Letter accuses Lutheran Church of playing politics
THE LUTHERAN Church, the second largest Christian denomination in Tanzania, is in trouble with the government, following an incident in March when the church’s 27 bishops issued an Easter message titled “Our Country, Our Peace.”
The message addressed challenges facing the country such as corruption, unemployment, reduced freedoms and increased fear after a spate of kidnappings and arbitrary killings.
In a letter from the Registrar of Societies dated May 30, the government asked the church to choose between spreading the gospel and staying clear of politics.
The Lutheran church has nine million faithful across the country and 25 dioceses.
In the letter, signed by one M. Komba on behalf of the Registrar of Societies, to the head of the Lutheran Church in Tanzania, the government wants the church to retract the message, which, it says, touched on matters not related to faith.
However, Minister for Home Affairs Mwiguli Nchemba said on Thursday, “the government is not aware of any letter and the ultimatum given to the church.”
Mr Mwiguli said he immediately suspended Merlin Komba, whose signature appears on the letter, to make room for further investigations.
In the letter, the government accuses the Lutheran Church of creating a Council of Bishops not stipulated in its registered constitution, thus contravening the Societies Act.
The letter also calls on the head of the church to pay arrears in fees within seven days from receipt of the letter, and advise the Office of the Registrar of any changes in leadership and constitution. The letter, which The Eastafrican has seen, states that there have been two previous letters from the ministry to the church, dated May 10 and May 22, followed by a meeting on May 29 — the day before the letter was issued.
Faith-based organisations and civil society have been vocal about what they believe to be anti-democratic trends and diminishing security. The letter was sent soon after the Catholic Church issued a similar document dubbed “Lent Message.” The Catholic Church’s Pastoral Letter was signed by 35 bishops. However, Archbishop of Dar es Salaam Polycarp Cardinal Pengo later disowned it saying he had not been consulted and that the letter was a mixture of religion and politics.