Last Tuesday we had the pleasure of a rather spiritual visit to the nursery. The leaders of several churches and mosques in Kigoma came to have a look at what we were doing and how their various congregations could get involved. Representatives from the Catholic, Lutheran, and Moravian churches were present, as well has three representatives from the Islamic Council of Kigoma. The visit started with prayers from both the major faiths represented; faiths that are also represented on Seed Change’s staff – we have both a Jeremiah and a Rashid Mshahallah. The leaders toured the nursery asking questions and taking notes for several hours. Strenuous work in the hot sun. After the visit was completed and all representatives had the information they required for the congregations, the faithful delegation had lunch together with several of Seed Change’s staff.
Tanzania has roughly equal populations of Islamic and Christian followers, with both faiths frequently being mixed with traditional animistic beliefs. There are also not insignificant Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist minorities courtesy of the centuries old trading history around the Indian Ocean rim.
Inter-faiths events and a general level of mutual respect is very much the norm, rather than the exception, here in Tanzania. While obviously not a perfect post-religious-discrimination society, Tanzania (and contrary to stereotype, other African countries) displays an uncommon level of religious harmony. Globally speaking, this respect can seem unfortunately increasingly uncommon. Certainly there are marginalised groups in Tanzania – women, the gay and lesbian community, albinos all have it very tough – but for plain old Christian-Muslim tolerance, Tanzania has got to be one of the leaders.
So what has all this got to do with Seed Change? Well, a little bit. Of course one of our values is equality. To us all farmers are equal. We work with all willing farmers regardless of gender, religion, education, tribe or proximity to the main road. But the leaders of the various faith organisations were not at our nursery because we are such tolerant folk. But rather they were there to see for themselves the seedlings that could greatly improve the lives of some of their congregants. Ending poverty in Kigoma – now that would be an ecumenical matter.