When the refugees arrived from Burundi last year, the first places they sought sanctuary were the churches in the Diocese of Western Tanganyika (DWT).
The people of the diocese are often poor themselves, but they responded with loving generosity to the strangers in their midst with food and clothing. “If you have five shirts, give one to the refugees,” Bishop Sadock Makaya encouraged his people.
The refugees are now settled in camps, run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), but the diocese continues to assist them with practical help and pastoral care.
The diocesan health co-ordinator, John Mhanuzi Wabike, described the situation when the refugees first arrived in 2015: “When the refugees started to come over the border, they came to the Anglican churches. The pastors reported that they were overwhelmed. So as a diocese we started to mobilise our own resources of food and clothing. We reported what was happening to the UNHCR. Then they built way stations and moved the refugees on to the camps.”
According to the UNHCR, there are nearly 150,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania. Others are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.
Bishop Sadock wanted the diocese to help the Burundian refugees as they had done in the mid-90s. The diocese shared their proposal with the Anglican Alliance. Later they received support from partners around the Anglican Communion to continue their work.
“In the camps we arrange people into the neediest groups,” John Wabike said. “Pregnant women, elders, unaccompanied minors and the sick need blankets. The camp is in the forest. It can be very cold. It’s torture. The UNHCR says that the Church is the only organisation providing blankets to the refugees.”
When John Wabike visits the camps he goes with Mothers’ Union members to assist with the work. “My work goes very smoothly because of the help of the Mothers’ Union in every village.”
There is one young boy in particular who has touched John: “I’ve met one refugee child who is disabled. He only has his mother. All the other relatives, including three other children, were killed. I have given resources from my own side for this little family. If God wishes I will follow this child to make sure he does well.”
The diocese also provides pastoral care and spiritual care for the Burundian Anglicans in the camps.
The diocese has celebrated its 50th Jubilee this month. “This is a diocese which is growing vigorously,” Bishop Sadock said. “We are committed to holistic ministry.”
The diocese is planting many new parishes while they are also running schools, health services and health outreach programmes, a centre for motherless babies, as well as other development projects. All this is in addition to the work with refugees.
With support from the provincial secretary, the Revd Canon Captain Johnson Chinyong’ole, the DWT has developed an integrated strategic plan for a sustainable approach to holistic mission.
Anglican Alliance intern Della Wager Wells was in the diocese during the Jubilee celebration through late July working with the DWT development office to explore the incorporation of CCM/Umoja approaches to development.
CCM, or Church and Community Mobilisation, has been taken up in a number of dioceses in Tanzania, including with the Mothers’ Union. This approach is also called Umoja, which means “together” in Kiswahili.
“DWT is fully committed to holistic, self-reliant development in Christian community,” Wells said. “From DWT’s strategic plan to its report to the Prime Minister’s personal representative at the Jubilee celebrations, Bishop Sadock and the diocesan leaders emphasise self-reliance and holistic service to all denominations and faiths in all diocesan programs. DWT’s strong commitment to self-reliance and holistic mission is an excellent setting for success in CCM/Umoja approaches to development.”
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