On 5-6 June 2023, I participated in the workshop “Religion for Peace? Identifying Conditions and Mechanisms of Interfaith Peace” in Berlin, organised by the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA). I gave a presentation entitled “Interfaith coexistence on the campuses of the University of Lomé (Togo) and the University of Abomey-Calavi (Benin) since the 1970s” for the panel “The role of education in interreligious conflict and peace”.
In recent years, researchers have become increasingly interested in the issue of religious extremism on university campuses in West Africa, given the rise of jihadist movements in the Sahel. In Togo and Benin, two multi-religious countries with significant Muslim minorities, faith-based student associations, which have been present at the University of Lomé and the University of Abomey-Calavi for over fifty years, have generally maintained good relations. This is despite two decades of military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s and frequent and sometimes violent student protests on campus since the 1990s.
From a historical perspective, this contribution will examine the conditions and mechanisms that have fostered interfaith peace on these two campuses since 1970. The study draws on a combination of sources, including interviews and focus groups with activists from the main Christian and Islamic associations, religious leaders serving student populations on campus, and faculty and university administrators, as well as a collection of written sources. It highlights the importance of interfaith dialogue and mediation, the establishment of shared spaces for prayer and religious activities, and the institutional support, particularly with regard to the fair application of laïcité.