This article is sixth in a series of articles about the religious life and customs of African Catholics in the United States, and how the Church might better serve their pastoral needs.
Information about Tanzania
Tanzania, formerly Tanganyika, on the east coast of Africa, is well known for its tropical beaches, great lakes, huge game reserves, and majestic snow capped Kilimanjaro. Its land borders include Uganda and Kenya to the north, Mozambique, Zambia, and Malawi to the south, and Congo, Burundi and Rwanda to the west. Tanzania is slightly larger than twice the size of California. It covers an area of 945,090 sq. kms., including 886,040 sq. kms. Of land.
The country is made up of mainland Tanganyika and the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, a few miles off the shores of the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. The name TAN-ZA-NIA derives from a combination of the names of two formerly separate states of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. So, TAN, stands for Tanganyika, ZAN, for Zanzibar and NIA for resolve to become one nation (state). Hence, the name TANZANIA.
Creation has abundantly blessed Tanzania with fresh-water lakes more han any other country in the continent of Africa: to the north is Victoria, the second largest fresh-water lake in the world, to the west is Lake Tanganyika, the second only to Lake Baykad as the deepest in the world, and Lake Malawi to the south. Within Tanzania itself are also found Lake Natron, Eyasi, Manyara, and Rukwa.
Although Africa's three great rivers, the Nile, the Congo, and the Zambezi, originate from Tanzania, the country has few permanent rivers resulting in an annual six-month period of dryness, while the rainy season experiences floods. Tanzania has only two seasons: the dry season (July to November) and the rainy season (December to June) with a three-month break (January to March).
People, Economy and Customs
Although the people of Tanzania have many things in common, there are 120 tribes in the country, each speaking their own language and observing their own customs. According to the 1994 estimates, there are slightly over 30 million people in Tanzania plus an extra 700,000 recent refugees from the tribal torn central African republics of Rwanda and Burundi.
Swahili is Tanzania's official language used for communication between ethnic groups and is also used in primary education, local businesses and in all local government transactions. However, English is an official medium of communication in administration and higher education at national and international levels.
Swahili has more than 50 million speakers in East and Central Africa. In Tanzania, Swahili has played an important role in unifying people of all ethnic groups – thus avoiding endless tribal and ethnic conflicts and civil wars as experienced in many African countries.
Although potentially rich, Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world with only about 80% of its people depending on poor subsistence farming. Hence, the per capita income is only about $500.
However, mainland Tanzania is blessed with abundant undeveloped natural resources and enormous deposits of valuable minerals, including gold, iron, coal, gas, oil, and costly gemstones like Tanzanite. Tanzania in general, and Zanzibar in particular, is also blessed with all types of tropical fruits and spices.
Outdoor markets are a common phenomenon all over Tanzania. These are usually huge roofs shading vendors in colorful balloon pants and skull caps who sit cross legged at the sides of their low stands and sell a great variety of fruits and vegetables, chickens, live pigeons, meats, freshly caught fish, and myriad spices. Little shops also abound where one can buy all household goods and kitchen utensils and even clothes. There are no supermarkets or malls in Tanzania except in big cities.
Tanzanians, like many Africans elsewhere, are known for their exceptional friendliness and hosptality, and a guest is shown deference. It's hard to leave Tanzania, and when the time comes, you say regretfully, "KWA HERI YA KUONANA" (Farewell, until we meet again).
As you enter a Tanzanian house for dinner, you first say "HODI!" (Hello, may I come in?). "KARIBU" (Draw near, you are welcome) is the reply. As a guest to a Tanzanian dinner, you need to be comfortably dressed, perhaps in slacks and a loose shirt, as you will sit on a mat on the floor in the house of your host. The famous Tanzanian cuisine is UGALI (or Agidi, in West Africa), which is cornmeal mush made from stone ground white cornmeal by cooking it to a thicker consistency, so that it can easily be rolled into a ball. Ugali is exceptionally tasty when served with spiced meat, fish, poultry, beans, or vegetables, as is the Tanzanian custom.
Zanzibar is famous for its deliciously spiced cuisines of supu ya kuku (chicken soup), mchuzi wa nyama (beef curried stew), samaki wa kuchonga (fish cogent), wali (rice), and ndizi na kasted (banana custard – Zanzibar style). In general, Tanzanians eat healthy foods. All their food is fresh – they do not refrigerate any leftovers for future consumption. Therefore, everyday they cook and eat fresh food.
Tanzania has excellent recreational facilities in all areas of leisure and sports. Its coastline has magnificent areas for scuba diving and its mountains provide mountain hiking and climbing expeditions. Of special attraction to visitors to Tanzania are recreational activities like Air Ballooning across Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater, Horse Riding, Fishing, Birding, Sailing, and Yachting. Outdoor adventure trips are also available for those interested in cycling, trekking, wildlife and culture.
Tanzania is easily accessible from anywhere in the globe by air, land, and sea. International flights are served by the three international airports of Kilimanjaro, Dar-es-Salaam and Zanzibar. There are three international harbors at Tanga, Dar-es-Salaam and Mtwara. Air, train, sea and bus services provide connections between towns and cities within the country and within towns in neighboring countries. Daily speedy boat service to Zanzibar from Dar-es-Salaam takes only three hours. There are also steamer services in all its great lakes of Victioria, Tanganyika and Malawi.
Brief History of the Catholic Church in Tanzania
The Holy Ghost Fathers, the White Fathers and the Benedictine Fathers were the early great missionaries to come to Tanzania in the second half of the 19th century.
The Holy Ghost Fathers, a congregation founded by Francis Libermann, came to Zanzibar in 1862 or 1863 led by Frs. Antoine Homer and Bauar. These were preceded by diocesan priests from Reunion who were sent by Maypont of Reunion (Bourbon) in 1860.
In 1868, the Holy Ghost Fathers who were by then already in the Island of Zanzibar crossed over to Tanzania mainland and founded a mission station at Bagamoyo. From Bagamoyo they spread into the hinterland and opened up stations at Mandera, Kigurunyembe and Turiani in what is now the Diocese of Morogoro. Later they founded more stations at Moshi on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanganyika and at Mombasa and Nairobi in Kenya.
Under the leadership of H.E. Cardinal Lavigerie, Archbishop of Algiers, North Africa, the White Fathers, now known as the Missionaries of Africa, sent a team of ten people and made an expedition to the countries of Central Africa and around the great lakes in 1878. They first set foot in Zanzibar and from there to Bagamoyo and later made their way into the interior of Tanganyika from where they were able to enter Zambia and Malawi to the south, the Republic of Congo to the west, and Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi to the northwest.
The German Benedictine Fathers of St. Ottilien, Bavaria, Germany, came to Tanganyika and started work there on November 13, 1887 along the shores of Kurasini Creek to Pugu in the outskirts of the city of Dar-es-Salaam. They founded a mission station at Kurasini in 1894; in the same year, they established a mission station at Madibira in the Southern Highlands.
One year later, in 1895, they established two more mission stations at Nyangao and Lukuledi in the newly created (1887) Prefecture Apostolic of Southern Zanzibar. In 1898 they established one more mission station at Peramiho. Under the leadership of Father Maurus Hartmann, OSB, St. Joseph's Cathedral Church in the city of Dar-es-Salaam was built by the Benedictine Fathers between 1896-1902.
The period between World War I and II saw the coming of other missionaries. These were the Capuchins and the Consolata Fathers (1921) who were assigned to the areas now known as Mahenge and Iringa dioceses, respectively. The Passionist Fathers who came to Tanzania in 1935 were assigned to an area now known as Dodoma diocese, while the Pallotine Fathers who came in 1942, were assigned to the area we know now as the Diocese of Mbulu.
The period after the Second World War was blessed with an influx of new missionaries. The Rosminian Fathers and Maryknoll Fathers from America arrived in 1950 and took up their ministry in the now Tanga and Musoma dioceses respectively. The last batch of missionaries to Tanzania were the Salvatorians from America (1955) who worked side by side with the German Benedictines in the Abbey Nullius of Ndana and, in 1963, they created the now suppressed diocese of Nachingwea.
Today, Tanzania (according to the 2002 Tanzania Episcopal Conference statistics) has a total population of roughly 37.5 million of whom about 10 million are Catholics. The Church in Tanzania with 30 dioceses is run through Small Christian Communities (SCCs) with a national work force of 30 Tanzanian bishops, just slightly over 1,500 diocesan priests, and 7,000 Tanzanian nuns without including tens of hundreds of expatriate missionaries and local religious men and women. There is also an added work force of committed lay men and women (catechists) now numbering about 11,500, who effectively assist the bishops and priests in the Ministry of the Word among the People of God at the grass roots level.
Vocations to the priesthood and the religious life are plentiful with almost every diocese running their own junior seminary. The National Episcopal Conference, apart from owning and running a National Catholic University, also jointly owns and runs six senior seminaries to cater for the catchment of the plentiful vocations in the country. Women religious congregations, now numbering 88, have as many noviciates as the congregations. But they also jointly own and run a national high school for their postulants and young nuns who later join the National Catholic University for further education. Due to the soaring of vocations to the religious life, the men religious have also, for practical purposes, jointly established their own senior seminary to make sure that their religious objectives are disciplines are included in the training of their aspiring members.
With the Tanzanian Church now concentrating her evangelization ministries at grass roots level, there is every reason t hope for a bright and a healthy Church in this the 21st century.