Faith leaders join forces in Tanzania
Tanzania is one of Africa’s poorest countries and home to large Christian and Muslim communities. Of about 35 million people, 40 percent are Christian and 40 percent are Muslim, though the Zanzibar archipelago is 99 percent Muslim.
But poverty and religious differences are not adding up to conflict. Religious leaders believe this peace is no accident but the fruit of hard work. Tensions occasionally flair up, especially in Zanzibar, but thanks in part to a Caritas peace initiative, they have been contained.
The Religious Leader Peacebuilding Initative brings Christian and Muslim religious figures together to work on preventing or pre-empting any conflict. Following outbreaks of violence in Zanzibar in 2001 that had religious and political overtones, the religious leaders realised the need to create awareness and intervene.
Attacks by terrorists linked to Al Qaeda against the US Embassy in 1998 were also cause for concern.
The religious leaders hold meetings were they discuss issues from which conflict might arise and to bring about reconciliation if trouble has already flared. They also work as one body in dealing with the government to call for its economic and social policies to ensure there is peaceful co-existence.
They also work at grassroots level on civic education and training.
Peter Maduki of Caritas Tanzania said, “The impact has been huge. It has spilt over into other areas and now we work together on things like HIV. Muslims and Christian leaders are on very good terms, and have worked together to reduce tension between their communities.
“In one village of Bugiri in Tanga region for example, there was a tension between Muslims and Christians due the allegation that a Christian sold pork to Muslims. We sent a delegation there to mediate and bring about peace.”
The Religious Leader Peacebuilding Initiative contributed towards peace in the 2005 elections despite widespread fears of violence. It brought all the politicians in Zanzibar together to see how they could limit any actions that might lead to trouble. Also the Religious leaders campaigned for peaceful election all over the country.
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