Interfaith relations and ecumenism is one of the nine programs of the Christian Council of Tanzania. As its name depicts it is a twofold program. It facilitates creation and sustenance of both good inter-faith and good intra-faith relations in the country. Its basic aim is peace building and conflict transformation. The program is guided by the philosophy of being proactive to possible interfaith conflicts. It takes proactive measures in interfaith conflict transformations.
In this program faith is understood in its broad sense. Faith pertains to believing in various ideologies such as religious, denominational, political, economic, cultural or philosophical. Presence of various ideologies in the society is tantamount to pluralism. Since these ideologies do not coexist by themselves rather followers of the ideologies are the ones who co-exist; tolerance has been the key concept in day to day’s operations of this program. CCT believes that good interfaith relations create peace in the society, peace and peaceful coexistence is the most important aspect for community development.
While there are various national interfaith initiatives, in most cases this program focuses on the District level, which is closer to people at the grass roots. We usually start by training religious leaders from various groups on interfaith relations, dialogue and conflict transformation. We then facilitate formation of District interfaith committees, which in some area are known as peace committees or peace forums depending on the context. Those religious leaders who form interfaith committees come from different existing religious umbrella bodies in the country; The Christian Council of Tanzania, Supreme Council of Muslim in Tanzania (BAKWATA), Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC), Council of Pentecostal Churches in Tanzania (CPCT), Ahmadiyya Community, Council of Imams and Traditional religious leaders. After formation of District interfaith committees this program builds capacity of the committees by training them in various issues in the society. Then this program facilitates the committees to meet in quarterly basis to discuss crosscutting issues in the society. Furthermore, the committees are enabled to form interfaith committees in other levels of the society so as to trickle down the message of good interfaith relations to other people at the grass roots level.
Despite cultural and historical barriers of some religions in incorporating women for peace building, this program has managed to take women on board for peace building. Women have played very significant active roles in peace building. In some areas they have done marvellous intervention of conflict resolutions even without being publicized. Being the case, apart from District interfaith committees this program has facilitated formation of women interfaith committees in some District. Facilitations of Women interfaith committees follow the same philosophy of District interfaith committees.
Generally, District interfaith committees and women interfaith committee have been playing the following roles: Conflict prevention through interfaith dialogues, Conflict mitigation, reconciliation and trauma healing. Also, interfaith committees form and supervise social activities and community development projects, which bring people of different faith together. Such activities include Village Community Bank (VICOBA) groups which have been the commonest community development activities in different areas. Dodoma, Kondoa and Kigoma are examples for this case. Tanga committee helps in counselling and fund mobilization for taking care of drug addict rehabilitation centre in Tanga town. Sometimes they organize big public meetings for spreading peace, and good interfaith relation messages. Also, in some areas they organized sports which major theme of Peace and peaceful coexistence. Interfaith committees have as well been tools of advocacy in the society. Finally the committees have been educating people about tolerance and good interfaith relations in the society.
Tanzania is a huge Country. Nevertheless, the program have managed to form interfaith committees in Dodoma, Kondoa, Kiteto, Kilosa, Kigoma, Mwanza, Tarime, Bahi, Tanga, Arusha, Geita. Also there are women interfaith committees in Geita, Kigoma and Kilosa. In collaboration with other stakeholders in the society such as Government, NGOs, business institutions, these committees facilitate formation of interfaith committees in other levels. So far Geita committees have formed other committees in other Districts of Nyang’hwale, Chato, Bukombe, Mbogwe. Kilosa has formed committee in Kimamba. Mwanza has formed committee in Ilemela. Therefore this makes CCT interfaith and ecumenism program to facilitate and mentor total of 19 interfaith committees, 16 District committees and 3 women interfaith committees.
Interfaith committees have proven to be very important instruments of peace building. Religious conflicts have not been reported in the areas where there are interfaith committees. Even in times of religious tensions in the Country, those areas where there are interfaith committees have proven to be stable and peaceful. In areas where interreligious conflicts occurred before formation of interfaith committees, they became peaceful after formation and interventions of interfaith committees. Geita, Kondoa, and Kigoma can be cited as best examples for that. In some parts of the country where there have been ethnic conflicts like Mara Region, interfaith committee has managed to transform them. Tarime committee has done a commendable job to resolve the conflicts. In Kilosa and Kiteto where there are land conflicts between pastoralists and farmers interfaith committees are working to transform them. In Kilosa the intervention is at a good stage and Kiteto is still at early but promising stage.
Another major breakthrough of the interfaith committees is the acceptance, respect and trust of the populace, Government, and other institutions to the committees. This helps the committees to achieve high outcomes in most of their interventions. Both local and central Governments, NGOs and other institutions use these committees for community mobilization of different things in the society. Kilosa and Kondoa are best examples for that. Other organizations which do advocacy have used them for that purpose. Geita and Tarime are examples for that.
Apart from all above successes registered finances has been a great challenge for mentoring, capacity building of the committees and their facilitation to form other committees.
Group photo of Arusha interfaith committee during one of capacity building seminars
Group photo of religious leaders in Kilosa taken during one of seminars on dialogue and conflict transformation which resulted to formation of interfaith committee.
Mwanza Reginal interfaith committee .
Tarime District interfaith committee.
Kigoma women interfaith committee.
Youth in Dodoma listening attentively during seminar on interfaith and Peaceful coexistence.
Rev. Dr. William Kopwe (Interfaith Program Officer) explaining something to youth during seminar on interfaith and peaceful coexistence.
Prepared by Rev. Dr. William Kopwe.
Rev. William Kopwe, PhD. (Program Officer)