Tanzania: Cardinal calls for dialogue between Christians and Muslims

Originally published in allAfrica.com

The Archbishop of Dar es Salaam, Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, has called on religious leaders and the government to work together to ensure peaceful co-existence between Christians and Muslims in the country.

According to Vatican Radio, the call follows attacks in the past weeks by Islamic fundamentalists against Christians on the island of Zanzibar in which a Catholic priest was seriously wounded and another one killed. Speaking in Dar es Salaam, Cardinal Pengo, invited the Tanzanian government to facilitate a meeting between the two religious groups. He said that they should be left to engage in the deliberations without interference until they come up with resolutions that will help safeguard and promote peace, harmony and tranquility in the country.

He also called upon the Tanzanian government to fulfill its duty to provide security to the religious leaders. He pointed out that Police had failed to provide conclusive information regarding the assassination of a Catholic priest, Fr Evarist Mushi, in Zanzibar last month, and invited government never to keep quiet when people are being attacked, killed and their property destroyed by people who do not want peace.

The Spokesman of the Tanzania Police responded at the weekend saying that the force was still investigating the acts of violence in Zanzibar. Christians have, however, accused the police of being silent and sometimes of siding with the fundamentalists. Zanzibar is predominantly a Moslem area.

Meanwhile President Jakaya Kikwete has assured of the government’s resolve to sustain the nation’s peace and security irrespective of individual’s religious or political leanings.

In his end of the month address to the nation, Mr Kikwete requested clerics to avoid inflammatory and misleading statements which could be harmful to national unity. “The government has never failed to protect its people and does not take sides. Isolated incidents of faith-related events that led to breach of peace are not connected or related to one another and all suspects are in police custody for questioning,” he said.

The government is not interested in seeing anyone mocking the faiths of others, he warned, adding that he has instructed security organs at all levels to take serious action against all elements propagating provocative sentiments against other religions.

He supported the initiative by the Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda, to convene a meeting for senior religious leaders in May, this year to discuss and deliberate on the trend for a lasting solution to the situation.

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