Priest Who Embraces All Faiths

( [email protected] ) Nov 14, 2003 11:32 AM EST

ENCOUNTERS with world religions have changed Fr. Richard Nnyombi's outlook on issues. He is critical of extremists. He argues that the will of God can be found in all religions. "I have seen exemplary Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists," he explains.

He considers bigotry bad because it undermines the concept of universal solidarity. "God alone knows the truth," the cleric said.

Nnyombi supports Christian-Moslem dialogue, to foster justice and peace, and he wants people to be witness this. He criticises individuals who treat Islam as a monolithic community. He maintains it is wrong to associate terrorism with Islam, because different categories of Islam have made different experiences.

"Terrorists act as individual persons, groups," he explains.

He argues that salvation of non-Christians is a secret of God, which is why people should not be condemned to hell, because of their faiths. Nnyombi wants the youth to know about other religions through personal contacts with members of other religions.

Nnyombi has contributed significantly to the promotion of Christian-Muslim/Interreligious dialogue.

In Tanzania where he worked for two years, Nnyombi mobilised Christians to reach out to Muslim leaders. He also organised games to bring together Christian and Muslim youth. He has given workshops on Islam/Christian-Muslim dialogue to clerics of both faiths.

In 1999, while visiting the Tangaza Theological College in Kenya, Nnyombi organised a course under the topic of Christians-Muslims, Co-Pilgrims and Co-Witnesses in today's Society. He also wrote a book called Christian-Muslim Reflections, and articles related to interfaith dialogue.

Nnyombi is the coordinator of Interreligious activities for the White Fathers. He also writes on their website. He has given lectures at specialised institutes, like the Institute of Arabic Studies in Tunisia, and the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome. He writes articles in Christian-Muslim magazines such as the Italian Islamo Christiana and Se Comprendre.

Nnyombi has written a book called African Traditional Religions, to give a better understanding of African beliefs.

He will start a one-year course on Christian-Muslim encounters, in Tangaza Theological College in Nairobi, and a similar one in French in West Africa.

Nnyombi considers his informal contacts with individual Muslims to be most important in his endeavours to reach out to the Muslims.

Nnyombi's vision is a peaceful world where people of different religious beliefs can co-exist, and to promote the Christian-Muslim/Interfaith dialogue.

Interestingly, Nnyombi does not wear a clerical shirt.

His argument is that it places him in an exclusive "class."

This prevents him from relating freely with the people.

"The habit does not make a monk," he said. Nnyombi also speaks standard Arabic, Italian, French, Swahili, English, Luganda and Algerian Arabic.

Fr. Richard Nnyombi was born to the late Dativa and Thomas Musoke, at Buwanga, Masaka, in 1957. He is related to St. Pontian Ngondwe, the martyr.

He went to Kimaanya PS, Masaka SSS and Caltec Academy at Makerere University.

He had priestly training at the Katigondo, Kisubi and also at Fribourg (Switzerland). He also had Pastoral experience in Algeria, where he taught several students Mathematics and in English.

He studied Theology at Tolouse, France, and Bishop Adrian Ddungu ordained him a priest in 1988.

Nnyombi did a Bachelor's/Master's degree in Islamic and Arabic affairs at the Pontifical Institute of Islamic and Arabic Studies in 1992.

He also learned Standard Arabic, used in the Koran.

He established contacts with Muslims in Algeria for a year. He taught at the White Fathers' Seminary in Nairobi for three years.

He became Papal adviser on Interreligious dialogue in 1995-2000.

In 1998, Nnyombi was appointed to the General Council of the White Fathers in Rome, and was in charge of Ecumenism and Inter-religious encounters, where he currently holds office.