The ACTION Support Centre was invited to facilitate the situation analysis and dialogue facilitation sessions at the Tanzania Christian and Muslim Religious Leaders Initiative for Peace and Peaceful Co-Existence held in Dar Es Salaam from the 6th to the 9th of October.
The meeting was organized by the Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations Tanzania (PROCMURA), the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC), The Supreme Council of all Muslim in Tanzania (BAKWATA), the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) and the Council of Pentecostal Churches in Tanzania (CPCT) with the support of the Zanzibar Interfaith Centre (ZANZIC), a key partner of the ASC. The event brought together over 100 key religious leaders from across Tanzania, including Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Morogoro, Mtwara, Lindi, Arusha, Geita and Mbeya.
Tanzania will hold a referendum on a new constitution at the end of 2014 and an election next year, and there are concerns that the escalating tensions often associated with these processes could see outbreaks of violence if the religious community is not clear on the role it has the potential to play as a mediating influence and a force for peace. In 2013 serious violence erupted between Muslims and Christians including serious destruction of property, injuries and several killings. While the surge of tensions has somewhat abated tensions remain high, and the underlying causes of the conflict have not yet been adequately addressed.
The opening night was attended by President Jakaya Kikwete who made a rousing call for the depoliticisation of religion and the dereligionisation of politics. The situation analysis followed a strong conflict transformation orientation, with Muslim and Christian groups working separately to develop a shared Balance of Forces analysis which then served as an entry point for plenary discussion and dialogue between all of the participants. The outcomes of the dialogue and the shared analysis that was developed fed into and informed regional action plans that will be carried out by local religious leaders over the next few months.
In the analysis some of the key issues raised included serious questions about the use of public spaces by different religions, and the effect that religious symbols and activities can have. Questions were also raised around how to ensure the secular nature of the Tanzanian state in the midst of a country in which both Islam and Christianity are seen as critical elements of the identities of the countries citizens, managing the tensions that inevitably arise when land and public space is scarce and there are complex pressures to expand religious constituencies and the processes and mechanisms that are required to ensure a clear message of unity emerges from religious leadership.
The ASC will continue to stay engaged in the on-going processes, partly through our on-going connections with ZANZIC as well as the emerging relationship with PROCMURA. As a pre-emptive initiative aimed at recognizing and managing the conflict dynamics in the context the initiative appears to have been a highly effective intervention with which the ASC has been honoured to be associated.