Let­ter ac­cuses Lutheran Church of play­ing pol­i­tics

The East African - - NEWS - By CHRISTO­PHER KIDANKA The Eastafrican

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.

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