Peacebuilding in Tanzania – Easing religious tensions through dialogue
Compared to the countries which surround it, Tanzania appears to be relatively peaceful. Neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and Congo have had their fair share of conflict and even today struggle to maintain a sustainable peace.
“We realised that religious conflicts were a major area that needed addressing,” says Mr Maduki
“It is true that Tanzania is a peaceful country,” says Peter Maduki, Secretary General of Caritas Tanzania. “But we still need to work towards preventing conflicts and stopping them from expanding until they’re not manageable.”
Mr Maduki says that one of the sources of conflict when it does arise in Tanzania is tensions between Christian and Muslims.
“We realised that religious conflicts were a major area that needed addressing,” says Mr Maduki. “We felt that religious leaders were being used by politicians for their own interests. We started to engage them in our work because they influence much of the population and as a result the economy.”
Caritas involves the religious leaders in its peacebuilding programme. Its main goal is to sustain peace by promoting dialogue between religious leaders. It also tries to promote a broad outlook among religious leaders and politicians so they focus on the national rather than the regional in their work.
Mr Maduki says they sometimes use the Caritas Internationalis Peacebuilding Manual to perform training, promote discussion and address conflict issues.
Christians and Muslims in rural areas may live peacefully, says Mr Maduki, but issues arise between the two groups when they live concentrated together in towns.
“Caritas works on a community level helping people to share their feelings so we can help them to address conflict before it happens,” says Mr Maduki. “We also work on a national and regional level organising meetings where religious leaders can share ideas, assess peace and security and propose strategies to tackle problems and boost communities’ strengths.”
An example of tensions that Caritas managed to diffuse was when a meat seller in the Tanga region was allegedly selling pork to Muslims.
“The relationship between the Christian and Muslim community became strained,” says Mr Maduki, “so we deployed top religious leaders to the village where they assessed the situation and promoted dialogue. After that the village returned to normal.”
While Tanzania hasn’t escaped the issues that dog other African countries such as the extreme poverty which causes conflict and AIDS, following the granting of US$3 billion in debt relief it has been able to lay the groundwork for the development which is so essential for lasting peace.
“When the debts were cancelled, Tanzania set up some good social services programmes. It improved health, built more schools and worked on infrastructure. Now roads are tarmaced we can use them throughout the year,” says Mr Maduki.
Related Articles Peace-ing northern Kenya back together Oscar Romero inspiring the work of Caritas Archbishop Romero heard the plea for peace – can we? Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka: Creating harmony in war-torn communities Caritas boosting development through peacebuilding [BLOG] Stop the human tragedy in Vanni! Say religious leaders