Kenya-Based Catholic College Inaugurates Institute for Interreligious Dialogue

Logo of the Institute for Interreligious Dialogue and Islamic Studies (IRDIS) of Tangaza University College, Nairobi, Kenya

An institute facilitating learning about dialogue between various religions of the world including Islam was officially inaugurated Friday, November 1, bringing to nine the number of Institutes that constitute Tangaza University College, the Kenya-based institution of higher learning jointly owned by dozens of religious congregations.

Spearheaded by the religious congregation of the Missionaries of Africa and named Institute for Interreligious Dialogue and Islamic Studies (IRDIS), the center has put in place programs that seek to promote humanity’s “unity in one God,” the Institute Director told ACI Africa.

IRDIS is being launched under the theme, “Unity of God, Unity in God,” the Director of the Institute, Missionary of Africa Fr. Innocent Maganya told ACI Africa on the eve of the official inauguration of the Nairobi-based Institute and explained that the theme “goes very much with the vocation of the Institute, which is bringing people of different faiths together.”

“The aim of this inauguration event is to emphasize that we are all united in one God,” Fr. Maganya said and clarified citing the second Vatican Council's document Nostra Aetate, which addresses the relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, “One is our humanity, one is our destiny and one is our origin in God.” 

A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Fr. Maganya said that encouraging good relations among religions, especially between Christians and Muslims, is important to his religious order, the 150-year-old Missionaries of Africa because the congregation was established among Muslims and took interreligious dialogue as its charism, being at the service of the local Church.


“We have a specific relation and approach to Islam right from the beginning,” Fr Maganya said and added, “this year we (Missionaries of Africa) are celebrating 150th anniversary since the beginning of our congregation, which was started in Algiers among the Muslims.”

He recalled the genesis of IRDIS saying, “This project was started by the Missionaries of Africa since 1999 when they decided to bring to Africa the pastoral program on Islamic Studies from the Pontifical Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies in Rome.”

He continued in reference to the background of IRDIS, “one was to be in French speaking parts of Africa and Tangaza University College was to host the English-speaking part of Africa but for one reason or another, the program did not take off.”

“Missionaries of Africa decided to revive the program and we started with the full year certificate in Islamic studies,” Fr. Maganya narrated and added, “Since 4 years, and given the global situation, it was felt necessary to move to the next step and that step is the creation of IRDIS.” 

Acknowledging the fear that is involved in relations between Muslims and Christians, Fr. Maganya said, “Fears come because we do not know each other” and added, “The fears can be removed by what we call religious literacy.”

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Through the academic programs at IRDIS, the native of the Democratic Republic of Congo said, Muslims and Christians will be “enlightened on these different faiths” so that they can understand each other better and therefore become ambassadors to those who do not understand what distinguishes one faith from another.  

“When we interact, we come to know individuals personally, we establish friendships and when people see Muslims and Christians walking and working together, it is already a positive message that we are sending out to the world,” Fr. Maganya explained.

Officially launched Friday, November 1 as the ninth Institutes of Nairobi-based Tangaza University College (TUC), IRDIS is a fruit of the collaboration between Missionaries of Africa, TUC and the German organization, Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Entwicklungshlife e.V (AGEH-CPS).

Students and lecturers at TUC come from over 40 countries and some 100 religious orders and societies of Apostolic life.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.