Caring for stranger and neighbour – the Church in Tanzania

9 August 2016

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.”

Bishop Sadock Makaya, and Diocesan Secretary, Revd Emmanuel Bwatta, Diocese of Western Tanganyika.

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.”

Archbishop-Jacob-Erasto-Chimeledya,-Mothers’-Union-Provincial--coordinator,-Margaret-Masawa,-Anglican-Alliance-Co-Director,-Revd-Rachel-Carnegie,-and-Alliance-intern,-Della-Wager-WellsLast week the Revd Rachel Carnegie, co-director of the Anglican Alliance, visited the provincial office in Dodoma, Tanzania, as well as the DWT, to understand more about their approach to relief and development. “There are significant lessons to learn from the province on its vision for promoting food security and agricultural adaptation in response to climate change,” Rachel said.

Captain Johnson explained how the country was divided into different climatic regions, each with its own challenges. “We are now finding out which are the most vulnerable areas in each region,” he said. “We are encouraging churches to set up grain banks and seed banks, buying when the price is low. When food shortages comes, the price can triple. The church can then sell the grain at a reduced price, whilst still making interest to sustain them for the next year.”

The province is also promoting “Farming God’s Way” as an approach to conserving moisture and nutrients in the soil to secure a better harvest.

Captain Johnson facilitates a leadership training, called Samaritan’s Strategy. Developed by CMS Africa, this promotes a vision of servant leadership, building the sustainability of the church and community. “How do you demonstrate God’s love for your neighbour?” he asked.

Captain Johnson, who served for 14 years as the development officer in the Diocese of Morogoro, is also enthusiastic about the role of CCm/Umoja. “CCM creates awareness in people of the challenges they are facing and how they can address these on their own,” he explained.  “We are looking to harmonise approaches. Later this year we will train the dioceses on using a disaster risk reduction method called the Participatory Vulnerability and Capacity tool, which we will add to the CCM package.”

Using these participatory tools, Captain Johnson and his team made an important discovery. They divided communities into groups of men and women, subdivided into separate age groups, to map their activities over 24 hours. They found that young people were not significantly engaged in farming, only working three to four hours a day as the older people did not want to share the land. After negotiations, the young people were given unused land to farm.

“Through this they found value and identity staying in the village,” Captain Johnson concluded, saying that they no longer felt pushed to leave the village in search of work.The Church also works thorough the local government to introduce these approaches so that other Christians and other faiths can participate and benefit. Christians, Muslims and other faiths mostly live in harmony in the communities, church leaders reported.

Archbishop Jacob Erasto Chimeledya, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, expressed concern for his people: “It is terrible for communities as the rain is unpredictable,” he said. “This is a big worry for rural people with the uncertainty.”

The churches can help by giving a weather forecast after the sermon, he suggested. They are also promoting different forms of irrigation and moisture retention to help farmers cope with unreliable rain patterns.

“People have trust in the Church,” Archbishop Jacob said. “The Church still has an open door to reach the people.”

Reflecting on her visit, Rachel Carnegie said: “This is a church which is deeply committed to holistic mission – to the flourishing of all, caring for its own people and for the stranger, as represented by the refugees from Burundi.”

“It was a privilege and an inspiration to visit,” she added. “Through the Anglican Alliance we aim to share the learning with other provinces.”

Top: A church choir member and her baby in the diocesan jubilee dress in Western Tanganyika
Middle: Bishop Sadock Makaya and Diocesan Secretary, Revd Emmanuel Bwatta,  Diocese of Western Tanganyika.
Bottom: Archbishop Jacob Erasto Chimeledya, Mothers’ Union Provincial  coordinator, Margaret Masawa, Anglican Alliance Co-Director, Revd Rachel Carnegie, and Alliance intern, Della Wager Wells.