President Kagame’s remarks at the 10th General Congress of the Union of Muslim Councils held March 5

• Dr Muhammad Ahmed Sharif, Secretary General of the World Islamic Call Society and your delegation;

• Dr Muhammad Ahmed Sharif, Secretary General of the World Islamic Call Society and your delegation;

• Sheikh Saleh Habimana, Mufti of Rwanda, and Chairman of the Union of Muslim Councils;

• Leaders of Rwandan Higher National Institutions;

• Eminent Muftis and Distinguished Sheikhs from different parts of our continent;

• Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen;

It gives me great pleasure to join you, Muslim faith leaders as you embark on the 10th General Congress of the Union of Muslim Councils.

I welcome you all to Rwanda – and trust that your meeting will achieve all its objectives.

Let me underscore the fact that the dual theme of your Congress, namely "Building the Union of Muslim Councils Together" and "Faiths for a Safer Africa", is pertinent.

As I will shortly highlight, faith-based leadership and institutions have powerful roles not only in providing spiritual guidance to their congregations but also in bettering the lives of fellow citizens. I therefore congratulate you on your choice of themes – and look forward to the wisdom and advice that comes from this Congress.

I commend you for consistently encouraging faith-based dialogue, especially when we recall that an international inter-faith meeting involving some of you took place here in 2006. I am certain that you continue to make progress in consolidating inter-faith efforts in various fields, in all parts of our continent.

It is against this backdrop that we revisit some important questions, including the following:

Is the "business of development" to be left only to national leaders, governments, and business communities?

Should faith-based institutions confine themselves strictly to religious matters?

In answering these questions one should begin with the acknowledgement that religion is a source of meaning and hope for many Africans and Rwandans – as is the case world-over.

This should not be surprising given the fact that religion constitutes a source of fellowship, unity, and security, as part of its principle purpose of bringing people closer to their creator.

Faith in this sense has limitless power to inspire humankind to sacrifice and to generally do good for the communities we live in. It is my view, however, that faith-based institutions have even broader roles to play in society.

In effect, the strength of religions lie in their capacity to create social networks and grassroots systems that permit the delivery of a multitude of services to their members and beyond.

In this sense, faith-based networks can supplement other national structures and processes – thus making a significant contribution to social, economic and cultural transformation.

Many examples abound across our continent, as shown by the roles of faith-based institutions in provision of education, health, environmental protection, and in other forms of community-based development initiatives.

While readily recognizing religion as a source of meaning and an important agent for development, it is also true that it has at different times in the history of different nations, been manipulated to create disharmony and even conflict.

In such cases, instead of encouraging fellowship, unity, and development, some faith leaders have fostered, or contributed to divisionism, hatred and strife.

They effectively became agencies for bigotry and exclusivity within their individual faith traditions, as well as in society at large.

As we acknowledge that these are not true representations of genuine faith - we must reject such tendencies for what they really are – as anti religion and anti people.

And it is the work of you religious leaders to continuously guard against these destructive traits – by actively collaborating with other actors to create safer and more prosperous communities, countries and regions on our continent.

The 10th General Assembly of the Union of Muslim Councils is taking place in our capital city with two worthy objectives in sight – to strengthen your institutions and to reflect on how your faith can contribute to creating a safer Africa.

I have no doubt that you will have fruitful and constructive deliberations on both goals.

It is now my pleasure to declare the 10th General Congress of Union of Muslim Councils open.


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