Leaving Nairobi, with its traffic-choked streets, swanky buildings and vast slums, one heads west on Lang'ata Road toward the town of Karen, once the expansive farm of Karen Blixen of Out of Africa fame. There in sight of the Ngong Hills is a "little Vatican": Some 40 religious communities have established residences in the surrounding countryside. Among them one finds a unique experiment in religious education, Tangaza, a constituent college of the nearby Catholic University of Eastern Africa. As Tangaza College's gate swings open, a large statue of Mary, depicted as an African woman, comes into view, symbol of both the Annunciation and the college's motto -- "Tangaza fumbo la imani," or "Proclaim the mystery of faith." In myriad ways Tangaza does exactly that.
Twenty-three years ago Tangaza began as a bold adventure, born of necessity. Three religious congregations pooled faculty and resources in order to take on the education of some 20 students. Today Tangaza has 21 religious congregations as corporate members and enrolls 1,200 students, men and women, religious and lay, mostly Catholics, but with other Christians and a few Muslims among them. This student population includes representatives of most of Kenya's 40-plus ethnic groups and others from Asia, Europe and the rest of the African continent.