Rising religious violence in Tanzania is topic of one-day seminar
Tanzanians are troubled by the growth and entrenchment of ever deadlier religious tensions and violence, which is at odds with the country's reputation for peace.
Several hundred journalists are expected to discuss this and related religious trends in Tanzania in a day conference on 8 March in Dar es Salaam.
“The religions are not the cause of conflict by themselves. What bring conflict are the failure to address the religions as one aspect in any given society and then the failure to accommodate them. We have to understand that religion is already a reality in our society so is better to accept it and accommodate it in a peaceful manner. Failure to do so may escalate the situation to the brink of conflict sometime in the future,” says Dismas Lyassa, the leader of Christian Journalists Tanzania Chapter (CJTC).
Established in 2006 by local Christian journalists, CJTC has challenged journalists to pursue excellence and work without fear or favor. Key issues on the chapter’s agenda have been corruption in media houses and accountability among government leaders.
Among the latest incidents is the killing of an Assemblies of God pastor, Mathaio Machila (45) in the Geita region in Tanzania. The conflict had been boiling for some time as Muslim leaders demanded closure of butcheries owned by Christians. Earlier in October 2012 scores of Muslim youth attacked and torched churches after they failed to get a 12 year old boy accused of urinating on the Quran. Earlier also a Catholic priest, Father Evarist Mushi was killed on the way to celebrate mass in his church on the island of Zanzibar.
“Religion is not only a Tanzanian problem - it is a world problem. The better way to deal with religion and religious people is to accept them as a reality and accommodate them instead of ignoring them,” says Lyassa.
Lyassa is inviting up to 500 journalists as well as some government and religious leaders to the day conference, which is partly sponsored by The Media Project.
Tanzania is considered to be among the peaceful countries in the world, but lately serious conflicts have emerged, mostly interpreted and understood as religious conflicts.
The main objective for the one-day conference is to help the participants understand religious issues, and know how to live with people who believe differently. Helping to avoid or solve religious conflicts – or any other form of conflict – is key.
Monitoring and evaluating religious activities without disturbing one another is also an important issue for the journalists.
Key speakers will address issues like “The history of religion in Tanzania: What went wrong?” and “The Government and Religious Issues”. As a part of the conference one hope is to develop an “Action Plan for a Conflict-Free Nation.”