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Fundamentalists No Longer Disrupting The Peace

African Church Information Service (Nairobi), 6 October 2000

Dar es Salaam - Religious fundamentalists have been shaking the roots of the peace and harmony in Tanzania for almost four decades without stern measures against their movement.

This has prompted religious leaders in Tanzania to come up with special instrument to restore the national heritage that had led Tanzanians to live in peace and harmony regardless of their religious, tribal and racial differences, writes AANA Correspondent Daniel Benno Msangya.

The new organisation, and anticipated instrument of harmony, comprises the top leadership of Muslims and Christians and is known as Muslim-Christian Commission for Peace, Development and Conflict Resolution in Tanzania or with the Kiswahili acronym - TUMWAMUTA.

The Right Reverend Bishop Dr Erasto Kweka of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania LECT Diocese of the Central Kilimanjaro says the idea to form the commission originated from some Tanzanians who had noticed the existence of some kind of confrontation.

According to the bishop, there were many provoking issues that led to bad blood between Christians and Muslims. In some parts of the country, the uneasy relationship led to chaos thus threatening the peace and harmony the people have enjoyed for a long time.

The Lutheran Church leader noted that many other issues could lead into violation of peace especially between Christians and Muslims. He cited some of these as corruption, drug abuse, the wide gap between the rich and the majority poor.

But these among others have ways to be solved in society by the government and other organs so as not to precipitate religious conflicts which have ruined small and great countries in the world, Kweka says citing examples like Kossovo, India, Indonesia and Nigeria.

The Head of Muslim Council in Tanzania (also known with the Kiswahili acronym, BAKWATA) Mufti Sheikh Hemed Bin Jumaa Bin Hemed urges the Tanzanians to make sure peace, tranquillity and love are maintained to ensure a better environment for the future generation.

Hemed says Tanzanians were now facing the hardest time since independence as a result of the emergence of various groups some of who were aiming at destroying peace in the country by regarding themselves as fundamentalists.

BAKWATA, the council for Muslims, had already undertaken to support the initiatives of TUMWAMUTA from the beginning. Many other institutions and individuals had backed that inter-religious initiative, saying it could help sustain the peace and harmony that Tanzanians cherished.

BAKWATA had also said it was ready to co-operate with other religious groups to develop the people of Tanzania to various social and economic aspirations as well as in maintaining peace and harmony in the country and in the neighbouring countries.

The ELCT Secretary General Amani Mwenegoha is the founder of the new movement. He says the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania had a dream for ten years on how to form such an instrument of peace.

According to Mwenegoha, the Church later organised an exploratory team which produced a report with recommendations on how to convince other religious organisations to join the efforts to establish the movement.

He says they convened various meetings to discuss those recommendations and formed a task force which communicated the proposals to the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC - the Catholic Council in Tanzania), the Tanzania Christian Council CCT and BAKWATA (the Muslims Council).

It will find the sources of misunderstandings between some Muslim groups and Christian groups?In that way, the religious problems threatening to disrupt peace in our society would be dealt with effectively by the commission, he said.

The commission would monitor all religious crusaders to make sure that the preachers were giving their followers only religious dossier and not otherwise. The commission is the first of its kind in the Sub- Saharan countries and will be working even beyond the borders of Tanzania, says Mwenegoha.

The first meeting was held in November 19 last year in Tanzania's largest metropolis and commercial capital, Dar Es Salaam, under the theme: The Denomination's responsibility towards peace maintaining peace and reconciliation.

The meeting came up with common agreement on the importance of forming the organisation to co-ordinate, maintain and develop co- operation, love and solidarity, peace and to involve in reconciliation matters inside and outside the country.

They also formed a new task force comprising key members of religious councils in the country under chairmanship of the Archbishop Elinaza Sendro assisted by Alhaji Ally Kisiwa, the Secretary General of BAKWATA. In addition there were18 members from TEC, BAKWATA and CCT.

The report presented by the task force was supported by the general meeting. That report gave proposals for the constitution, a new name, emblem, the headquarters in Arusha, the structure and the vision.

Other proposals cited were objectives including supporting development projects, involvement in relief services for refugees, street children and other deprived people as well as involvement in floods, drought, famine, poverty alleviation, reconciliation, education and other social services.

The government supported the efforts leading to the formation of this religious council and, indeed, officiated in all the meetings preceding its establishment. The meeting held in Dodoma on June 20 this year was opened by the Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye.

A recent meeting, held on August 5, was attended by former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi as a representative of the government. In his speech. Mwinyi said Tanzania had been facing critical and dangerous problems which had contributed to the retardation of the country's development.

He urged Tanzanians to shun from any kind of misunderstanding between people of different or similar religious because all religions were aimed at making people live in peace. Christians and Muslims, he added, were obliged to become friends and there was no need for any misunderstanding between them.

He said: They are all aboard the same vessel seeking God's will and therefore Tanzanians must learn through mistakes made by other countries such as Bosnia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Indonesia, to mention but a few. He called on African nations to emulate from such move to avoid unnecessary impact of discord.

Mwinyi said he was impressed and grateful to the religious leaders who did the preparatory work leading to the inauguration of the commission. I am quite sure that African people will appreciate the move, he observed.

The general meeting elected Alhaji Rajab Kundya (the currently Secretary General of BAKWATA) as the Commission Chairman, Bishop Dr Erasto Kweka as the Vice Chairman and Amani Mwenegoha as General Secretary. All will serve for a five-year term.