Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk with the secretary
general of the local Ev. Alliance in Mali about the peace engagement of the Evangelical Christians in
Mali. He had been a teacher for a long time and then completed a theological training after having turned to the Christian faith.
We have known each other for a while. The growing trust enabled an open, interesting and informative conversation. The Christians here are not hiding, even if they are in the minority. The Ev. Allianz of Mali is represented in platforms where inter-religious dialogue is cultivated, as well as engaged in mediation processes to accompany the implementation of peace agreements, or denounce the crackdown on justice against Christians. The cooperation refers to commissions initiated by the state, but also to independent civilian platforms.
The interreligious dialogue is not about watering down one's own positions. Rather, these are discussion forums in which moderate Muslims, who by the way are still in the majority in Mali, engage in conversations with Catholics and Protestants on social issues and cultivate a culture of dialogue that encourages the exchange of different positions, but also doesn’t shrink back from a controversial debate. This serves to sharpen the understanding for each other and to prevent conflicts. It also refers to positions that oppose the radical Muslim currents in the country. The present conflict is not based on inter-religious controversies between Christians and Muslims, but has its roots in intra-denominational conflicts within the Muslim community in Mali, where radical and moderate positions are at stake. These are exacerbated by ethnic conflicts and political ambitions.
My interlocutor often travels in the country, even in crisis areas. He travels to places where Christians are suffering the threat of radical Islamist currents and where people have been victims of Islamist violence. He passes on his observations to government agencies and international bodies and does not avoid criticism of the state where appropriate. I wanted to know why it happens that more and more young people in the centre of Mali get caught up in the radical Islamists? His answer was obvious. The state administration sucks people out. Taxes are blackmailed. Corruption is the order of the day. The officials become rich this way but the population remains impoverished. This creates displeasure and drives the youth into the arms of the radicals, who promise that only an Islamic state and the Sharia can remedy the situation. The Islamist past has also played a role since the 19th century, when an Islamic empire existed in the Mopti region, which is to be revitalized. I was amazed how versatile and concrete the Ev. Allianz of Mali is engaged in peace politics.
We shared ideas about how FATMES, as a theological educational institution, can support the peace and reconciliation process - for example through conferences with country leaders and security agencies, seminars to raise awareness of youth, the development of a crisis prevention education programme that serves both, crisis prevention and helps the youth to understand the emergence of crises in their context and to counter them with the help of Christian values.