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Church of Tanzania should plan to maintain Muslim-Christian relations

Posted on: January 16, 2014 3:27 PM
Relationships between Muslims and Christians in Tanzania are generally good. There might, however, be a need to consider being more intentional about this in the future.
Photo Credit: Ruud Zwart/Wikipedia
Related Categories: Interfaith, Islam, Tanzania, zanzibar

By Bellah Zulu, ACNS

The Anglican Church in Tanzania (ACT) should consider investing more resources into maintaining good Muslim-Christian relationships, according to its Communications Director.

In an interview with ACNS, the Revd Michael Nchimbi said that planning adequately for the future could help maintain ACT's good relationship with the country's Muslim community.

“What we might need...is to have someone in the office that will focus on maintaining the good relationship which we have in inherited from our fathers,” he said.

“There is need to undertake special programmes in the areas of Zanzibar, Tanga, Masasi, Newala, Kondoa, Tabora, Morogoro and Western Tanganyika. There have been a lot of reported attacks on Christians in some places around the country especially on the island of Zanzibar."

Islamist drive

Tanzania is a Christian majority country with a substantial Muslim population. According to Open Doors, an organisation that monitors Christian persecution around the world, there is a strong Islamist drive towards the Tanzanian 'House of Islam'.

Its website states, "On the Zanzibar archipelago, Islamic militants bent on wiping out all Christians from the islands have burnt and looted churches and threatened Christians with death."

Recently a youth pastor, 35-year-old Elias Lunyamila Meshack was hacked to death during a prayer service. It is thought that radical Islamists were to blame for his murder.

Creating harmony

Mr Nchimbi said that, despite such extreme incidents, the situation between Christians and Muslims in the country is “generally not alarming". In fact, he said that the Anglican Church has more than eight dioceses containing a significant number of Muslims.

“The Church also runs non-discriminatory schools and other facilities for the benefit of all members of the community.”

The Christian Council of Tanzania, the country's ecumenical body, also runs an interfaith programme, which brings Muslims and Christians together in order to “create harmony in various communities.”

Past mistakes

Rose Haji Mwalimu is a seasoned journalist and media consultant based in Dar-es-Salaam. She told ACNS that tension arose among some Muslims who felt they had been marginalised after former president Mwalimu Nyerere's leadership.

“If the situation had been controlled right from the beginning of the uprising it would have been easier to foster the spirit of understanding and reconciliation between Christians and Moslems,” she added.

She said that misunderstandings between Christians and Muslims have brought about a “lack of security, peace, trust and tolerance which have historically valued and cherished in the country.”

"Tanzania has historically been proud of these values but now there is a lot of discrimination among the community and diminished love and harmony," she explained. "The country is focusing on a democratic and peaceful dialogue and conflict resolution. We have projects advocating for peace and dialogue in the community through training and mentoring in ethical, gender responsive and conflict sensitive journalism.

“In Tanzania the culture is very diverse, to the extent that there is a small portion of...Christian/Muslim families. Inter-marriages took place and families are all mixed up sharing Muslim/Christian names. My full name, Rose Haji Mwalimu, is a typical example.”

She added that this meant that any major deterioration of the the relationship between Tanzania's Christians and Muslims in the future would pit "brother against sister, mother against husband or children against parents.”