19 June 2017

Tanzania: Religious Teachings Key to Forging Unity


The ability to deliver messages on complex issues via a simple approach, but which even semi-literate people can grasp easily, was one of the attributes that made Tanzania's founding president, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, a towering intellectual giant.

In one of his speeches, delivered after he had voluntarily relinquished the presidency, he castigated the obsession by some Tanzanians with religious, tribal, and racial affiliations, elevating them to the level of criteria for individuals to ascend to key political positions, or, on the contrary, being deemed unsuitable.

On religion, specifically, he chipped a bit of humour into a point he sought to drive home emphatically - that, it wouldn't matter if the State presidency were to be held by a Muslim three times in a row, since, after all, the Tanzanian electorate wasn't electing a Roman Catholic pope, but an individual the electorate would deem high-level leadership credentials !

His sentiments were prompted by cracks that had worryingly started to shake up what had been a considerably cohesive nation in which tribes, races and religions didn't count beyond legitimate references to those to whom they related.

Mwalimu was understandably upset, as were many of his rational compatriots, because, for many years after the country gained political independence in 1961, Tanzania literally towered above the rest of Africa, courtesy of its above-average cohesiveness, which also earned it accolades globally.

Then, gradually, the cohesion started cracking, creating a situation under which tribal and religious links became highlights of postmortems of ministerial appointments and headships of key public institutions, shortly after general elections !

Although the situation hasn't reached crisis levels, the mere fact that Tanzania's situation appears considerably better than in some countries where they threaten to, and in some cases tear nations apart, it isn't something we should be proud of.

Doing so would be the equivalent of a person with a mild headache perceiving oneself luckier than someone nursing cerebral malaria. The ultimate goal should be attaining a state of absolute good health. To that end, the current Holy Month of Ramadan is potentially a very helpful facilitative tool.

In residential localities, non-Muslims delightfully respond to invitations from their Islamic family neighbours to evening Iftar (fast-breaking) get-togethers. Commonplace, too, are similar, but formal get-togethers organized by political leaders at various levels, diplomatic missions and other outfits.

Their thrust is to enhance friendship and solidarity, and, generally, a sense of community belonging. Spiritually and psychologically, these are highly uplifting.

The powerful message that the get-togethers - also manifested during Easter and Christmas seasons - relay, is that, basically, all religions preach pursuit of positive virtues that include love, friendship, co-operation, peace and harmony. We are all therefore enjoined to sustain the spirit they personify.


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