In mid-October some Protestant churches in Dar es Salam were devastated and set on fire, in the Mbagala area, and other clashes took place in Zanzibar. It all began by a presumed affront to the Koran. That is when the assault took place. There had already been religious clashes last June in Dar es Salam and Zanzibar. The government reacted firmly, and the various Christian and Muslim leaders made an appeal to remain calm. The country is in shock: it is a great change compared to the previous situation of more or less peaceful coexistence.
Mbagala, the area of Dar struck by conflict, is one of those areas where the Community is taking root and steadily increasing in its outreach to neighborhoods and universities in the big cities of the Indian Ocean area. Mbagala is the urban reality toward which the whole country is heading, a frenetic and busy city, with many problems, at the same time in great turmoil yet with high expectations.
On Sunday 11th of November, a month after the October clashes, all the Communities of Dar es Salam (Ardhi, Mabibo, Mbagala, Posta, Ubungo) gathered to pray for peace and reconciliation against violence. They chose to meet in Mbagala, in one of the orphanages where Sant’ Egidio operates.
Indeed, for Tanzania, the challenge is to reach out to new generations with the message of unity and brotherhood that has been inherited from the era of Independence, and the astute leadership of Julius Nyerere, the Father of the Nation. The events that took place in June and October show us that you can never take for granted religions living side by side. Living together is the challenge for every new generation; to reach out to everyone and draw near to the differences of individuals, to create a different climate.
Sant’Egidio already made this commitment in their service to children. Our presence in the Chakuwama orphanage, in the Mwenge area, an institution run by a Muslim association is a symbol of the desire to live in peace, to bring together and to unite. This is typically the charismatic spirit of the Community.
During the praying at Mbagala, emphasis was made on the value of peace and each assumed the responsibility to be a presence of encounter and reconciliation in a rapidly changing environment. Every Tanzanian community is called upon to speak of peace, to be witness to the beauty of peace, to be against division and violence, in a country where there is the constant risk of forgetting the values on which the country was founded.
The next conference dealing with the death penalty argument, will take place in Dar es Salam at the end of the month, which will be yet another occasion to witness and appeal to the building of a different climate, one of respect for life’s values and for coexistence.