Un lieu dans le monde
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Religions have been part of humankind's experience since the beginning of time. Their rituals, ceremonies and expressions vary but they are all in essence a source of love and hope and exalt the positive qualities of humanity. Nevertheless, on many occasions the religious differences are the source of heated conflicts and have been the reason, or excuse, for launching some of the most dramatic episodes of our history. The peaceful coexistence between people of different religious beliefs is seemingly an unobtainable dream. But let's imagine, what might happen if we were to place together people from three different religions on a small area of land... and if we were to surround this land with water and mangroves... and leave one long, narrow bridge as the only way to enter or leave... and provide only a small adjacent island to serve as the cemetery... so that they have no other option but to all bury their dead in the same plot of land. Three religions living side by side under these circumstances. What would happen in this situation? Let's see for ourselves, because this place really exists. The place is called Fadiouth, "island of shells". The island My name is Joseph Gregoire NDour and I live in Fadiouth. We are near the shore, in an area called Joal-Fadiouth. We are standing on the bridge that connects the town to the mainland. It's a new bridge, that was constructed in February 2004. It's 525 meters long, and 3 meters wide. The only vehicles that can use it are Public Service ones. That means: Ambulance, police or hearse. The bridge is for pedestrians only. In the town, people walk everywhere. In Fadiouth, people live principally from agriculture. There are other activities too, like fishing, gathering cockles and oysters, but the principal one is agriculture. Now we are in the town of Fadiouth, also known as "island of shells". When we say "island of shells" we're not talking about some romantic idea. It's really like that. There are shells everywhere. On top of the ground and under it... there are shells and more shells. Three quarters of the town comes from what we call "poldrisation". The early inhabitants of the town expanded it into the sea by making dikes which they filled with shells. This allowed them to reclaim land from the sea and it's the reason you now see shells everywhere. Everywhere you go, you find shells. The population of Fadiouth is around 8,000. 90% are Catholics and 10% Muslims. Before Catholicism and Islam arrived, there was animism. In fact, our ancestors were animists. That's why some people talk about syncretism, the mixing of different religions. This town is the exception in Senegal, with 90% Catholics and 10% Muslims. Here the Catholics are the majority, but Muslims and Catholics coexist in harmony: they understand each other very well. Religion We are in front of the church of Fadiouth whose patron saint is St. Francis Xavier. He is both the patron of the church and of the town. But the first church in the town, which was built by French missionaries, dates from 1881. In other words, Catholicism has been present in the town for more than 126 years. Hello and welcome to the parish of St. Francis Xavier in Fadiouth. I am father Abbe Etienne Diouf, priest of the parish of Fadiouth. It is a parish and an island with a majority of Christians. A very fervent faith community. It is a community considered to be a "breeding farm" for religious vocation both at the level of the archdiocese of Senegal and of the country as a whole. Religion is a private matter in the life of each person. If a person considers that a message is convincing to them and gives them hope, and provides them with a source of life and health, and that that message gives meaning to their own life, then obviously that person is free to follow that teaching and follow that religion. All that we can hope is that when someone decides to embrace a religion, they really do it out of conviction: that that person can decide freely and out of love to follow that doctrine, to follow that religion: to take hold of it and put it into practice in their own life. We're in front of the Main Mosque of Fadiouth. It's the Main Mosque for that ten per cent of the population that is Muslim. There are other mosques in each neighbourhood of the town, where people can do the five daily prayers. But this is where they do the Friday prayers, in the Main Mosque. Also the Main Mosque is where they do the prayers of "Tabaski" and "Korité" (end of Ramadan). My name is Moussa Sarr and I live in this town. I am a teacher in this Koranic school. My role in the town is to teach Arabic. In the town we have what we call Muslim-Christian dialogue. There's no problem between the two religions. You see Muslims and Christians in the same family. You can't distinguish between Catholics and Muslims. When there's a ceremony, they all share in the celebratory meal. The same happens when there's a bereavement because we are all of the same family. We are all one family here in Fadiouth. Behind us we have the island of "Tindine". It is a sacred forest where animistic rituals are practised. In the town, each maternal lineage has its own fetish. The fetish can be a woman or a man who is responsible for the rituals and offerings. A long time ago on "Tindine" they used to sacrifice animals and pour out their blood in the sacred place. Familly My name is Felicité Etienne, and I come from Joal-Fadiouth. I'm Catholic and my husband is Muslim. For the christening of our daughter we chose a mixed name: Fatima is the virgin of Portugal, and also the favourite daughter of the prophet Mohammed. We've named her Fatima Louise, but she hasn't been baptised - she's Muslim. But I know that when she is an adult, if she wants to convert to Catholicism, her father won't stop her. Here, what happens is that young people choose their religion once the reach adulthood. I got married in the mosque, the town hall and the church. I'm married to a Muslim, and that's that. I don't know the Muslim religion, and although I speak about it at times with my husband, I haven't been brought up in the Muslim faith, so I'm a Catholic. I go to mass each Sunday and sometimes my husband comes with me as far as the church door. I go in, and he goes off and later on comes back for me. And when there's a wedding, he goes into the church and follows the ceremony. So we each carry on with our lives and we make sure each one's religion isn't stronger than the other's because otherwise you could feel frustrated. Each of us lives out their religion without it being a burden or problem for the family. If we understand that in our differences we can have the best of things, then we are able to take the best from each one and to make something good for our children. But if each of us wants to convince the other that his religion is more important, then it's not good, because that brings problems and things don't work. Children We are in the public primary school of Fadiouth, called "Joachim Fode NDiaye". This school is attended by boys and girls, Muslims and Catholics. Here there are muslim teachers who teach muslim and catholic pupils and catholic teachers who teach muslim and catholics pupils. My name is Moussa Nia, and I'm a teacher in the "Joachim Fode NDiaye" school. The school has 15 teachers, plus the principal and an Arabic teacher who gives Arabic lessons. It's a mixed school where there are girls and boys. It's also a school where there are Christians and Muslims. It's a mixed school, and in fact that's a good thing for our coexistence. My name is Abdulaye German. I am a teacher in the "Joachim Fode NDiaye" school. I am a Muslim and I also belong to the Senegalese conference of the "Mourides". We have to take care of all children, all the pupils, regardless of their religious confession. We don't have the right to teach only the Muslim pupils and leave out the Catholic ones. We don't give either group's religion any preference. I work with a homogeneous group, and despite their ethnic, cultural and religious origins I don't notice any difference relating to them all. What I find is a very homogeneous group. Life And here we have the town hall. All administrative matters, like weddings or registering births, are taken care of in the town hall. But there's no need to deal with all matters in the town hall or the police station, in the realm of the Public Administration. Here, the custom is to deal with such matters within the family, and the town squares are important places for holding meetings for funeral arrangements, public debates and resolutions of disputes. Behind us we have the town square. It's a place for the old and retired people to relax and meet together. Here in the town there are six neighbourhoods. Each neighbourhood has its own square and its own patron saint. And it's in this "Speaking place" where we sort out our family problems. Everything that's related to the town is sorted out in the "Speaking place". There is a town chief who attempts to resolve problems within families or between families. He's the one with the moral authority and who sorts out the small problems in the town. We are on an island inhabited almost exclusively by one ethnic group. That ethnic group is the "Serer". This means that the people have the same cultural and historical points of reference, and that they have family ties linking them. We have a homogeneous community which has common points of reference and the same values. Back before the arrival of the catholic and muslim religions the people already had their own religion: traditional religion. These values have been shared by our forefathers: by Catholics and Muslims, and in that earlier time by the followers of traditional religion. We attempt to preserve the value of Muslim-Christian dialogue at three levels. First of all, what we could call "daily living". Which means that every day in Fadiouth Muslims and Christians are getting together: they live in the same families, they are relatives, they share in the same work, they join forces to get things done: they work together in farming, to tend the fields: they work together in other activities, like fishing, etc. Christians and Muslims, getting together every day. On a bigger scale, are what you could call "celebrations". These are the times when we celebrate a Christian or Muslim festival. The tradition here is that when one community is celebrating a festival, the other tries to share in the festival and the enjoyment. In the same way, when there someone dies, and one community is in mourning, the family of the deceased meets together, and Christians and Muslims spontaneously join together to share the sadness of the family in mourning. And in addition to all this, there are "special events" in which this dialogue between the two religions is stimulated and supported by us, the religious leaders. That is both us, being the priests and pastoral team, along with the Imam of Fadiouth. As an example of this, we can refer to the fact that after the opening of the two bridges that provide access to this island, both the Imam and I went, accompanied by our communities to give a blessing to the two bridges. We asked the Imam to go first with his blessing and when the Muslim community had finished, we offered our prayers and I pronounced the blessing. And while I was sprinkling the holy water, the Imam stayed by my side the whole time. Mamadou Touré, Imam of the Main Mosque. Abbe Etienne Diouf, priest of the parish. The town of Fadiouth has a cemetery which is located on another small island. A bridge joins the town with the cemetery. In this cemetery there's something extraordinary: Muslims and Christians have agreed to share it and accept being buried in the same cemetery. Death Here we are in the cemetery of Fadiouth. We have here two parts: one part is catholic and the other muslim. The Catholics are buried in coffins. Meanwhile, the Muslims are buried straight in the earth, without a coffin, simply wrapped in a white shroud, seven meters long, with their body pointing toward Mecca. Both on the Catholic side and on the Muslim side, we have mounds of shells to mark the graves. As you can see: Muslims and Catholics sharing the same cemetery. And this serves as an example of the tolerance and goodwill that exists between the two religions. You can also see, despite all these shells, the baobab trees growing here. The baobab is a tree which is symbolic of Senegal. You can find baobabs all over Senegal. It's said that the very first person buried in Fadiouth was buried in the hollow of the baobab tree there. The baobab tree in the township of Fadiouth has its equivalent tree in the cemetery. It's the place where Njango Siré is buried, and that's where his family makes their offerings. My name is Clemence, Clemence Sarr. I'm a Catholic. My name is Mamadou. I'm a Muslim. Muslims and Christians, we're all the same. My name is Moussa Nyaye and I'm a Catholic. My name is Jean Marcel. I'm a Catholic, a Christian, and I live in this town. My name is Ibrahima. I was born in this town and I work in this town. I'm a Muslim and this is a "Kora". As far as I understand it, there's only one God but there are various ways to approach him. First there was one prophet that came, and after another. Religions give different ways of making contact with him, but it's the same God.
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