Look at what is happening in Syria, the Palestine-Israel conflict, in Libya and in Egypt, just to mention a few. We hear anti-government forces say thanks be to God every time they shoot at enemy positions or blow up a car or building. Did God intend for man to kill others in His name?
Is Boko Harram in Nigeria doing God’s work? Did the culprits in the recent bombings of churches in Kenya get divine inspiration to do the despicable act of killing humans who are God’s ultimate creation? Religious extremism is no stranger in Africa and certainly not in Tanzania. A few years back some overzealous believers of one major faith attacked shops selling pork in Dar.
In 2002 Pahi church in Kondoa belonging to AIC denomination was burnt down, apparently by Muslim followers. The incident must have been reported to state organs. Did Christians retaliate to their fellow men? Just last year in September, three Assemblies of God churches were set on fire in Mwanza. One was in Lumala Parish, the second at Nyamanoro and the third was the Pasiansi Pentecostal church. All were alleged to have been burnt by members of the Muslim faith.
Were there any prosecutions of those deemed responsible? Some Muslim members apparently invaded a Christian gathering at Mto wa Mbu in February 2011 and caused damage to property worth thousands of dollars. Several persons were injured. Jackson John, an evangelist of the congregation, died later in what Lutheran church members attributed to injuries from that fracas.
Did police investigations unearth the culprits and were those responsible brought to book? The recent saga of churches being torched in Zanzibar, ostensibly because certain elements are against the 48-year old union with the mainland is
just one among an escalating trend of hostile actions against Christian brothers and sisters by extreme elements of the Muslim faith.
Recent actions and proclamations by members and leaders of the ‘Awakening’ group must send shivers down many spines of peace-loving Tanzanians. The sheer defiance of lawful authority of the land shown by Uamsho group is probably a symptom of either blind disregard or ignorance of basic teachings of the Islamic faith. It is like doctors who call themselves Christian or Moslem, who refuse to treat the sick, the dying and injured because they are not being paid enough.
Religious leaders swear to safeguard and uphold holy teachings. Political leaders swear on their religious faith to safeguard the constitution of the land. Only doctors are sworn to safeguard life itself, and yet they are failing miserably to uphold the noblest of professions in high esteem. The increasing trend of Muslims to speak or act against Christians in a secular state like Tanzania is really alarming.
Just recently some Muslims were vowing not to take part in the coming national census. Where is the religious controversy about counting country inhabitants for planning purposes? Official reaction seemed delayed, subdued but very unequivocal from both the Prez of Zenj and the union. They were matter of fact regarding illegal acts of extremism. Did the masses buy into the official reaction? Perhaps. Some Muslim leaders on the mainland did condemn recent events but was this enough?
Couldn’t they have quoted the holy book to show how Prophet Mohammad respected Christians in his time? The prophet allowed visiting Christians to conduct their prayers in his mosque on a Sunday when they visited him. Are Zanzibaris or mainland Muslims less obliged to live in harmony with Christians who are among people of the Book, according to the prophet?
Following the example of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is a tenet of Islamic faith. Can Muslims in Tanzania today accept Christians to worship in a mosque on Sunday or any day? That will be the day. What may already be happening is a build up of intolerance of Moslems among Christians. Some Christians feel, perhaps rightly that the usual guarded response from authorities is no longer enough.
Warnings, admonition and or condemnation without decisive actions may embolden rather than deter extremists to carry out political or personal agendas. Authorities from the highest levels need to acknowledge how restrained and cautious Christians have been in their response to violence by Muslim elements. Political and Muslim leaders must also condemn
in the strongest terms any violence against followers of different faiths.
We are all creatures of God regardless of our religious beliefs. What would have happened had Christians accidentally or deliberately burned a mosque in Zanzibar, torched a vehicle of the chief sheikh? That is what happened when a church and the bishop’s car were burned down.
Acts of terrorism and civil unrest are not covered by insurance. How would ordinary Zanzibaris from Wete to Mji Mkongwe react? Would they keep quiet and wait for the police to investigate? Or would they take to the streets and banish anyone with a Christian smell from the spice islands of Zenj? Is the Anglican bishop now reduced to doing his work on foot and praying with his flock under the open skies?
Maybe there would be a special session of House of reps to discuss such burning of a mosque. I have trouble believing that ordinary Muslims in mainland Tanzania would sit back, relax and wait for the law to take its course. They would demand swift action. Peace-loving Tanzanians need to ponder seriously on how we can protect the peace in our beloved Bongo-land.
We must install political speed governors to stop this acceleration into social chaos that is being fuelled by religious fires lighted in political furnaces. Even the constitutional review process could go belly up if a major faith is allowed to throw a spanner in the works. God bless Tanzania.
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