In Conflict-Torn Africa, Senegal Shows A Way To Religious Harmony

Inter-religious tensions have been in the headlines in parts of Africa lately. Christian-Muslim clashes have left many dead in places like Nigeria and Central African Republic. But there are also examples of peaceful inter-religious co-existence in Africa, such as Senegal.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Tension and deadly conflict between Muslims and Christians in parts of Africa continue to make the headlines as 2013 ends. Hundreds of people have been killed in religious clashes in the Central African Republic and in Nigeria. But as NPR's Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports from Dakar, there are also examples of coexistence and religious harmony on the continent. Take, for instance, Senegal.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: The melodious voice of Saida Binta Thiam rises and falls as she delights the audience at the Grand Theatre in Dakar. The young religious singer is Muslim. She's sharing the stage with the choir from the Roman Catholic parish of St. Theresa's Grand Dakar for the recital they're calling "The Dialogue of Religions."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

QUIST-ARCTON: Senegal is a majority Muslim country, but the Senegalese observe all Christian holy days as well as Islamic holy dates on the calendar in a show of solidarity, tolerance and togetherness. Audience member, Amelie Regine Tendeng Diatta says she's overcome by the symbolism of the event.

AMELIE REGINE TENDENG DIATTA: Senegalese people are all the same. Yes, we are all one. And we can see in one family, you can have Muslims and Christians in the same family.

QUIST-ARCTON: While the Senegalese are enjoying an evening of inter-religious musical harmony in Dakar, civilians from both Muslim and Christian communities are dying in the Central African Republic, caught in the crossfire between rival militias. One faction supports the former rebel Muslim-led government, the other says it's protecting the beleaguered country's Christians.

In Senegal, the leader of St. Theresa's choir, Edouard Diegane Sene has this message for the warring factions: Dialogue, peace and true leadership.

EDOUARD DIEGANE SENE: (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: Sene explains that the Senegalese talk through their problems. He says Senegal's example of religious harmony is one that African countries in conflict, such as Nigeria and CAR, can learn from.

SAIDA BINTA THIAM: (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: Saida Binta Thiam, the Muslim religious singer speaking in a local language Wolof. She says she and the Christian choir are showing Africa and the world that solidarity and respect for others are very much a part of Senegalese life. And she hopes that message of unity will spread. Denwenati, say the Senegalese performers, with best wishes for a peaceful and harmonious new year. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar.

WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: