3 Jul 2013


By Sylivester Ernest
The Citizen Reporter
Dar es Salaam. As Christians in Tanzania prepare to join their fellow brethren in celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on Tuesday, religious leaders are concerned about what they see as weakening devotion in mainstream churches.
Among the manifestations of deterioration of religious commitment is the marking of Christmas as just another holiday, and not a special spiritual day as was the case in the past.
The clergymen argue that instead of being the festival celebrating the birth of the Messiah over 2,000 years ago, Christmas is increasingly becoming more about partying, giving and receiving presents, decorations, feasting and meeting with friends and family members.
Alarmed by the trend, the Catholic Church has earmarked October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013, as the Year of Faith. The declaration seeks, among other things, to make the Catholics rediscover their faith in the church and their creator.
The waning devotion is also attributed to inevitable transformations in science and technology and the spiralling cost of living. Social scientists say the scriptures are right in stating that this world is miserable, but wonder whether religion has made it any better.
Mainstream churches see their evangelical counterparts being equally culpable for their devotion woes. The quest for worldly goods and enjoyment is another factor blamed for the deterioration of faithfulness among Christians and worshipers of mainstream churches. “The coming of evangelical churches and their promises to transform people’s lives for the better overnight is taking Christians who are not keen on their faith by storm…that’s why it is not surprising that someone will attend a Catholic mass in the morning and go to one of these churches in the evening,” noted University of Dar es Salaam chaplain Monsignor Deogratias Mbiku.
He said the impact of science and technology was inevitable and religion, like many other aspects of life, would be affected in one way or another.  He voiced his concern about the zeal to acquire material wealth and the improbable prophecies of “fake prophets”.
Archbishop Dr Valentino Mokiwa of the Anglican Church of Tanzania (ACT) said greed for material wealth and a fixation on worldly pursuits was causing serious damage among the faithful. He added that hardships were forcing people to embrace other alternatives like witchcraft and traditional medicines.
“You can’t expect people to remain faithful while they are hungry. And the emergence of fake pastors has worsened the situation and this is very serious. You have people rushing to the Loliondo healer because their belief in hospitals and God has diminished,” Archbishop Mokiwa said. He urged Tanzanians to safeguard peace during the festive season to maintain their faith in God.
A Catholic priest in Dar es Salaam, who asked for anonymity, said diminishing faith was to be expected among people who did not appreciate the meaning of spiritual celebrations.
“It is true that we all now enjoy giving and receiving gifts on Christmas Day…but it’s important that we take time to remember what Christmas really signifies,” he said.
“The day is more than just the gifts and the jolly man in the red suit. It’s more than a feeling or spirit that makes us feel warm inside. It’s more than spending time with the family enjoying good food and good times.”
He added that Christmas was a signal of God living among the people he created.
“It’s an amazing thought, but it’s even more amazing when you thread the whole story of Jesus’ life together.”
He urged Christians to remember that Christmas was not any other birthday celebration but a celebration of a person who has brought something to the world.
“If we’re still celebrating the life of someone born over 2,000 years ago, we’ve got to assume that they lived a remarkable life,” he said

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