Tanzania: Clerics Warned Against Bigotry

Tanzania: Clerics Warned Against Bigotry

DEFENSE and National Service Minister Shamsi Vuai Nahodha has warned religious leaders against adverse preaching and actions that deride other beliefs and recommended that faith-based meetings should be held in houses of worship rather than in the open.

“Christians and Muslims have a lot of things they can learn from one another and continue to co-exist as it has been during the past 50 years since independence. It is not healthy at all for leaders of one religion to criticise the other just to woo believers,” the minister said.

Mr Nahodha made the remarks on Tuesday during a meeting organised by authorities in Dar es Salaam Region to discuss harmonious co-existence among members of the two major religions in the country, Christianity and Islam, which was attended by some 200 leaders, including priests, bishops and sheikhs, among others.

Also in attendance at the two-day meetings that started on Tuesday were government officials and police commanders from the Dar es Salaam Special Police Zone.Mr Nahodha expressed concern that the country was passing through trying times of religious bigotry 50 years after independence most of which saw a high degree of toleration.

“This meeting could not have been convened at a more appropriate time as now. We must, therefore, identify the root causes of the problem and stop blaming each other on whatever has happened,” he told the meeting.

He underscored the fact that religious leaders could make a positive impact in the society through their teachings more than what politicians can do since the former can reach out to the grassroots compared to the latter.

“I do believe that religious leaders can solve the bigotry the country currently faced in just an hour while politicians could do so in a week. We should understand that we are all Tanzanians and at the same time leaders in our communities,” he stated.

Mr Vuai cited the holy books of worships for Muslims and Christians, which specify that human beings were born of one father and mother.”God could have decided that humankind be made of one religion but he wanted us to live as we are and learn from one another,” Mr Nahodha observed.

Earlier, the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner, Mr Saidi Mecky Sadiki, said the meeting was not meant for witch-hunting purposes — on who is behind the bigotry — but rather to identify causes of the problems.

“President Jakaya Kikwete has directed regional and district authorities to convene meetings between religious leaders to sort out misunderstandings that have surfaced in the country,” the RC informed the meeting.

For his part, Bishop Charles Salala of the African Inland Church (AIC) was concerned that minor issues such as who is supposed to slaughter animals have of late become matters of public debate.

“These issues were very insignificant in the past and I don’t understand why all over a sudden they have become an issue,” the cleric wondered.

He pledged before the minister that religious leaders will during the meeting come up with solutions to address the intolerance between some sections of the public.

Tanzania is made up of not less than 125 tribes and the majority of the population is divided between Christianity and Islamic religions, which are also sub-divided in numerous sects.

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