26 December 2012

Tanzania: Clerics Want Conflicts Stemmed

AS the world celebrated Christmas, the day of the birth of Jesus Christ, religious leaders have agitated for greater peace and harmony.

They have called on the government to contain religious conflicts. The Catholic Church went a mile farther, challenging the government to take its role in providing security to churches and other places of worship against sabotages by gangs of criminals.

The Archbishop of the Dar es Salaam Catholic Archdiocese, Polycarp Cardinal Pengo, told the press that the government was sorely responsible for enabling the worshipers undertake their religious activities peacefully short of which chaos may erupt.

He said that although the government does not have direct affiliation in any religious sect, it recognizes the presence of religions, denominations and their activities and was therefore obliged to take immediate action whenever trouble occurs. "The government must ensure peace and security at places of worship be it at mosques, temples or churches. It has to make sure these places are respected," he stressed.

The Cardinal was referring to the recent chaos in the country where unknown criminal gangs torched a number of churches. Cardinal Pengo who was officiating at the Holy Christmas Mass at the new Kinyerezi Parish in the City, said worshippers must avoid abusing or insulting each other. They should respect each one's religious beliefs, he said. He called on the authorities to fairly allocate resources to people particularly the poor.

He added that unequally distributed national resources might create endless conflicts. Commenting on the new constitution, Archbishop Pengo said his own opinion on the exercise was that it should contribute to maintenance of peace and solidarity among Tanzanians. "The new constitution should ensure freedom of worship and safeguard people's beliefs in their spiritual lives," he said.

However, he cautioned Tanzanians to remain patient and calm as the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) collects views. Officiating at the Christmas Eve Mass at Gongo la Ndege Parish, Segerea, Cardinal Pengo urged believers to embrace peace and avoid amassing wealth since having accumulated a lot of wealth can not assure total happiness.

He said searching for wealth should not create harm to others but the birth of Jesus Christ brings happiness and peace to both the poor and the rich. The government's involvement in resolving religious conflicts has been the call of many stakeholders in recent days.

A 'Daily News' survey in the city saw people proceeding with their activities peacefully. Many streamed into churches for prayers. Others engaged themselves in social gatherings. The Head of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT), Bishop Alex Malasusa said that peace which has been preached in churches from generation to generation has enabled christians to refrain from retaliation when attacked. While presiding over Christmas Mass at the ELCT-Azania Front Cathedral yesterday, Bishop Malasusa said christians should uphold peace and not opt for battle when provoked.

"They think that we are fools because we do not retaliate when attacked. They do not know that we adhere to peace as has been preached and imprinted in us from generation to generation," he explained. The Head of ELCT said peace in the country should be protected because once it's gone, the nation will be plunged into bloodshed.

He said individuals, communities and leaders have a role to play in creating a good environment to promote peace, unity and harmony in the country. "Peace cannot be protected by using firearms nor is it upheld by throwing people into jails. Peace can be upheld by creating an environment that will promote it among individuals and communities," he explained.

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