that where constructed. There is no evidence that there are more Muslims from the South, but there are more Northerners Muslims going to live in the South.
What kind of Islam in Tchad? The Muslims do not know Muslim doctrine. 80% of Muslims are Sufis. There are also Ansar al-Sunna and Ansar el-Salafia are manipulating the Sufis.
The difficulty of one is married to Muslim has to become Muslim. Their reality is similar to the Sudan.  The country has a secular constitution, but the Ansar want to bring in the Shari`a. There are a small minority of moderate Muslims in the South.

Many refugees from Darfur went to Tchad. The government has taken part pro-Sudanese position. The Janjaweed’s situation in Tchad. The Arab Janjaweed tribe are Muslims and suffer a political tension with the Sudan – the government of Khartoum. This political tension brought about further military conflict from Tchad who allied themselves with the Sudanese government.. Al-Zakawa tribe of the president of Tchad was asked help from him in the Darfur fight. Politically the need to destabilise the situation of the Tchad to get petrol from Darfur and Tchad.
University of Faisal is an old centre for Islamic propagation, which.

By Fr. Vantini – presented by Fr. Luigi Cagnolini (Summary)
It is an Islamic country and has the Shari`a is the law.
Islam entered in the 7th sec. from Red sea others say from Egypt. These had not the intension to Islamise the Sudan. Even 8th sec. some Muslims settled. The Bega had some mix marriage with Muslim. The Mamaluk conquered Dongola the Christian dynasty collapsed with the Nuba kingdom.
The spread of Islam came with the Sufi through “holy men” of the various paths. In 1500 the kingdom Sinnar became Muslim. Historians tried to introduce this as the beginning of the history of the Sudan.
Al-Azhar University exclude the intercessors and saints from Islam Sufis. The Egyptian conquest brought Al-Azahar school wanted to correct the Sudanese Islam. Like all Sudanese the Muslims believed in the power of the spirits. In Sufis the spirits of these Masters of the Sufi paths play an important part in people’s prayers. They are like intermediaries between the man and God.
Al-Khalawa Qur`anic schools.
The Tariqa after the Wahabbia….the Mirgania like the Khadmia
Mahdisti, Sammania who studied at Madina M.Sharif Muh. Dymie whose son Muh. Ahmd al-Mahdi who fought against the British conquest and defeated Gordon.
The Mahdiyya is a strong political and religious party more Sudanese.
The Marghania is attached to Egypt.
The majority of the Islam is Sufi.
National Islamic Front (NIF) is an Islamic movement founded by al-Turabi.
In Sudan exists Muslim zealots with a complex superiority, they cannot stand equality between them and Southern Sudanese and Christianity. The African University in Sudan is a like Propaganda Fidei some Christians where given scholarships to study there.
Islam in the South is an Islam of conquest.
The Combonies how are they facing this reality?
How did the Coptic Church survive? What did the Combonies do to prepare people for African culture?
To be linked with Muslims who want a different type of Islam, than the present one.
Human right…

By Fr. Vantini (Original Text)
Per esattezza storica, alcuni individui, o anche gruppi islamici, entrarono nel Sudan sin dal primo secolo dell'Egira: cioè sec. VII: alcuni - si dice - dall' Arabia, attraverso il Mar Rosso, altri dall'Egitto, dopo il 640 AD. Ma questi non si possono chiamare "penetrazione islamica nel Sudan".
Anche nel sec. VIII e IX, alcuni Arabi o altri Musulmani d'Egitto si stabilirono nella valle del Niasud di Asswan, e comperarono terre. Sappiamo dalla Storia che il Re Giorgio I, di Dongola, trattando a Bagludad con it Califfo di Mu'tasiru, non riuscì a far sloggiare questi dalle terre accurate. Così pure, si sa dalla storia delle venuta di Arabi in terra Beja, in quello stesso periodo (850 AD), di Arabi in cerca di minerali. Ebbero contrasti con Beja, vi fecero dei musulmani , mediante matrimoni con Beja, ma non e' ancora una penetrazione massiccia.
Questo avvenne nel sec. XIII-XIV dopo le ripetute. sconfitte dei Nubiani da parte degli eserciti dei Mamelucchi d'Egitto, che portarono al crolla finale del regno cristiano - o meglio della dinastia cristiana, a Dongola (1325). Agli eserciti mamelucchi tennero dietro pastori Arabi nomadi, che i mamelucchi avevano allontanato dal Cairo a causa del loro modo di vita e turbolenze, e Ii confinarono nell' Alto Egitto.
Questi arrivano nella Nubia a ondate susseguenti e - come dice 1o storico Ibn Kaldum (+1418) - conquistarono la terra sopratutto mediante matrimoni con figlie di Nubiani, le quali, per tradizione matrilenea, ereditavano dai loro padri padroni della terra.
Ma anche questi insediamenti, con effetti politici ed economici, non si possono chiamare ancora "islamizzazione del Sudan", cioè delle tribù rivieresche e delle terre del Sudan centrale - fascia adatta alla pastorizia.
La valorizzazione vera e propria - con insegnamento del Carano e pratica di vita islamica - fu opera dei SUFI, cioè maestri islamici, ritenuti "santoni", aventi special i relazioni con Allah, che poi potevano comunicare anche ai loro seguaci mediante la "baraka", o "intercessione" del santone.
Questo movimento cominciò dopo la caduta di Dongola in mano ai sovrani musulmani (1330 in poi), e continuò sempre più intenso e più largo nei secoli XVI-XVII fino a coprire tutto l'attuale "Nord Sudan" - dove si spensero le lingue tribali e dominò l' Arabo.
Circa l' anno 1500 - dopo la caduta di Saba capitale del Regno di Alwa - si formò nell' alto Nilo Azzuro il Regno di Sennar, con sovrani islamici e maestri islamici. Basti
dire a questo proposito - che oggi i Musulmani Fondamentalisti del Sudan pretendono che la "vera storia" del Sudan comincia con il cosiddetto ":Sultanato Blu"; al sultana al zarqa (da intendere "blu" = nero), con il Regno FUNG, capitale Sennar.
All'estremo ovest del Sudan - DARFUR- l'Islam arrivò via West Africa, Algeria ­Tunisia - Libia, con maestri Sufi; nel sec. XVI e all'inizio del XVIII si formò il "Sultanato dei FUR, con dinastia locale, in mana alia tribu' africana dei FUR.
Prima di trattare dell'Islam sufico, che predomina nel Sudan, una parola sull'Islam "ortodosso". L'Università' EI Azhar viene riguardata come la custode e il faro dell'Islam Ortodosso, quello fondato sulla assoluta unità e unicità di Allah, che esclude ogni partecipazione o vicinanza di esseri creati, ad Allah - cioè, in altre parole, esclude gli intercessori e altre potenze che formano le caratteristiche dell' Islam sufico.
Nel Sudan, arrivarono ben presto maestri dell' Azhar, ma fu sopratutto durante il periodo di conquista egiziana - e più tardi sotto il Condominio, 1900-1950 - che El Azhar fece sforzi visibili per "correggere" certi modi di culto nella Valle del Nilo e anche più lantana. NB. Questo, a fianco della sempre presente politica dell'Egitto di "annettersi" o legarsi il Sudan, per i suoi interessi. Le scuole egiziane nel Sudan, compresa l'Università', si alternavano all’Islam insegnato da El Azhar.
Sennonché, i Sudanesi - di qualsiasi tribù o gruppo etnico, Centro-Est e Ovest - sana, come tutti gli Africani, piuttosto creduli nella potenza degli spiriti intermedi o di forze invisibili, sovrumane, sotto la direzione di Allah. Perno, i maestri islamici - sheick o feki - venuti, sopratutto da Arabia e d N- W, come uomini in cui appariva grande "pietà, culto di Dio; trovarono ascolto e attenzione come uomini dotati di relazioni speciali con Allah, e quindi la potenza di intercessione. E, in generale, non rifiutarono questa venerazione incentrata sulla loro persona.. .Essi furono chiamati WALI, che propriamente significa "vicinanza a Dio/Allah", e non propriamente "santità" nel senso cristiano di amicizia di Dio.
Il Sufismo, o Misticismo islamico - come dottrina che si affianca, o interferisce, con l'Islam coranico - ebbe la sua storia, con alti e bassi. Nel Sud l'Islam dei SUFI venne in un periodo di decadenza del Sufismo. Alcuni grandi maestri o mistici diffusero la loro dottrina e trovarono ampio favore. Quando si formò il Regno di Sennar, con sovrani islamici, alcuni Sheikh della Mecca vennero a Sennar e insegnarono l'Islam come 1o praticavano loro, e non mancò loro la venerazione del popolino, che era solo nominalmente Musulmano. Essi portarono nel Sudan Ie prime scuole "Khalwa", dove tutto l'insegnamento era il Carano, ma l'animismo fondamentale e le superstizioni ben radicate non furono eliminate dalla pura dottrina del Tawhid.
Ancora una parala di storia sulle TARIQE introdotte nell'Islam: le più antiche - tra il 1200 e ] 400 - (Qadirryya, Shadhiliyya, Idrissiyya) furono introdotte da sheikh venuti da fuori. Invece in seguito ai rivolgimenti politici del sec. XIX (Napoleone, Colonialismo su terre islamiche, reazione Wahhabita) nacquero altre Tariqe, iniziate da Sudanesi - oppure fiorite principalmente nel Sudan. Tali furono la Mivahamiyya, la Samaniyya, e la Madiyya , Ie quali si contendono ancor oggi la maggior parte del popolo del Nord.
La Mirghaniyya, fu fondata da Syed Moh. Osman el Mirghani, venne nel Sudan come KHATMIYA ... ebbe il favore del Governo turco egiziano, e, durante la Rivoluzione del Mahdi - 1881-1898 - il suo Khalifa, Ali el Mirghani, trovò protezione in Egitto! Ragion per cui i suoi adepti sana tutti, politicamente, filo-egiziani ancor oggi.
La Samaniyya, venne introdotta da un sudanese Ahmed el Tayeb el Bashir, che studio o a Medina, nei primi anni del 1800. II più famoso sheik o Khalifa, di questa tariqa nel Sudan fu un certo MOH SHARIF NURD-DAIM, che ebbe seguaci soprattutto nella Gezira. Un suo discepolo fu quel Moh. Ahmed, che poi si staccò e si proclamo o EL­MAHDI (1880). II Mahdi si ritirò nell'isola di Aba (dove la sua famiglia fabbricava barche). Cominciò la sua dottrina escatologica come ultimo profeta, predico o contro il laicismo del Governo turco-egiziano, e trovò ascolto tra gli oppressi, particolarmente contadini e mercanti di schiavi, ai quali Gordon aveva strappato l'interesse abolendo la schiavitù. Moh. Ahmed si proclamò Mahdi, profeta escatologico dell' Islam, che doveva conquistare il mondo all'Islam ed instaurare la giustizia. Le sue prime (5) vittorie sull' esercito del Governo gli conquistarono più credibilità e favore che non la dottrina escatologica; il suo movimento, con l'occupazione di Khartoum, 26 gennaio 1885, mise fine al dominio turco-egiziano nel Sudan. II Mahdi morì poco dopo, giugno 1885; il suo Khalifa fu debellato e ucciso dall' esercito anglo-egiziano. Ma la Mahdiya, come movimento, oggi più politico che religioso, sopravvive fiorente nel Sudan, con un partito che, come forza, eguaglia quello opposto, del Mirghani, e secondo le elezioni politiche, ciascuno ha un 1/0 di circa 40 dei voti in Parlamento.
Le varie Tariqe nel Sudan non contengono diversità in materia teologica - tranne la Mahdiya che si stacca sulla dottrina Sunnita. Le differenze tra le varie Tariqe, grandi e pecore, sana piuttosto sulla maniera dell'iniziazione (fwulrendato), negli atti di culto e nella particolare venerazione per il fondatore, cui attribuiscono tali o tali "miracoli".
Perciò non sembra necessaria esporre qui le differenze fra questa o quella tariqa, e neppure le zone in cui e' particolarmente diffusa. Oggi anche la Mahdiya - così suppongo - ha perduto molto o tutto del suo credo originale, cioè il Mahdi-Profeta escatologico - conquistatore del mondo all'Islam - restauratore della Giustizia ed Eguaglianza. Oggi la Mahdiya si esprime sopratutto nel Movimento politico del partito UMMA, (fondato da AlRahman al Mahdi, anni 1930). Come tale, la sua caratteristica – o una delle caratteristiche principali - e' I'opposizione all' Egitto, indipendenza. Altra caratteristica la brama del Mahdi di prendere la guida politica del Sudan (= o Presidente o equivalente). Comunque, quanta a zero islamico, non ha rinunciato a propagarsi nel Sudan (e come religione e come politica). NB. Basta leggere con attenzione i discorsi di Sadiq el Mahdi in questi tempi: e.g., il suo nuovo libra, pubblicato a puntate su A YAM; in sostanza: "occorre trovare o arrivare a un nuovo Islam come riferimento politico, morale, etc".).
Quanto alla Mirghaniya, e' praticamente di credo sunnita, azhariano, più la indiscutibile venerazione per il Mirghani suo fondatore e suoi discendenti (NB sempre in contrasto con le ambizioni del Mahdi e sempre pro-Egitto).
Invece, l'altro gran de e nuovo movimento islamico e' quello iniziato da TURABI - in passato professore di Diritto Costituzionale nell’Università' KTM, dove si attornio o di discepoli ... Turabi parti' dal Movomento Fratelli Musulmani, ma poi (1960) si separò gradualmente, pensando di diventare un grande Riformatore Islamico - tipo AI-Afghani. NB. Basti pensare ai suoi viaggi in Iran, Pakistan, ecc. Dove erano ci sana ancora famosi Riformatori.
II suo Islam é sunnita; il suo movimento si stacca dalle caratteristiche dei sufi. Egli ­ come ho potuto leggere in giornali qualche anno fa - pensa e dice che ormai e' venuto il tempo dell'Islam che deve soppiantare tutte le altre culture (=religioni). Disse e scrisse che "ormai l'Europa sta scristianizzandosi e perciò sarà conquistata dall'Islam" ... e così via dicendo ...
Ebbe i suoi hay-days dopo il 1970, rovesciò Nimeiri, fece firmare la Sharia (1983), poi il NIF, poi i suoi seguaci (Ali Osman M.Taha) in Parlamento ecc. Ecc., fece la Costituzione "islamica" del 1998, ma poi cadde in disgrazia con Bashir, per scontro di vedute, i.e., ambizioni ... fino alla prigione.
II Movimento Islamico (nome attuale) di Turabi si. é incrinato, tra pro e contro e con Turabi, pro e con National Congress. (La fazione turabiana si chiamò Popular Congress). Quale sarà il suo avvenire? Difficile ed inutile pronosticare!
Invece, a parte dei Movimenti e Partiti sopra accennati, conviene precisare che nel Sudan esiste una fascia, abbastanza vasta di Zeloti dell'Islam, ai quali preme come primo obiettivo, guadagnare all'Islam il Sud Sudan. Nella loro mentalità o complesso di superiorità (razziale, culturale, economica ecc..) non riescono a tollerare che i Neri (gli africani) stiano alla pari con loro, in tutto, e che in un Sudan dove "loro" sono la maggioranza (etnico, culturale, religiosa) possa coesistere una frazione della nazione (1/3) che sia di religione cristiana.
Vi sana quindi movimenti, "missionari islamici" nel Sudan, sotto vari nomi (Ansar el Sunna ...) e anche senza nome specifico. Questi guardano - in politica - soltanto ad impedire la propagazione del Cristianesimo. Da ricordare che a KTM, la lega araba ha fatto la "African University" - cioè una versione islamica di Propaganda Fide, principalmente per l'Africa.

Presented by Br. Alberto Lamanna
Prepared by Fr. Luciano
The history of Islam in the South has not been written because there have been the troubles of civil war in the past 150 years. Restriction by the Northeners seen as ‘Jallaba’, slave traders, recall strong memories of slavery these wounds are still alive. The expulsion of the missionaries 1960, after the peace agreement of Ali Sababa many became Muslims. The hardships inflicted on the Southern Sudanese did not encourage Sudanese to embrace Muslims. There are rejections of anything coming from the North.
Islam is seen as the religion of the enemy which has kept the people of the Southern Sudan under a long period of oppression. This has hardened so much the Sudanese against.
There is an Islamic NGO that is attempting to proselytise in South. The effects of their presence might have effect in time. Past wounds between Christians and Muslims will be very difficult to heal. Islam’s polygamy and simple article of faith is very easy and more attractive than Christianity. Being a Christian in the South is motivated by the desire to be against Islam. Christianity has contributed greatly to a healing process which is still in its early stages.


Historical clip
Muhammad sent his followers in the Axumite kingdom where there was no persecution was the first phase. The Muslims there practiced their religion some intermarriage.
Second phase this time Muslims came to Islamise. They came in three from Shafi`I from Yemmen, south east  the second group are the Maliki, the converted the tribes of the West. Nara was completely Islamised and Hanafi group introduced by the Ottoman who Islamised the Tigre. Islam is different regional and tribal. When the Italians came in the 19th centr. Eritrea was defined as a country had a population 60% Muslims. The Italians saw the Muslims and became friendly with the Muslims building infra-structures which helped the contact between various Muslims. The Italian government helped the Chiefs to administer the schools and taxasion. The British came after the end of the war also supported Muslims. The British wanted to divide Eritrea to have a Muslim part with Sudan and Christian part with Ethiopia. They faced resistance to this division. Then they tried to unite again which they achieved in 1990. he population of the Eritreans some went to Sudan or Ethiopia or Saudia. The Catholics 3% Protestants2%  and 50% Orthodox.
Christians and Muslim relationship.
Their common struggle for independence made them leave out religion. Religion was abolished in schools to avoid any fights. The Muslims and Christians live in parallel lives, separated. There are some Muslims who are not happy with the government to rebuild the North. Some fundamentalists are not televised or publicised. The Church and Comboni Missionaries say nothing about dialogue even dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox. West and North seem to be the place of militancy.
Do Muslims have any organisation?
They have a head a Mufti and are organised the Belengs. They were helped before. The supreme Islamic Council. English, Tigrenia and Arabic are the official languages.



Historical Moments: --

---The First Hijra around 618 AD to Axum, Ethiopia

----7th to 12th Century, The slow expansion of Islam and the foundation of the Islamic  Sultanates of East and Central Ethiopia.
--- Christian Renaissance and the conflict with Islam 1150-1529 AD
---- Islamo-Christian Conflict 1529-1543 AD
------ 17th-19th Century a slow expansion
---- 1855-1916 Tewodros II, Yohannes IV, Menelik II, Iyasu
-----The Italian Invasion and the Moslem politics
---- during the reign of Emperor Haile Selasie and  the Marxist government of Mengistu
---- Contemporary Islam in Ethiopia; expansion, trade, politics, mass media, publications, international relations, national commitments

Various Faces of Islam

Socio-Political Situation

---- City and Country side Islam
---- Majority and Minority situation in the various parts of Ethiopia
---- Ethnic tensions and religious alliances  
----- Islamic Fundamentalism???
--- international solidarity with Moslems in the world and Ethiopian government politics

Religious Situation

----- The Various Sufi Fraternities and Islamic Mysticism
---- Devotions and Wahabism from  Arabia, trained, “ Catechists”
--- Official teachings and pilgrimage to tombs of “Saints”
---- Christian Challenged or Influenced Islam?
---- Missionary activities of Islam

Historical steps the war of the elephants the Axum invaded 618 AD coinciding with the birth of Muhammad. Letters of Muhammad in the Axumite period.
7th – 12th Cent. Islamic Sultans in the central and Southern part of.
12th Cent. Christian Renanse. That era of Islamic invasions with Ottoman’s helped the Mulslims in invading and destroying churches…
1543 the Portugese won the war.
19th cent. King Yohannes a fanatic Christians all the Muslims kings became Christian kings.
The King Yohannes was killed at the time of the Mahdiyya of Sudan.
Muslims was with the Muslims. Fascist Italy Mangisty
Islam in the city the people are well instructed in their faith unlike the country Muslims.
Axum does not have any Muslim cemetery.
Wahabbisms want to purify Islam in Ethiopia.
Islamic propaganda spreads through numerous Islamic publications with also the use of electronic propaganda through the internet. There has been an invasion of the mass media on Islam.
Economically they have the monopoly of the countries finance.
Christians of various denominations are not united against Islam.
The Orthodox they are the majority so Islam does not worry them.
Sometimes the Orthodox prefers Muslims than Catholics.
Islam is growing. There are groups of the Itihaad who infiltrated many villages they seem to have the same style of al-Qaida.

Christian-Muslim dialogue in Contemporary Ethiopia?

Christianity and Islam have co-existed in Ethiopia for the last 1400 years. History tells us that in Islamo-Christian relationship there were moments of tension and conflict as well as moments of collaboration and solidarity. God of history has wonted us to be co-citizens of the same country. Our children grow together and we live as neighbours. Our country Ethiopia is fighting against poverty, AIDS, famine, corruption and mal governance. Both Muslims and Christians have to build together this nation and work for peace and justice.

Do we need to dialogue?  “ In fact, no one can fail to see the importance and the need which inter-religious dialogue assumes for all religions and all believers, called today more than ever to collaborate so that every person can reach his transcendent goal and realize his authentic growth. …Dialogue is fundamental for the Church, which is called to collaborate in God’s plan with its methods of presence, respect and love towards all persons (cf. Ad Gentes, 10-12; Ecclesiam Suam, 41-42; Redemptor Hominis, 11-12). For the Church, dialogue is based on the very life of God, one and triune. God is the Father of the entire human family; Christ has joined every person to himself (Redemptor Hominis 13); the Spirit works in each individual: therefore dialogue is also based on love for the human person as such, who is the primary and fundamental way of the Church (Redemptor Hominis, 14) and the bond existing between cultures and the religions people profess.” (Pope John Paul II on 23-3-1984)

Do you know the contemporary situation of Islam in Ethiopia? Some analysis…

  • Islam in Ethiopia, 40% of the Population is Muslim (26 Million)???

  • It is expanding quickly: - construction of mosques, learning centres

 And human development projects

  • Muslims are engaged more than any time in the economical life of the country (trade)

  • Muslims are creatively present in politics, mass media, publications, international relation activities, national commitments

  •  Among Ethiopian Muslims there are differences and tensions between the “orthodox” Muslims of Wahabi formation and the common Muslims of popular devotions in cities and especially in the countryside.

  •  The attitude of Ethiopian Muslims towards Christians differ from one part of the country to the other one (majority or minority situation)

  •  Both Reformist  Muslims of Wahabism and Sufi leaders of popular devotions and mysticism are engaged in mission activities inside the country.

  •  There is a lot of International Islamic Solidarity which helps Ethiopian Muslims who are suffering under poverty and destitution

  •   Ethnic and Political tensions at times are influencing the already difficult relationship between Islam and Christianity.

  • There are increasing number of mixed marriages between Christians and Muslims.

Steps for Inter-religious dialogue

  1. Let us deeply know our Religion and practice our faith with conviction. We are and remain Christians. We are happy and proud to be believe in Jesus Christ.

  2. We Christians in obedience to the command of the Gospel we have the mission of giving witness to our faith in Jesus through our life and words.

  3. It is important for us Christians to know and understand that God embraces all human beings and he is in love with all men and women and he wants to save them. (1Tim. 2:4-7)

  4. Let us first of all work for good relationships among us Christians of various denominations; Orthodox, Catholic, Mekane Yesus and Evangelical Christian Communities. Do we know each other? Do we respect each other? It the wish of our Lord Jesus Christ (Jn 17).

  5. Let us know and respect our Muslim sisters and brothers. It is indispensable to know what they believe and practice. It is very important for our understanding of today to have sufficient knowledge of the historical past. There cannot be understanding, reconciliation and healing if really we don’t know the past.

  6. Let us interest our selves to have a clear picture of the Contemporary Islam in Ethiopia as country but also East Africa as region and the whole world at large. (Reading, listening to mass media, attending meetings etc.

  7. Let us meet and interact with our Muslim neighbours in our schools, clinics, market place, shops etc. It is good that we let them know who we are, our religion and our visions for a better world.

  8. Let us have dialogue of life at personal and family level; funerals, marriage, etc…

  9. Let us engage our selves all together to resolve the many problems of our society

Islam enter Egypt since 639, when Amr ibn el-As defeated the Byzantine troops and invaded the country. At first the Arabs were welcomed as liberators, due to the long standing enmity between the occupying Byzantines and the Copts. No one was aware of the deep change these events were going to introduce.
The taxation policy adopted by the Arab rulers, the Islamic family law, and the tendency to assume customs and religion if the ruling class, caused a slow erosion of the Christian community, which continues up to today.
However, Christians remained the majority until the X Centuries, when the two-century Fatimide rule over Egypt, reduced considerably the number of Christiana, often through open and violent persecution.
Nowadays, the Christians represent about the 8-10% of the total population.
In Egypt there live over 60 millions Muslim. They represent the largest Arabic speaking Muslem community.
Egypt is also the homeland of the most ancient University in the Islamic World (and maybe in the whole world): al-Azhar, where thousand of Egyptian and non-Egyptian young Muslims have their education. It is one of the largest Islam-propagating centers in the world.
The "Muslim Brothers" were founded in 1928: since then, the members of this and other Islamic Associations have carried out a gradual and effective penetration in all the professions that shape the Egyptian Society: judges, doctors, teachers and professors. They are also characterized by a strong social engagement, which draws to them the support of large parts of the society.
Recent decades have been characterized by different political trends. Gamal abd-el-Nasser promoted "pan-arabism". Arabic patriotism was encouraged, playing down religious differences. Christians felt real citizens in their own country. Sadat, on the contrary, relied heavily on the Islamic movements, giving the society a more clear religious connotation. Christians felt at the margin of society. Sadat himself was killed members of an Islamic movement.
Mubarak seems to be more balanced and vividly concerned with keeping Islamic movements and the Islamization of society under control.


The Comboni Missionaries were called to work in Mozambique about sixty years ago as they were supposed to be experts on Islam, by Cardinal of the Capital of Mozambique when on his way to Rome, stopped in Khartoum. But once on the spot, the Comboni Missionaries preferred to work among pagans, which was more gratifying.
It was only few years ago that it was raised a true interest for the work towards non-Catholics as well as the Muslims. The diocesan commission for inter-religious dialogue, guided by Fr. M. Robol from Nacala Port Diocese, stepped up the process through frequent contacts with Islamic leaders as well as with information-courses on Islam at Anchilo Catequist centre in Nampula and Nazare` centre in Beira. The content of these courses, written on little pamphlets, is available in Portuguese. Actually it gives the answers to the questions proposed by this meeting in Cairo October 2005.
I try to resume all the stuff. The statistics and the information are up to date and the knowledge of the subject made no progress since then, among us who took over the job of that commission.
Numbers show that the Islamic percentage of the population is the same as that of Christians. The impact on the civil society is actually different. As a matter of fact the colonisation created ties and mentality more related to the western world. The process of peace after civil war was in the hands of the Catholic Church. The economic recovery and the democratic political trends are dependent on western aids and mentality. The Christians take advantage of all that, but the Catholics seem more worried of getting back their properties. It is looked upon as a matter of justice. Beside that pastorally, they are more exigent with the catechumens and this slows down the growth I numbers of Catholics.
The protestant sects have not these problems and have a quickly spread everywhere. Muslims increase in their number and have an impact on civil society through commerce and through politics (by founding PIMO which can be read independent party as well as Islamic party). They construct their Mosques along the main roads, trading centres and big towns. Helped generously by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, they also constructed a Medical centre, schools and wells. Newly come Missionaries from Sudan and Arab countries generated a sort of antagonism between the old fashion Islamic community and the new ones more tied to the sharia and Islamic orthodoxy.
With Christian they had up to now no direct opposition and contrast. Only few conversions we had from traditionally Islamic individuals due to the tolerance and scarce religious education of most of them. From the side of Christians we noticed the moral pressure that women have undergo when they marry a Muslim husband, in many cases they become Muslim. The same pressure is also experienced by workers from their Muslim employers. The African Muslim Agency spread also of propaganda books and Muslim “catechisms”. Qur`anic schools and secondary schools with Arab and Islamic teaching spread everywhere in the big towns, letting Islamic culture be known more and more. Most of economy is in the hands of Islamic Asians and this is strengthening proselytising among the poor.

For the history of Islam in Mozambique – see Fr. M. Robol’s article ‘Report 2003: Christian-Muslim Relations in Mozambique’


Islam entered Central Africa around the 19th century (1870) through the commercial routs, where Muslim merchants arrived from near by countries from the North and the West (like Tchad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Sudan). The creation of routes of travel, between 1900 and 1958 for the needs of French colonies favoured the massive population of Muslims from the North to travel to the South.
Islam through commerce
Muslim merchants who practiced their religion in private, then in small or at times large groups (ethnic or family groups as well). Then these groups then formed a mosque.
The merchants enter Foulbé from Cameroon, the Bornouan and the Salamat came from Tchad and the Haoussa from Nigeria and they all drawled in because of the commerce of ivory, of rubber, of slave trade and of Cola. From the Colonial documentation in 1935 it shows that the presence of the Haoussa and Foulbé already existed at high Sangha (North-West of Central Africa). Their arrival was before the French colonies.

Islam through Immigration
Ethnic groups that were already Muslim immigrated to Central Africa . Foulbé  and Mbororo are in Berberati Carnot 46%  Djafoun, Wodabe and Akou are in Bouar-baboua and Bocaranga 12%  Haossan in 5th Arrdmt P.K. 5 from Bangui 8% Salamat, Ouaadaii Baguirmi and Botnou in the urban areas of Malimaka (Bangui) Miskine P.K. 5 Ngaragba 27%.

Old converted Muslims and the New ones
There is a distinction to be made between two types of Muslims: The old Muslims are considered imperfect Muslims due to their lack of knowledge of classical Arabic that gives access to both the reading of the Qur’an and Hadith. The newly “converted” Muslims who cannot live in Dar as-salam (the house of peace) but Dar al-Harb (the house of war) which fed the markets with slaves to be traded. This creates an unrest among the people of Central Africa of those of the Old converts and those of the New.

(See Richard FILAKOTA, l’Islam en Centrafrique, Vol. I, Bagui 2004).