January 2010

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Tanzania’s Past Does Not Need to Be Her Future

by Dr. Patricia Depew

Tanzania is home to the famous Serengeti game reserve, Mount Kilimanjaro and three of Africa’s best-known lakes. The Muslim islands of Zanzibar, Mafia and Pemba are separated from the mainland by a 22-mile wide channel of the Indian Ocean. With an astounding 140 different ethnic groupings, Tanzania’s estimated population of 41 million has one of the greatest diversities of cultures in Africa. The official language is the East African trade language of Swahili, with English being used in business, administration and higher education. Arabic is predominantly spoken in Zanzibar, and there are still a number of Bantu-based languages used by ethnic groups. In mainland Tanzania, 35 percent of the people are Muslim, 30 percent Christian and 35 percent follow indigenous practices. Zanzibar and the other islands are over 99 percent Muslim. A small minority of Asian migrants follow Buddhism or Hinduism.

History

About 2000 years ago Bantu speaking people from western Africa began to arrive in a series of migrations. At least two of the country’s tribes, the Sandawe and the Hadzabe, could claim to be the original people groups. The Sandawe are said to be the oldest of all Tanzania’s ethnic groups. They speak a Bushman-like “click” language, and today they are cattle-owners and cultivators, having been influenced by neighboring tribes. The Hadzabes, however, remain hunter-gatherers, although they too are becoming absorbed into the lifestyles of those around them.

In 1525 the Portuguese began to control the entire coast, and this domination continued until the early 18th century when Arabs from Oman began to penetrate the region. The indigenous coastal dwellers, assisted by Omani Arabs, eventually drove the Portuguese out of the area. Omani Sultan Said developed trade routes that stretched as far as Lake Tanganyika and Central Africa.

In the 19th century, Zanzibar was east Africa’s main slave-trading port with as many as 50,000 slaves passing through each year. In the mid 1800s, European explorers and colonialist began to penetrate that area. They named the mainland “Tanganyika” referring to the eastern country around the lake. One of these explorers was David Livingstone, (1813-1873) a Scottish Congregationalist pioneer medical missionary sent by the London Missionary Society. Livingstone made geographical discoveries for European knowledge. He inspired abolitionists of the slave trade. He estimated that 80,000 Africans died each year before ever reaching the slave markets of Zanzibar. He opened up central Africa to missionaries who initiated education and health care for Africans. African chiefs and local people held him in high esteem. Sir Henry Stanley wrote a detailed book about his experience with Livingstone.

In 1885, Germany established a protectorate that was named German East Africa. In 1905, the nationals rebelled against the Germans in what was named the Maji Maji Rebellion. This was followed with improved programs in education and medicine. After the WWI defeat of Germany in 1918, German East Africa was divided. England received Tanganyika. The country became independent in 1961 and Zanzibar soon followed in 1963. In 1964 these countries combined to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Julius Nerere, a devote Catholic, was elected president, and he served until 1985. He transformed the country through numerous reforms. He promoted Christian teaching and attempted to suppress Islamic activity. One famous quote of his was, “A nation which refuses to learn from foreign cultures is nothing but a nation of idiots and lunatics, [but] to learn from other cultures does not mean we should abandon our own.” Tanzania’s current president is Jakaya Kikwere, a Muslim who desires unity among Christians and Muslims. Zanzibar was granted a constitutional right to maintain it’s own President, First Minister, Cabinet and House of Representatives. They have Islamic courts that handle Muslim family matters.

Tanzania’s Economy

Poverty is a serious problem and Tanzania is struggling to meet its developmental goals. However, this country once nicknamed the ‘man-eat-nothing’ society by its east African neighbors has still out performed both Kenya and Uganda in its economic progress.

Agriculture provides more than 60 percent of its GNP and 80 percent of its employment. Most export earnings come from coffee, tea, cotton, cashews, cloves, and insect repellants. The supply of milk products has increased because some farmers are crossbreeding Tanzanian goats (which before only provided meat) with Norwegian dairy goats. Industries such as tourism and the manufacturing of cotton cloth had been doing fairly well until the current global downturn. Drought and poor management of their hydroelectric dams have crippled the economy. In 2008, several wind turbines (a machine which converts wind into electrical energy) were set up by the Wind East Africa company as an experiment. This is proving hopeful for improving Tanzania’s energy needs.

Using small loans, some women have been able to succeed in small businesses. Tanzania opened an all-women’s bank on July 28, 2009, making them the first country in Africa to do so. In the first month, over 500 women opened accounts. (http://allafrica.com/stories/200908101173.html) It has been difficult for women to handle business transactions and this is providing the support they need. Many children work in Tanzania’s mines, enduring appalling conditions. World Vision has started a program that is helping these children and others.

Current Challenges

Tanzania has 548,000 refugees, Africa’s largest number. Most of these refugees are from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Almost two-thirds of them reside in formal refugee camps. In August 2009, some 162,000 Burundian refugees accepted the government’s offer to apply for citizenship after the decision to close two camps.

Recently, a petition was signed by 64 leaders from the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) and Pentecostal churches against the demand of Muslims on the mainland to have their own Islamic courts to handle their affairs, like those in Zanzibar. The Christians feel this will create religious tension in a country that is proud of its religious and social tolerance. Up to the present time the Tanzanian government has also prevented Muslims from joining the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). There have been increased attacks against the minority of Christians (including converts from Islam) in the three Muslim islands. These attacks have included the burning of churches, beatings and the arrest of Christians.

AIDS has taken its toll on Tanzania. Over one million people are infected and nearly one million children have lost one or both parents due to AIDS. Positive steps with medical treatment have reduced the number of people suffering from tuberculosis and malaria.

Tanzania is launching a nationwide program urging the public to identify those behind dozens of horrendous murders of Albino people. Witch doctors have sold the Albino body parts as potions for healing and to bring prosperity, according to a July 21, 2008 article in BBC News.

Such practices stem from animism and folk religion. Such beliefs are varied but most involve a belief in an eternal god and spiritual forces, which are often ancestral spirits, who assist in day-to-day life. Many Tanzanians will give their children a name from a grandparent or great-grandparent in addition to a Christian or Islamic name, which reflects a relationship with the ancestral spirit world. Furthermore, many Tanzanians seek the help of diviners and traditional healers in cases of sickness and misfortune. (www.frommers.com/destinations/tanzania/3862020893.html#ixzz0OVUUZYTT)

Christian efforts

There are over 110 missionary agencies working in Tanzania including those from the U.S., Germany, UK, Finland and Korea. The primary weaknesses of the church involve the critical need for Bible teaching, training leaders and revival directed toward solid church growth.

Wycliffe Bible Translators has announced that three million people in Tanzania will receive Scriptures in their own languages for the first time by autumn of this year. (http://www.christiantoday.com/article/first.native.bible.translation.for.three.million.tanzanians/22210.htm) Faith Comes by Hearing has provided solar-powered audio Bibles for the people in the farming villages. One of these outreaches is among the Chigogo people. Over 5 million people listen to Christian radio stations and Christians now run one of the three national TV channels.

Let’s Pray!

Pray that God will meet the many physical and spiritual needs in Tanzania.
Pray that the Church will grow spiritually strong.
Pray for the fruit of the Holy Spirit to empower Tanzanian believers in such a way that they will extend His Kingdom among the Muslim and animistic peoples.


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From the Editor

by Keith Carey

In our 28-year history, we have never had a GPD issue focusing on the East African country of Tanzania. Somehow I thought this was a miscellaneous country with a legacy of British colonialism. Though the Tanzanians have that legacy, they also carry a short-lived legacy of German colonialism. If we trace their history still further back, we will see why there is so much Arab influence on Tanzania’s east coast and islands like Zanzibar.

The British legacy left them with one redeeming thing: A strong church among most of the indigenous peoples. But the Muslim peoples who came during the days of Arab domination steered most of the peoples in the coastal regions towards Islam. These coastal peoples remain unreached along with the South Asian migrants. Pray for a complete harvest among every people in Tanzania!