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Good Conscience: Vision of Our Nation 94

Good Conscience: Vision of Our Nation

 A Pastoral Letter of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference 

9 May, 1994


Dear Brothers, Sisters, and all People of good will,

The blessings of Christ, the King of the universe be with you. We, the Catholic Bishops of Tanzania, write to you this pastoral letter with the theme: "Good Conscience, the Vision of our Nation." We are motivated to write this letter by our obligation of defending, preaching and teaching human values which show our respect as human beings and also praise the Creator of our humanity.

The Episcopal Conference of Tanzania is duty-bound to insure the intactness of the deposit of faith of the Catholic Church, taking into account the signs of the times. That is why, having presented to you our letter, "Official Statement on Religious Blasphemies" and "The Truth will set you Free", we are again writing to you.

The purpose of this pastoral letter is to help people understand the reality of our present situation, know the problems and their underlying causes; help people know their individual as well as community rights, seek ways and draw up strategies which will enable them to obtain, defend and preserve their rights.

The aim of this letter is to contribute to building up rather than tearing down our Nation.

 I. The Actual Situation

We have realised that as a nation we are beginning to lose the vision of our Tanzanian Society. This is demonstrated by the misconceptions on our vision and ideology of the government and nation, of freedom, peace, development, faith and religion.

1. Vision and Ideology

Vision is a term that connotes the purpose, direction and ideal which people aim at. Up to now our vision has been that of Ujamaa and self-reliance. This is to say we Tanzanians are expected to cooperate, love and respect one another as family members and help one another to raise our level of development.
But the current situation does not reflect this vision. Instead of Ujamaa, there are groups of people in responsible positions and power who are monopolising and appropriating the wealth of this nation. Let it be understood that the vision of a nation does not mean the ideology of a particular political party. The effectiveness of the ideology of a given political party very much depends on how that ideology conforms to the national vision. It is now evident that different party ideologies do not express the national vision.

 

 

 

2. Government and Nation

 

 

 

A nation is a society of people who have deliberately decided to rule themselves according to their particular constitution which they have accepted themselves and which is accepted by the other nations. A constitution is a totality of laws, regulations and principles which guide the government and enable it to fulfil its responsibilities accordingly. To safeguard the constitution and the national vision, the nation chooses an appropriate instrument which is the Government.

 

 

 

Any national government is expected to respect, uphold, promote, realise and defend the vision and the constitution of the nation. We have noted that there is fear that a serious weakness in accountability exists in Tanzania today because of the greed of a few among us who want to get rich at the expense of others.

 

 

 

The following are a few examples in support of this claim:

 

 

 

  • We have witnessed how the constitution has been violated by some of the government leaders. We hope that the law will take its course decisively.

 

 

 

  • A few rich people are given loans amounting to millions of shillings by the Cooperative and Rural Development Bank instead of this money going to the intended rural people. More disheartening still is the fact that those rich people do not return the loans; those who are being pestered are the simple village people.

 

 

 

  • It is difficult to understand why government leaders do not listen to the local people regarding the way our natural resources are being sold or wasted - our land, mineral, forests, game and even fish.

 

 

 

In present-day Tanzania, the term freedom has lost its proper meaning.

 

 

 

The majority of the people speak of freedom to say or proclaim whatever they want; a free economy, freedom of multi-party democracy, multi-denominational religious freedom, freedom in matters of morality, etc. But in the use of the word freedom, the laws and principles governing society and basic morals which build up the dignity of persons, are ignored. In other words freedom is extolled more than other basic principles such as human dignity, love, respect, peace and justice.

 

 

 

...Of the press

 

 

 

For example the purpose of press freedom (newspapers, radio, video, films, etc.) is to educate the society so that it can benefit from the truth and can learn from the information obtained. The truth has to be authentic and reported correctly following the ethics of journalism.

 

 

 

The reality of Tanzania today - with regard to news reporting - is that some news do not reflect the full truth but half truths, some articles are published without moral concern, or for the sake of selling the story. The result of this kind of publishing is the lowering of society's morals, disrespect of humanity, misdirection of the history of our nation and the building of stumbling blocks for the future generations. If we want to report news for the benefit of the people, it is necessary to consider the following questions: what to publish? why? to whom is it addressed? how? where? when? and by what means?

 

 

 

Free market

 

 

 

Nowadays many people talk about and praise free market economy and we see it being realised. From the outside it would seem as if our economic situation has improved. But we are witnessing a situation of more hardships for the majority of the Tanzanians while a few, who apparently do not care about our national problems, are getting rich.

 

 

 

3. Freedom

 

 

 

Free economy is intended to raise the productivity by giving individuals the capacity of producing and thereby raising the standards of living of the Tanzanians. In order to reach that goal it is important: 1) to develop income control mechanisms; to ensure that taxes are duly collected and social services improved for all people. 2) to make sure that foreign money is used for the development of our nation. Yet what we are experiencing is different:

 

 

 

  • Even though market economy is expected to raise the income of the nation, we experience the decrease in the income of the majority and the increase in prices of consumer goods.
  • Our money is exported through illegal channels.
  • Contracts of joint ventures are made without the knowledge and consent of the people.
  • We are forced to accept loans with conditions favouring foreign interests.
  • Some commercial enterprises evade paying taxes and when discovered, their cases vanish into thin air.
  • Cost sharing exercises which have been introduced by the government with regard to essential social services neither take into consideration the peoples' real income nor the fact that the people are not justly rewarded for their sweat.
  • Though the importance of having a free exchange market of foreign money is accepted, yet some established "Bureau de change" benefit only a few people and some are transferring money out of the country illegally.

 

 

 

4. Peace

 

 

 

"Peace means internal tranquillity in the spirit and heart of an individual person. In this sense, peace is a state of good relationship with God and with neighbours.

 

 

 

This relationship is built on love which unites all goodness. Where there is peace and justice, there love takes its abode; and where there is love there is God who is love itself."

 

 

 

The peace we have been enjoying in Tanzania was a result of a basic condition of respect of human dignity, observance of justice, laws, mutual trust between the leaders and the citizens, equality and justice without economic/religious discriminations or tribalism. We enjoyed peace and tranquillity because both the leaders and the citizens were faithful to those pillars of peace. Each one in his or her own was duty-bond to respect the rights of others instead of being ego-centric. As we wrote in our 1993 Lenten Pastoral letter, "Peace is the product of an environment of justice. Where there is peace, there is always justice in the relationships because peace comes from the recognition of other people's rights, treating them accordingly."

 

 

 

As we explained in our pastoral letter, "True Human Development", the purpose of development is the human person.

 

 

 

5. Development

 

 

 

"When we think of development of society, it is our right to choose and decide on the type of development we want, in accordance with our faith values, our spiritual, moral and cultural values which are the pillars of human dignity and the growth of the nation."

 

 

 

As we see now, development planning tends to concern itself more with things than with people. For instance, public grounds that were set aside to benefit society at large, are now dished out to individual rich people for commercial ventures. There is still a lot to be desired to put drug pushing under control.

 

 

 

6. Faith and Religion

 

 

 

Proper interpretation of faith and religion is being distorted in our nation; there are those who equate religion with politics or economics, others have made religion and faith dens for their wickedness and at times usurp the right of interpreting faith and religion without authority, proper knowledge, ability and skills.

 

 

 

Some people even regard faith and religion as secular knowledge or as a certain science; some look down on the professionalism, authority and responsibility of religious leaders; others dismiss religion as made and founded by a certain human being. There are also opinions which do not recognise that spiritual values, faith or religion are essential components in the building of a nation. Religion is taken as a gap filler only to facilitate economic development; for example, planning and implementing different policies without seeking counsel of relevant religious leadership.

 

 

 

There are those who, having failed to adhere to their faith and religion, either out of bad motive or confusion, involve themselves in acts liable to bring disharmony among other believers and unfortunately at times the government recognises them all the same as religious leaders. Therefore it is the duty of all of us, Bishops, Priests, Religious, Laity and all People of good will to recognise and reflect on all these realities and take appropriate measures to correct them.

 

 

 

II. Our contribution in leading the nation towards good conscience

 

 

 

1. The Kingdom of God

 

 

 

As Christians we are all called by Christ to build the Kingdom of God here in Tanzania. The Kingdom is: a Kingdom of life and truth, holiness and grace, love, justice and peace. We shall build God's Kingdom if we ourselves accept to receive and live it and help others to receive and live it in their families, community and at national level. God's Kingdom is built in the first place, in the heart of a person.

 

 

 

A Kingdom of Life

 

 

 

Whoever receives the kingdom of life gets the life of God which is the Sanctifying Grace. He or she becomes the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and is guided by him. "But the spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control. There is no law against such things as these. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires. The Spirit has given us life, he must also control, our lives. We must not be proud or irritate one another or be jealous of one another." (Gal 5:22-26).

 

 

 

A Kingdom of Grace

 

 

 

A person who receives the kingdom of grace have everything in abundance. "Instead be concerned about everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things." (Mat 6:33) and "I have come in order that you may have life - life in all its fullness." (Jn 10:10).

 

 

 

A Kingdom of Holiness

 

 

 

A person who receives the kingdom of holiness is the one who conquers weakness with goodness, who faces the challenges of life by fighting for what is of God. "You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right-hand side of God. Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Your real life is Christ and where he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory," (Col 3). A holy person is meek before God and fellow human beings. He is neither conceited nor mean.

 

 

 

A Kingdom of Truth

 

 

 

A person who receives the kingdom of truth is the one who is dedicated to the truth. "Dedicate them to yourself by means of the truth; your word is truth." (Jn 17:17). Such a person's conscience hates falsehood, deceitfulness, fraud.

 

 

 

A Kingdom of Love

 

 

 

A person who receives the kingdom of love experiences and recognises the mercy and love God has for people, he or she also experiences and appreciates the mercy and the great love of Jesus who sacrificed his life for his friends. "A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends". (Jn 15:13). Such a person gives up self completely for God's love and is urged to love and serve the neighbours.

 

 

 

A Kingdom of Justice

 

 

 

A person who receives the kingdom of justice shares God's life. This person recognises both his or her position and dignity and those of others. "But you are the chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvelous light." (1 Pet 2:9). From that truth such a person opposes any kind of oppression.

 

 

 

A Kingdom of Peace

 

 

 

A person who receives the kingdom of peace establishes tranquillity in his spirit and heart. He is at peace with God and neighbour. "Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried or upset; do not be afraid". (Jn 14:27). The source of Christian good works and conduct is the Kingdom of God in us. It is the internal leading light. It is the conscience itself and our vision which must enlighten the world. "In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven". (Mt 5:16).

 

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters, we are called to be stewards of God's gifts, that is why we are obliged to pass on to others these treasures. Consequently, we order and insist on the following: formation and involvement in various social sectors.

 

 

 

2. Formation

 

 

 

Most of us dichotomise the life of faith and the secular life. Moreover we are not courageous enough to witness to our faith in words and deeds. This is a clear evidence of weakness in our Christian formation. In order to address this problem, we need to examine our catechetical and christian formation programmes.

 

 

 

At Family Level

 

 

 

Parents must continue to educate themselves in their faith through catechesis. The means and strategies will depend on the prevailing conditions of each diocese and parish. For example, one can use the lay apostolate movements, the small christian communities, religious congregations,seminars, retreats, workshops, etc., in order to relate the catechetics taught at school and the christian formation given at home.

 

 

 

It is a great pastoral responsibility for Bishops and Priests to supervise and encourage the catechesis of the faithful. In order to build the Kingdom of God and form consciences, the religious, by their way of life and vocation, are obliged to be living symbols of holiness and of good conscience through their evangelical witness.

 

 

 

Catechetics in School

 

 

 

Let us properly use the time given to us by the government to teach religion in schools. Religious periods should be accorded their due respect. Let the Ministry for Education and Culture make sure that the religious knowledge periods are fixed at proper times in the timetable. Christian teachers, by virtue of their apostolic mission and teaching charism, should cooperate wholeheartedly in the teaching of religion in schools.

 

 

 

On-going Religious Formation

 

 

 

Let us not deceive ourselves in thinking that once we are baptised our christianity is perfected. The truth is that Baptism is only the first stage in a christian's long spiritual journey. Therefore we need to continue growing in faith, hope and love. "And I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through your faith. I pray that you may have your roots and formation in love, so that you, together with all God's people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep is Christ's love. You may come to know his love - although it can never be fully known and so be completely filled with the very nature of God."(Ef 3:17-19).

 

 

 

It is good for each diocese and religious congregation to adopt a special on-going religious formation programme for the priests, religious and laity. The purpose of these programmes is to increase the comprehension of our faith, to build a good conscience and enkindle our pastoral and missionary fervour. The programmes must avoid being too theoretical but must be founded in the mystery of our salvation, - the suffering, the death and the resurrection - in the celebration of the sacraments and the liturgies of the Liturgical Year of the Church.

 

 

 

3. Involvement in Various Social Sectors

 

 

 

On the basis of our humanity and Baptism, we christians are obliged to involve ourselves in every social sector (economic, political, entertainment, cultural) for the purpose of building our society and a better world. "The joy and hope and sorrow and tribulation of man in modern times and especially of the poor and of people who have various problems, are also the joy and hope and sorrow and tribulation of the followers of Christ. There is nothing truly human which cannot touch their hearts."

 

 

 

We Tanzanian Christians are obliged to participate fully in the development of our national economy and make our political realities more and more human.

 

 

 

The Economy

 

 

 

In the field of economics we appeal to all institutions to make sure that our economy is improved starting from family up to the national level by acceptable means. Let the industrialists be creative and use their talents fully. Let us perform our duties diligently, intelligently and honestly.

 

 

 

We appeal to the small christian communities and parishes to plan strategies which will raise the people's income. Development offices (Caritas) in the diocese should integrate their plans with pastoral programmes so that the people are conscientised in all development aspects and consequently be responsible for their own development.

 

 

 

Politics and Leadership

 

 

 

The foundation of any government is its people. In a democratically sound nation, people have the power to determine the political orientation and elect their government. If the people are governed by good conscience, the political orientation and the form of the government will be good also. The people have the right to participate in the moulding of a political orientation of their country. Here in Tanzania we have decided for a multi-party orientation. Therefore, what is expected by the people to govern our society, is an open democracy: result of the multi-party system.

 

 

 

Any person who joins a political party should have this ultimate aim of building a true democracy. A single person or a certain small group of people will not be able to shape a true democratic environment. It is good that all together, despite differences, join hands to promote and preserve the democratic ideal. We appeal to all the christian faithful to cooperate fully with other people in this political undertakings. Good politics needs good leadership. This too is the responsibility of all the people. Good leadership does not happen by chance; it is to be formed, chosen and enhanced by the people themselves. Therefore it is the duty of each one: a) to prepare good leaders b) to choose good leaders c) - to assist those leaders to achieve their duties well.

 

 

 

The duty of preparing good leaders

 

 

 

In order to prepare good leaders it is necessary to know the qualities of good leadership. A good leader should have the mental capacity, be healthy and morally sound, a God's fearing person, man/woman of the people, truthful, honest and hating corruption. (Ex 18:21).

 

 

 

Successful preparation of good leaders lies in putting in place structures which provide good breeding in society. Good leaders are a product of well brought up children, formation of youth and adults in families; civic education in schools and colleges, formation through seminars and workshops.

 

 

 

Choice of good Leaders

 

 

 

The neglect of the duty of participating in the choice of leaders at all levels, brings catastrophic results to the nation. For us christians, it is a great mistake to shun this responsibility. Every christian is called upon to play his or her part conscientiously, that is:

 

 

 

  • those with leadership gifts should present themselves and be ready to contest and serve the people in accepting office as a trust and service to the people and not as a stepping stone for enriching themselves.
  • all christians who have reached the voting age should register and participate in electing leaders who have the necessary qualities.

 

 

 

It should be understood that the neglect of participating in the voting and in the election of good leaders allows unworthy candidates to take leadership positions and brings disharmony in our country. To neglect to vote is to lose a person's right and the nation's right. Our political responsibility is not limited to vote and elect leaders but also to pray for them, respecting and assisting them and when necessary, criticise them constructively.

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

 

We know that we are going through difficult times because of the current changes but we must not lose hope. Christ himself said: "I have told you this so that you will have peace by being united to me. The world will make you suffer. Be brave! I have defeated the World." (Jn 16:33). We are aware that many Tanzanians work in different sectors guided by a good conscience and render good services. We appreciate their work and urge them to continue in this spirit. We pray that they may enjoy the continued guidance of the Spirit of God. For those who are overburdened because of the tough reality of life, with St. Paul we say: "Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles and pray at all times. Do not let evil defeat you, instead conquer evil with good." (Rom 12:11-12 &21). In this letter we touched difficult but important issues for the development of our nation. Christ himself who experienced the difficulties of human life in saving us, is inviting us to sacrifice ourselves for the salvation of his people.

 

 

 

+Josaphat Lebulu
President of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference