Ambassador James Knight traveled to the town of Sarh in southern Chad September 14-15 to participate in an opening and closing ceremony for two Embassy-funded training programs that were held at the Mabrouka Islamic Center located in the nearby village of Manda. The Ambassador, who was accompanied on this visit by the USAID Country Program Manager and a security office assistant, was hosted by the center’s founder and current president, Cheikh Oumane Abdou Baraka and his staff.
Cheikh Ousmane is a former participant in the International Visitors Leadership Program and described to Ambassador Knight how that program provided him an opportunity to visit the United States, changing dramatically his perspective about Americans; this, in turn, deepened his commitment to peace-building efforts. The Mabrouka Center, a private institution dedicated to memorization of the Koran, also promotes dialogue among Muslim and Christian communities and has expanded its curriculum to include subject matter from secular schools. Peace-building activities funded by the Embassy are implemented at the Mabrouka center by an American non-governmental organization, Salam Institute for Peace and Justice. These activities focus on interfaith dialogue, civics education for Koranic school teachers, and working with Chad’s Islamic clerics on issues of tolerance, human rights and peaceful co-existence.