Friday, June 14, 2013
A sermon in the bus (edited, re-posted)
I am in bus on my way to Musoma. A Christian evangelist is preaching the word of God. In this age of rising intolerance it can be reason for some apprehension.
In the Tanzania of the past it was rare to see anyone preach in a bus. In the Tanzania of the past it was unheard of to hear of animosity between the main religions: Islam and Christianity. Today we live in different times.
We have seen brutal attacks against religious leaders of both sides. We have witnessed communities in Geita clashing on who should slaughter livestock for sale in butchers. In the Tanzania of the past all accepted that Moslems would slaughter livestock so that the meat sold at butchers conforms to Islamic edicts.
Some contend that the apparent tensions between these two main religions has little to do with religion and that religion is only a means that some individuals have selected for channeling their protest on other pressing fundamental social challenges.
In this setting political elements have found the means to score some measure of popularity at the expense of polarizing Tanzanians into two imagined warring groups. They stoke imagined religious conspiracies to raise suspicions and gain legitimacy among followers of their religion.
Some Tanzanians from both these groups have taken the bait. And it may be only a matter of time that we reach the point of no return where acts of violence and acts of revenge are staged in a repetitive cycle and begin to generate a momentum of their own.
It's not a far-fetched analysis and I tend to agree with it.
In the old Tanzania a sermon in a bus would raise little concern. Today we have to worry that it could be a spark for confrontation.
The evangelist is seated now and a woman has taken her place. She is selling herbal toothpaste and alternative medicine. That should not offend anyone. We pray.