Closing Remarks by Secretary-General of the Mohammed VI Foundation of African Oulema

Closing Remarks by Secretary-General of the Mohammed VI Foundation of African Oulema

Dr. Sidi Mohamed Rifki, Secretary General of the Mohammed VI Foundation of African Oulema
Dr. Sidi Mohamed Rifki, Secretary General of the Mohammed VI Foundation of African Oulema

This address was delivered at the closing of the International Symposium on Inter-religious Dialogue organized by the Higher Council of Imams, Mosques and Islamic Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire (COSIM) and the Mohammed VI Foundation of African Oulema under the theme “The Eternal Message of Religions” on February 23, 24 and 25, 2022 in Abidjan

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I should like, first of all, to express my thanks, on behalf of the Mohammed VI Foundation of African Oulema, to :

Cheick Aima Ousmane DIAKITE, President of the Higher Council of Imams, Mosques and Islamic Affairs (COSIM), Guide of the Ivorian Muslims;

Cheick Moustapha SONTA, President of the Ivorian section of the Mohammed VI Foundation of African Oulema;

– The official and local Ivorian authorities;

– The Muslim and Christian religious authorities;

– The members of the Higher Council of Imams, Mosques and Islamic Affairs (COSIM);

– The Presidents and members of the sections of the Mohammed VI Foundation of African Oulema;

– The members of the Ivorian section of the Mohammed VI Foundation of African Oulema;

– The members of the Scientific Committee in charge of supervising the Symposium;

– The session moderators, the participants and the speakers,

They have all come to us from a variety of backgrounds and thanks to them this Symposium has been a success.

They have made it possible for us to have very rich, open and interesting discussions, even heated debates at times.

Today, Ladies and Gentlemen, we stand in need, more than ever, for wise words that nourish our collective inner self.

The participation of high-level speakers, with great expertise in the field, has certainly made it possible for us to reach the necessary conclusions. The latter have proved to be extremely useful in terms of the impetus that had to be given to the Symposium.

All of us have felt the need to make the Divine element a transcending reality for our African societies – a source of Wisdom that makes Man the very center of that reality.

Let us always remember that each African individual – whatever his or her beliefs – is unique, distinctly so, and not interchangeable.

Without a heart that sympathizes with others, one cannot be human.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The discussions and the exchanges with the audience were both necessary and interesting. They attest to the path we have come along together, but also the road that still remains to be traveled.

A road ahead that still needs to be blazed, because Social Peace in Africa, Ladies and Gentlemen, is simply incompatible with the feeling of fear.

A society closed in on itself, with fear, anxiety and uncertainty as its companions, simply has no future.

Let us keep in mind that we can also be sick because of our own culture, when the latter becomes synonymous with fear and anxiety.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have sensed in all participants, Muslims and Christians alike, a genuine willingness to face the challenges ahead together. We have realized in common that it is not possible to move forward, while each one of us is stuck in an unchanging position.

Without the Other, without genuine closeness to one another, the Gifts of the Heavens, Ladies and Gentlemen, simply cannot be showered upon us.

Conversely, living in perfect symbiosis – in diversity – and respecting the faith of others, is in itself an educational process, because for the believer, any Human Being is always a heavenly gift and a spiritual delight.

Hope as a virtue, Ladies and Gentlemen, hope that unites the hearts, even when they happen to be torn apart, cannot disappoint us; it is our common destiny.

In life, needless to say, there are dark moments, tinged with despair. However, let us not forget that it is in the midst of calamities that we must reach for Divine Signs, which can become key elements for a genuine reconstruction.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is befitting to commend the high quality of the presentations made. They have allowed us to clearly define the framework of our proceedings, and have given rise to fruitful exchanges. The participation of experts in the field, coming from a wide range of backgrounds, has made it possible to forge pathways for the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We should congratulate ourselves on the fact that our Symposium has enabled us to focus on a set of priorities, based on the relevant and efficient recommendations that have emerged from discussing the Symposium’s themes.

All the parties taking part in the Symposium – Muslim and Christian alike – were keen to immortalize their common actions in the form of a Declaration: the Abidjan Declaration. This is an exciting, ambitious program, full of hope, for Côte d’Ivoire and all of Africa.

The participants, signatories to that Declaration, have solemnly pledged to ensure that dialogue conducive to living together among the believers in all religions shall be established in a lasting manner, in keeping with the law and with all religious beliefs and practices, as well as with freedom of worship and conscience.

That Declaration – Ladies and Gentlemen – reaffirms essential truths which should help shape the Future of our African societies.

There is, first of all, the family, which must play its role in full and shoulder its responsibility in the moral and religious upbringing of children. That upbringing should give the child a chance to grow up in a balanced way, without prejudice, turning his or her own life and the relationship with the Other into a song of love. Indeed, to grow up means to do so amid harmonious human relationships.

Secondly, there is the school, which helps the human component blossom in the pupil: through his or her heart, reason, thought, love for his or her country and the full meaning to be given to that which is sacred.

Indeed, being responsible for one’s own life means feeling responsible for that of other human beings as well. Thus, education for peace and the fight against all forms of exclusion should be reflected in all educational and training programs. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a fact that a person’s anchoring in his or her own African culture, beliefs and society must always be accompanied by an openness towards others. In society, religion should lead to genuine acts of Redemption, which stem from the beauty of the soul and the compassion each believer can show towards the Other.

By the Grace of the Almighty, these true acts of Redemption have taken the form of a collective commitment by all our partners, and we are very pleased with this.

Building a solidarity system based on peace, global cooperation and respect for the diversity of cultures, languages and faiths is, in itself, a great accomplishment.

Our fruitful discussions have enabled us to revisit our African cultures and traditions – which offer guiding models – in order to derive from them the values of tolerance, coexistence and participation.

This is an absolute necessity as far as inter-religious dialogue is concerned. That dialogue should take place in a relaxed, serene framework established by all the stakeholders concerned, Muslims as well as Christians.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Symposium’s conclusions have highlighted the loftiness and the privilege surrounding the mission of providing religious training, for those in charge of carrying out that mission.

Perpetuating religious practices, preserving people’s spiritual specificity and disseminating the values of tolerance, based on the principles of moderation and the golden mean, will surely strengthen unity and solidarity within African societies.

Convinced of the important role played by religious leaders in supervising the citizens’ religious life, and of the need to expand their knowledge in this regard, to enrich their religious expertise and to improve their performance in carrying out their duties, it has become virtually imperative to envisage, together, training modules based on excellence.

Thus, it is necessary to make sure we have a comprehensive, coherent vision for the various training courses needed in order to guarantee the transmission and scientific teaching of religious knowledge, which helps disseminate the ideals of tolerance and coexistence. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We live in the age of the media and of digital and social networks. Their influence, which is growing by the day, no longer needs to be demonstrated, particularly the impact of the Net on the education and the future of young people.

That being said, a minimum consensus on audiovisual programs must be reached by all religious stakeholders concerning common priorities.

Creating a platform or an observatory for inter-religious dialogue, for example, where young people believing in different faiths get together and exchange views, would be one of the solutions to be considered.

A main objective is to set up a common, comprehensive digital communication strategy and guidelines on the various digital platforms with a strong interactive potential, especially with regard to social networks and online media.

Religions, Ladies and Gentlemen, should adapt more effectively to technological and digital changes, which are here to stay.

Digital cooperation should be built around at least three axes: prevention, protection, and the sustainability of joint actions.

In our case, moderate, middle-of-the-road Islam in Africa is the primary message that the Mohammed VI Foundation of African Oulema seeks to disseminate on the African continent.

With that in mind, it has decided to exert further efforts to ensure and manage an online presence, especially in web-based networks and social media, where online platforms offer viral content, through which the Foundation intends to showcase an Islam based on peace and tolerance.

African Oulema should be staunch advocates of this enlightened Islam in Africa.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before concluding, it is befitting to salute the kind interest taken by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, may God assist him, President of the Mohammed VI Foundation of African Oulema, Commander of the Faithful, and his brother, His Excellency President Alassane Ouattara, in the issues discussed by the participants.

The two eminent Heads of State have always shown a great resolve to promote the values of peace and progress in a multicultural Africa, which is characterized by “Spiritual Peace” – the peace and serenity that fill the hearts of Africans.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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