World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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11 December 1998

WCC Eighth Assembly - Press Release No. 37

What! A Muslim at a Christian assembly? That may have well been the "disturbing" question in the minds of World Council of Churches participants who bumped into Fatuma Suleman from Ghana.

Fatuma travelled across Africa to make a benchmark at the WCC's Eighth Assembly meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, and she did just that Thursday (10 December) when she posed the uncomfortable question: "Who is thy neighbour? Could I, a Muslim, be thy neighbour?"

The mere participation of a Muslim woman at a Padare meeting on "Interfaith Initiatives in Health and Healing" gave her audience, and the organisers of the event, a demonstration of the fact that they were committed to interfaith.

"Muslims are considered filthy people but that is a misleading icon," she said. "We believe that the body is the residence of the soul and must therefore be kept clean and it should not be drenched with alcohol." She related the success story of her work with Christians in health delivery, noting that at the end of the day they were all neighbours in the same planet Earth who should together appreciate the mystery of creation.

Among the sponsors of the Padare event, Ms Jambawai Bhattu, head of women's desk at the All-Africa Conference of Churches, stressed that African issues required that we all join hands. "We believe in living as neighbours. To demonstrate the African humanness, we owe our gratitude to Fatuma for consenting to be with us at the Assembly."

She went on to provide tips for the sometimes desperate search for an African model for conflict resolution:

  • Conflicts should be resolved in familiar grounds.
  • The elders' role is essential and must be upheld.
  • Children must take part, providing water for a ritual. They signify innocence and purity.
  • When a settlement is reached, no one is declared right or wrong, but appropriate advice is offered.
  • At the end, the concerned parties must share a meal.

The other sponsor of the event was Procmura, an organisation dedicated to the promotion of Muslim-Christian relations.

Contact: John Newbury, WCC Press & Information Officer
Press and Information Office, Harare
Tel: +
E-Mail: WCC media

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 339, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the Assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.