Serving God's People in Africa since 1868

Christian-Muslim Dialogue


Journey of the Missionaries of Africa with Muslims

 

The foundation of the Society of Missionaries of Africa is “naturally” linked to the Muslims and the Islamic religion for two major reasons: Firstly, the encounter and dialogue of our Founder Cardinal Lavigerie with the Muslims in Lebanon-Syria and in North Africa; and secondly, the birth and growth of this Society in the Arab-Islamic milieu of Algeria and Tunisia.

christian-muslim DialogueCardinal Lavigerie with Muslims
The first encounter with the Muslims in Lebanon
-Syria (1860) did not only humanly affect Cardinal Lavigerie for the rest of his life; it also re-oriented his Christian-priestly vocation. While in Algeria twenty-five years later, he talked about this experience saying, “It was there that I found my true vocation”, and then relating it to his stay and work in North Africa in particular and in Africa in general, he said, “…so when I came to you….I was only following where I had been led since my youth. I was responding to the call of God.”

This call of God received on the road to Damascus as Lavigerie referred to it, later on developed into a threefold vocation: to witness Christ to the Muslims (cf. North Africa), the proclamation of the Gospel to Africans, (i.e., South of the Sahara) and to promote ecumenical dialogue, especially with the Eastern Churches. In his speech on the day of his enthronement as bishop of Al
giers (1867),


christian-muslim-dialoge-2Mgr Lavigerie addressed these words to Algerian Muslims:

“I claim the privilege to love you as my children even if you will not recognize me as your father….. there are two things that we shall never tire to do, things that should never worry you nor drive you away from us: the first is to love you and if possible to prove it by doing good to you; the second is to pray for you to God, Father and Master of all created things, so that He may abundantly give us light, mercy and peace.”

 

christian-muslim-dialoge-3Journey of the Missionaries of Africa with Muslims

To fulfill this threefold vocation, Archbishop Lavigerie founded the Society of the Missionaries of Africa (1868), and the Society of Our Lady of Africa (1869). Whereas our name in general defines the geographical and social field of our commitments, our traditional habit (white cassock – gandourah, red hat-chechia, burnous and rosary), on the one hand symbolically expresses the spirit and methodology we have to follow while
carrying out our mission.

This comprises adapting ourselves to the people to whom we are sent, i.e., in their culture, language and way of life as long as it does not contradict the Gospel values, in other words, “being-all-things-to-all” (1 Corinthians 9:22). On the other hand, this habit continues to remind us of our Arab-Islamic roots and our mission towards the Muslims in general. Our Constitutions and Laws remind us of this mission, “Because of its origins, the Society has always had a particular interest in Muslims,” (Constitutions and Laws, Chapter I, article 1).