AFRICA/TANZANIA - Called to bear witness to Christ in an increasingly complex society: interview with the President of the Episcopal Conference of Tanzania

Friday, 19 May 2023 local churches  

Dar es Salaam (Agenzia Fides) - "We are grateful to God for this young Church with strong roots and growing" says in an interview with Agenzia Fides the Archbishop of Mbeya and President of the Episcopal Conference of Tanzania, Monsignor Gervas John Mwasikwabhila Nyaisonga.

The Church in Tanzania celebrated the 150 years of its mission in the country in 2018 and now with what perspective does it face the future?
We are grateful to God for this young Church with strong roots and growing, as demonstrated by the number of baptisms and priestly and religious vocations, while the percentage of people who remain in the Catholic Church is also very high. So we see with hope the growth of the Church in Tanzania, a growth that comes from the fact that the faith is well rooted in our community. The faithful try to imitate Christ, to live the life according to Christ. There is good collaboration between all members of the Church, priests, men and women religious and lay people; everyone feels part of the evangelizing mission, each according to his own charism.
On the other hand, we are affected by the challenge of modernization and the globalized world. Society is becoming more complex every day. There is a clash caused by the encounter between traditional and western culture. This leads a small but significant number of faithful to leave the Catholic Church. To this cultural reality are added economic and sociopolitical factors that affect the faithful. First of all, youth unemployment: we have a large number of young people who cannot find work once they have finished their studies. The Church must be present, by their side, showing them the way to live with dignity despite the lack of employment.
To meet these challenges, we need even more trained priests who can reach different parts of the country and different social
spheres to offer guidance and assistance to people of different categories and conditions.

In this regard, are young people the most exposed to external cultural influences?
The world is globalized, so young people have access to different sources of information and cultural influences. We do not say that external influences are evil, but they often create a shock in people. Much depends on the sources young people turn to for information or entertainment. Media can be used for positive or negative purposes; to encourage people's participation or benefit their cultural growth or to sow discord. So the questions to ask yourself are “who do you turn to for information?” and “who verifies the authenticity of what they tell you?”. External influences can come from all over the world, not only from the north and west, but also from the east and south. The important thing is the verification of what is reported to us.

What can you tell us about the recent acts of desecration against churches in Tanzania (see Fides, 15/5/2023)?
Some of those responsible for these acts have been caught and the police are investigating. We are awaiting the conclusions of the investigation to find out the motivations for these desecrations. According to the first information, it does not seem that all these acts have the same motivations; some appear to be criminal acts.

How are the relations with other faiths?
They are doing very well both at the ecumenical and interfaith level. We live fraternally both with our brothers of other Christian denominations and with Muslims. We all meet frequently and there is no cause for conflict. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 19/5/2023)