Tanzanian bishop tells UK politicians that love is the only way
‘Love is the only way’ was the repeated message of Bishop Given Gaula, Bishop of Kondoa in Tanzania, to a meeting at the UK House of Commons of the Tanzania All Party Parliamentary Group hosted by Jeremy Lefroy MP.
Bishop Gaula and his wife Revd Lillian Gaula was addressing the concern of the group for community cohesion in Tanzania in the
context of increased tensions between Muslims and Christians.
The meeting was also attended by Baroness Berridge, the chair of the APPG on International Religious Freedom and the Director of Continuing Indaba Canon Phil Groves. Bishop Gaula stressed the history of religious tolerance in the secular society of Tanzania.
The nation has flourished because of its diversity with all being able to be open about their religion and to speak with their neighbours without fear. The diocese of Kondoa is situated in a predominantly Muslim area in the centre of Tanzania where Christians are in a tiny minority. The area was passed over by missionaries and does not benefit from the school system or health facilities that accompanied Christian mission.
Tensions had been heightened by the bombing of a Catholic Church in Arusha in April and by isolated incidents in Zanzibar attributed to fundamentalists. Bishop Given cautioned the politicians against labelling such atrocities as being religiously motivated, but
called for the British government to treat them for what they were – acts of murder of one human being by another.
Revd Lillian spoke of the work she is doing with the Mothers Union to counter the practice of Female Genital Mutilation. Such abuse is illegal in Tanzanian law but continues to be practised because many believe that ‘uncircumcised’ girls will not be able to conceive and will turn to prostitution.
As one of only 25 female Anglican Priests in the Anglican Church of Tanzania she is able to speak of her own life. She was not cut as a child and she has tree healthy children and she is a priest not a prostitute. The Mothers Union has a vital role in countering Female Genital Mutilation in the rural areas of Africa.
Revd Lillian argues that the need is for education. Many women cannot read or write and they have been excited by the opportunity to learn offered by the Diocese. Men too were coming to get a basic education and the hunger for knowledge was great. Her message to the Parliamentary Group was clear and simple – invest in education.
When asked about the impact of global warming Bishop Given spoke of seven years of drought as a consequence of man-made climate change.
He challenged the West to consider their use of resources and the effect it had on people who now had no food. Returning to the questions of interreligious harmony he called on all religious groups to put Tanzania first and ensure they confronted the fanatics and fundamentalists in their own religion.
He spoke of his work alongside the Roman Catholic leadership to calm down some of the more extreme Pentecostal and charismatic church leaders who were calling for revenge. In contrast he committed himself to the reconciliation agenda of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Bishop Given and Revd Lillian endorsed the principles of Continuing Indaba set out by Canon Groves. They agreed that the priority is to build relationships, to value diversity and to enable honest conversation to establish a healthy community. Love is the only way for Christians to respond they said.