I participated in an international conference, “Peace among People: Inter- religious Action for Peace and Inclusive Communities”, held at the Protestant Conference Centre Wuppertal, Germany, from 13th to 16th July 2017. Over eighty delegates from different religious communities (Christians, Muslims, Bhudhists, Jews and Hindus) came from Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, Philippines, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo and Germany.
What impressed me the most was the excursion by all the delegates to the Jewish Synagogue, the Central Mosque and the Catholic Church in Duisburg.
All the participants entered the Synagogue, the Mosque and the Church together, being warmly welcomed and given some explanations about each place of worship. Participants respected the tradition of each place of worship (such as removing caps or shoes when entering the Church or Mosque). Fr. Oliver, the priest in charge of St. Peter’s Catholic Church (Petershof) in Duisburg-Marxloh told us the story of how the Muslim community in Duisburg went in a delegation to the Bishop to appeal to him not to close the Catholic Parish Church as he had proposed to do so due to some pastoral challenges. The Bishop hearkened to the request and the parish church remains open today and is very active in spiritual, pastoral, social and inter-religious issues. Equally, the Muslims at the Central Mosque told us how the Muslims and Christians came together to plan the building of the Merkez-Mosque in Marxloh along with an educational and encounter centre.
I witnessed and experienced the strong impulse among the Christians, Muslims and Jews to work together in fighting religious extremism, racism and exclusion. I was also impressed and edified that there is the practice in Germany of people (especially young people) making regular educational exchange visits to places of worship: Muslims to Churches, Christians to Mosques, etc.
At the end of our conference, all the participants had a walk (a peace march) through the city of Wuppertal. This sent a good and strong interreligious signal about overcoming religious prejudices, lowering barriers and narrowing boundaries.
The more I participate in these inter-religious events, whether at national or international levels, the more my own Christian (Catholic) identity and convictions are further sharpened, while at the same time I remain sincerely open and respectful of the religions of other people who worship differently from the way I worship God.