What hope is there for a divided, unbelieving society?

Tony Zakaria

MANY Tanzanians attend church services. Hopefully many come out of the Sunday prayers inspired or uplifted. For me the readings of a couple of recent Sundays were very interesting.

On one fateful day, prophet Issa bin Maryam a.k.a Jesus Christ was travelling to Jerusalem and stopped for rest and a drink of water just before entering town. Seasoned travellers like me have experienced the occasional need to make a stop before reaching the final destination.

Jesus was travelling with his followers; they had gone ahead to look for food in the city. They must have been famished to leave their leader behind. Anyway, JC stopped at a well that was famous in its time. There he found a woman drawing water and asked her to give him a drink.

The woman asked in surprise why he, a Jew, was even talking to her a Samaritan, and asking for water. In those days, Samaritans and Jews were like sworn enemies socially, politically and otherwise. Expecting a Jew to ask a Samaritan for any favour was like asking Chadema diehard card-carrying members to sing the signature song of their political rivals CCM is number one.

The man revered as prophet by Muslims and regarded as Lord and saviour by Christians, told the woman had she known who he was, she would have understood he could give her living water which would quench her thirst forever. Was he for real, the woman wondered.

Mister, who do you think you are, you don’t even have a container to draw the water with, how do you think you will give me this water of yours? Our ancestors drank from this well, and for many years animals and humans have taken the water and you have some other water better than this?

The Teacher, as he was sometimes called, changed topic and asked her to go and fetch her husband. Now here comes the surprise. The woman claimed she had no husband.

This is the middle East we are talking about where a woman walking alone is still a rare phenomenon. In modern day Afghanistan and in some middle Eastern nations, a woman cannot leave her house without being accompanied by a close male relative, specifically a son, husband or brother.

Not a cousin mind you, because they marry cousins. And here was a woman, two millenia ago, going to the well outside city walls unaccompanied. Prophet Issa told her she had given a technically correct answer. Lawyers would understand why from what JC said next.

Apparently she had had five husbands before and the man she was currently living with wasn’t really her husband. What? This lady had been busy. I can bet 99% of mainland Tanzanian women have not moved past husband number one.

I don’t know about the Zanzibar situation with marriages and divorces. This medieval Liz Taylor was speechless. How did the strange man know so much about her past life when he had only seen her once? He must be a prophet, she deciphered.

This woman was no lady. She had a colourful past. And the man she was living with was not legally hers. To all women out there who have been cohabiting with different boys to men, you have been warned. Call them husbands if you wish but they are just passengers in your journey of life.

Unless you are blind to the realities of life. Talking of the blind, Jesus went on into Jerusalem and entered the prayer house. There he came face to face with a man blind from birth who was pleading for help.

The Prophet picked some clay from the ground, spat on it and smeared it on the man’s eyes, the sent him to wash his face at a named water pool. Lo and behold, the man was able to see.

As he went around shouting in joy for this miracle in his life, the educate elite of his generation called Pharisees quizzed the previously- bind man to explain his current state. Was he really blind to begin with or was this a ploy to justify begging for alms? They questioned his parents too to no avail.

All asserted that he was blind from birth and now could see. You know Pharisees are alive and kicking in our lives today. Some people can turn a good deed into a bad thingy. Others do not believe anything good can come from anybody they do no like.

They will argue with you on the colour of the sun being yellow even though science has proven the sun is white. You dare not argue with them on faith matters because they will roast you alive. Even families have their Pharisees.

They see you giving help to someone, they question why you are wasting resources on somebody who is not a relative or of the same political family. If we wait for relatives to help us, we will die waiting. They won’t believe you are helping from the goodness of your heart.

Perhaps you pilfered your wealth and now you have no problem squandering it on strangers. Blindness is seldom physical. Most of our legal blindess is in our heads. When we fail to see the plenty of good in others and only focus on the occasional bad deed we are blind.

When we fail to believe in the work of those we do not like or agree with, we are as blind as a child with severe Vitamin A deficiency. We are in this world together whether Jew, Samaritan, African or American. We only have one planet with finite resources but endless possibilities. Let the Pharisees among us believe in the goodness of others.

Together we can do so much more if we raise our faith and trust in each other. In this modern world of religious intolerance, racial discrimination and polarisation along political beliefs, it may be a tall order to expect faith and trust from billions of people of diverse faiths, races, cultures and philosophies on life.

But what is the alternative?

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