Workshop of Religious Leaders on Peaceful Coexistence
Incidences of religious intolerance have been increasing in Tanzania for the past five years. The incidences include burning of churches and mosque, killing of religious clergies, pouring of acid to religious clergies, provoking religious teachings. There is also insufficient monitoring and documentation of religious intolerance incidences and documenting of the best practices of religious tolerance.
With this back ground CCT organized a one day conference on 20th July 2016. The conference brought together Christians and Muslims at National level to discuss on how best to maintain peaceful coexistence and promote religious tolerance. At the end of this conference a national interfaith committee will be established which will have the role of periodical monitoring of religious media on issues of tolerance, bringing evidence to national consultative meetings, bringing together religious owned media (owners and editors) to encourage them to support religious tolerance and ensure members take action to address the issues of religious tolerance.
The meeting is attended by Minister of Internal Affairs, BAKWATA, CCT, CPCT, TEC and the Media.
In his speech the guest of honour, the Minister for Internal Affairs appreciated the role of religious leaders in facilitating peaceful passage through last year’s general elections. Despite the tense atmosphere the elections were conducted under peaceful atmosphere with exception of pockets of violence in few places. The minister acknowledged that the contribution of religious leaders on peace building and conflict resolution is essential for the nation.
Religious leaders facilitated by prayer the country’s safe passage through elections of 2015. Despite all odds the country went through the historic election in peace and harmony. Although the government had invested a lot in security for the election it seems all the security machines were redundant because the religious leaders had played their part significantly.
The minister also stated that religious leaders are faithful and cannot be accomplices to criminals. In that way and due to strong structures they have, religious leaders can facilitate security from national to grassroots. With this structure they can easily help the government in addressing security issues in the nation.
Also the minister insisted that individual criminal actions should not be used to stereotype the entire religious group. Instead all religions should play central role in denouncing and rebuking all evils done by its members. Also religious bodies should play significant role in solving criminal cases concerning their people so as to avoid the entire congregations to be implicated or stereotyped as criminals. With this trend it will enhance trust for people of different religious backgrounds as well as between religious bodies. Eventually all religions join hands in tackling crimes and avoid implicating the innocent.
After the minister’s speech, the leaders were taken through the Terrorism Act 2002 RE. Where it was presented that there are confusions in defining terrorism. Apart from the internationally known definition of terrorism the law of terrorism puts final authority on the minister of internal affairs to decide whether an action is terrorism or not. Given the tensions, biases and stereotypes associated with terrorism some leaders were uncomfortable with the fact that the decisions has to come from the minister.
Other presentations were on ‘What does Islam say about terrorism’ and another on ‘How to Christians view Muslims’.
After long discussion that was not without strong statements from each religion towards the other, Muslim and Christian leaders agreed on the following:
- Secretariats of TEC, CCT and BAKWATA shall propose names for members of national interfaith committee
- Each religion shall take vehemently oppose and denounce national and international terrorist activities done in the name of religion
- The secretariats shall prepare another meeting so that leaders get more room to speak more openly on about their feelings
- The secretariat and the national interfaith committee shall together prepare a meeting to address current political atmosphere in Tanzania