Dar es Salaam regional commissioner Mr William Lukuvi
By Elias Mhegera
A sudden change of attitude amongst the Christian bodies has left a lot of questions to Tanzanians in some circles.
A quick survey by The Express has indicated that the strong issues that leave some questions, are; the timing of the congregation and the tone of the clerics in the speeches that were made during the opening ceremony of the Tanzania Christian Forum.
The clerics raised seven issues that have made them to form such a body. They said that they want to protect the Christian faith, to cultivate a culture of respect, to have a single voice in sensitive national issues and improve cooperation in matters of theology.
Other issues were religious tolerance, educating the society on issues of peace and interreligious dialogue. All those were wrapped up in the form of maintaining peace, unity and harmony in
However, they rejected an outright possibility of forming a single religious sect that will conjoin them together. The three bodies that form the forum are the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC), the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT), and the Pentecostal Council of Tanzania (PCT).
The congregation of the clerics and scores of followers of the Christian denomination was blessed by the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner William Lukuvi, who represented the government.
From the TEC the main speaker was Bishop Severine Niwemugizi, Bishop of Rulenge, while from the CCT the main speaker was its secretary-general Bishop Dr Leonard Mtaita, on its party the PCT was represented by Bishop Sylvester Gamanywa who was also the master of ceremony of the occasion.
Asked if the congregation might be seen as being politically motivated taking into consideration that this is an election year, Bishop Gamanywa said the congregation is apolitical.
He said that the question of threats does not necessary mean that these must be threats from within this country, but they can as well be threats from globalization, corruption and the like.
He said Christians have a right to resolve on matters that put them together regardless of the time factor. He defended that the congregation was a culmination of a long term process which started in 2007.
He added that some of those who have been condemned in various crimes in courts are Christians, so this unity is an attempt to bring them back to Jesus Christ their messiah.
Rev. Philemon Tibanenason a church overseer from the PCT supported this view saying that the forum is purely a religious affair and it has nothing to do with politics.
Asked why one speaker from his church Bishop David Batenzi said that the motive was also to get rid of the ‘power of darkness’ he said that anything that does not appease God belongs to Satan who is a representative of the power of darkness.
He defended the forum saying that the slogan “With a Single Christian Voice” means that now Christians will face the moral challenges from a more united front.
“Where there is Godly justice there is public justice,
must be revamped from the powers of Satan through Christian unity” he said. Tanzania
From the Roman Catholic Church a highly positioned priest said that he does not see anything ‘political’ in this forum. Instead he sees this as a necessary phenomenon to defend Christianity.
Asked to comment on the event, a prominent political science lecturer Prof Mwesiga Baregu said he needs enough time to study the matter before he make any comments.
A quick reminder however, is that he is currently employed by the TEC trough its constituent university, St. Augustine University of Tanzania. He possibly must have avoided conflict of interest with his employer.
In recent times in
there has been a tug of war between the Christians on one hand and the government on the other. Tanzania
Issues which have brought strong debates include an attempt by the government through the ministry of foreign affairs to join the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the establishment of Islamic Kadhi Courts.
Another issue which has brought some mummers are why the National Bank of Commerce (NBC), has assumed religious tones, that it is an Islamic Bank, these and many other similar issues have raised eyebrows amongst the Christians.
Therefore the statement from the Forum, that they will raise a ‘Single Christian Voice’ could have far implications in many issues where Christians have a common stake.
But while this is going on there must be a quick reminder that the coincidence might send shivers to the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi that it must take religious issues with a due weight. Therefore this might be a Christian attempt on ‘gunboat diplomacy’.
In international politics, gunboat diplomacy refers to the pursuit of foreign policy objectives with the aid of conspicuous displays of military power — implying or constituting a direct threat of warfare, should terms not be agreeable to the superior force.
Other issues which have raised concerns in relations between the government and the Christian bodies are the Catholic Pastoral Document which brought a lot of commotion last year from the government’s response.
This was followed by a heated speech by the Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, Archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam during the burial of the Mwanza Archbishop the late Anthony Mayalla in Mwanza in August last year.