Church and State in Tanzania: Aspects of Changing Relationships, 1961-1994

By Frieder Ludwig | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN

THE CHALLENGE OF PRESIDENT NYERERE

From the very beginning of his term as president, and even as the chairman of TANU, Nyerere attempted to involve the church in the new state and to promote cooperation. From 1967 he influenced the discussion in the churches by his political essays and books. From 1970 he began to develop a clear concept for church work. His new definition of the role of the church was supported by references to the Bible. The theological importance of his essays and speeches is widely recognised in theological circles.1

Although Nyerere later elaborated his views, the basic elements of his concepts are present in the contributions 1970. In July that year the president outlined his general ideas to an assembly of party and church leaders in a speech on Ujamaa wa Tanzania na Dini (“Ujamaa Socialism of Tanzania and Religion”) which was published shortly afterwards.2 In October he tackled the situation of the church explicitly during an address to the Congress of the Maryknoll Sisters in New York.3 In later speeches and interviews he explained particular aspects of his views: as an example, he presented his thoughts on Christianity and African Socialism in more detail during a speech to the CIDSE General Assembly in 1981 in Dar es Salaam.4 As the papers and speeches given between 1970 and 1981 do not mark any fundamental change in the president's position, but rather complement each other, the theological ideas of Nyerere will be summarised below.

Many passages in Nyerere's essays refer to the positive achievements of the missionaries. He stressed the contribution which the

1 P. Frostin, Liberation Theology in Tanzania and South Africa: A First World Interpretation
(Malmo, 1988), p. 49: “(…) The theological relevance of Nyerere's writings is widely
recognised, as seen in the fact that he is represented in the theological anthologies as
Parratt (ed.), A Reader in African Christian theology, and Shorter (ed.), African Christian
Spirituality.
Moreover, in the international context quite a few liberation theologians
have referred to Nyerere's work as theologically relevant (…)”

2 J.K. Nyerere, Ujamaa Wa Tanzania Na Dini (Tabora, 1970).

3 The speech is published in J.K. Nyerere, Afrikanischer Sozialismus (Stuttgart 1974,
pp. 67–80) and in J.K. Nyerere, Freedom and Development (London, 1973).

4 J.K. Nyerere, “Christianity and African Socialism”, Daily News (February 12,
1981), in: Archives of the Missionswerk Bayern, Neuendettelsau.

-103-

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