REL 675: Experience Tanzania: Religion, Society and Culture
January 13, 2020
Religion class means visiting religious institutions and that’s exactly what we did. Starting with a Lutheran church, walking from there to a Mosque for midday prayers, and ending at a Hindu Temple for evening prayers. The Lutheran church has 2 Swahili mass and 1 English, has a mass for the deaf, and does the regular church provided things (like counseling). In 1925, the church held its first service. Today there are 1-2,000 active members of the congregation. The church has 8 choirs and they still sing old German hymns (translated and sung in Swahili).
One of the several pastors said the challenges of the church was the prosperity gospel and local Tanzanians claiming to be prophets. These “prophets” will tell the poor that if they give them 500,000 shillings, they’ll get a car worth 1,000,000 shillings from God. The “prophets” will hand them keys and point to an invisible car and say “here’s your car. Just picture it in your mind.” Which, considering the poverty we’ve witnessed first-hand, is pretty depressing to think about.
As we stood outside the grounds of the church, an old man walked around us, tapping us, begging. When we got moving, vendors would come up to us and try and get our attention and sell us goods. This is very common. It’s probably my least favourite part, but it’s also just a whole different culture than I’m used to.
We went into the Muslim school by the Mosque to talk with leaders of both the Mosque and the school. They were really wonderful about answering all of our questions (many of which pertained to the practice of praying five times a day). Men are expected to pray in the Mosque (usually the local one but all the Mosques around the world do the same prayers from my understanding) five times a day while women can either do it at home or at the Mosque.
They stressed on us learning more about Muslim beliefs and that it is a non-violent religion.
We separated. Women went around the side and upstairs to our own separate room. We took off our shoes and did what those around us did. We didn’t exactly know what we were doing or what the intercom was saying (it was in Arabic), but we tried to be as respectful as possible. We all tried to do what our neighbors were doing.
The whole experience makes me want to check out the Muslim Student Association on campus to learn more about the faith.
After the prayers (and lunch), we went to a Maasai Market in town and got demolished on our price negotiations. We got some cool stuff for some high prices, but I think most of us take comfort in the fact that this money is going directly to the tribe.
Next (and finally) we visited a Hindu temple. It was really cool and a good experience, but I do not know very much about Hindu prayers so I was lost. The prayer songs/chants were lovely nonetheless.
About the Tanzania Study Tour
THE TRAVEL DATES
Jan. 11-27, 2020
Religion Prof. Andrea Ng’weshemi
This trip is set to accomplish many goals. There will be discussions from several speakers such as Tanzanian professors, religious leaders, and the local folk, along with plenty of opportunity to explore the diverse cultural and physical aspects of Tanzania by visiting contemporary sites and national parks. The learning focus will touch on topics such as religious tolerance and inter-faith cooperation.