21 February 2013

Tanzania: Peace Must Be Preserved At All Costs


FOR a country that has been enjoying a reputation as an island of peace, it is a travesty that we should give it all away in the name of religious beliefs.

From Zanzibar to Geita, what has transpired of late is not only saddening but detrimental to our well-being as a nation. That people should die or be injured because of their faiths is not a matter for frolic. It has been said time and again, those who have done their bit and lost the little peace and tranquility they once enjoyed look at us with envy.

We certainly do not want to take the same route. Recent events in Zanzibar are cause for concern, just like the same that have happened in Tanzania Mainland. We support authorities when they say that there are elements bent on inciting people to breach the country's peace on religious grounds. Such people do not wish well our country and its people.

Two Christian clerics have been shot, one fatally, in the Isles where one Muslim cleric was smeared with acid. In Geita, another Christian cleric was beheaded and several people were injured when sectarian violence erupted a few days back. But Tanzanians are known to be people who tolerate each other's differences.

Something is amiss when neighbours who have long known each other as people of different faiths start attacking one another on sectarian grounds. It should be understood that Tanzania is a secular state. Faith is an individual's choice and we are all, each to each, protected by the laws of the land to pursue any religious belief we choose, so long as we do not break the country's laws.

We are all subject to similar freedoms and rights as citizens. It should also be understood that our differences are by no means deficiencies; as a matter of fact they should be looked at as our strengths considering the different backgrounds amongst Tanzanians.

Tolerance is thus of paramount importance. Most importantly, the government should be more vigilant and not allow sectarian violence to take root in the country. Consequences will spread far and wide and not end at just social instability. Failure to deal with the problem will also scare away investors and, in the long run, hurt the economy.

There might be many forces, both from within and without, at play. Authorities should kill the bad seed before it grows and Tanzania should maintain its reputation as a country of relative peace and tolerance.

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