Christianity Explored Tanzania

In our second week in East Africa, Jim McAnlis, Sam Oyirwoth and I returned to the Anglican Diocese of Kagera in North West Tanzania to train 70 of the clergy to teach and train others to use the course. We had launched the course in the Diocese in January 2018 and in September last year I returned to reach a course on Jesus in the Old Testament at the Diocesan Theological School.

Kagera borders Rwanda and Burundi in the west and Uganda in the north. The main language in Kagera is Swahili and so our presentations also needed translation. Kagera is 90 % rural and among the poorest regions in Tanzania, a country where more than 50% of the population live on less than US$1 per day. 

With a population of 2.4 million, 47% of people living in Kagera are under the age of 14. Less than 5% survive 65 years of age. A quarter of households are led by women. Despite having adequate arable land, fishing opportunities in Lake Victoria and access to three cross-border trade markets, poverty is pervasive throughout Kagera. This is in part due to constant and heavy refugee influx, high levels of illiteracy and disease epidemics.

The vision of the diocese, led by Bishop Darlington and 95 clergy in 53 parishes, is to serve their communities spiritually, physically and mentally. The aim is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and to disciple believers into the fullness of life in Christ.

The history of Christianity in Kagera goes back to the beginning of the last century when mission partners began a work of evangelism combined with medical care and education. By 1930, a community of local believers was well established. The Church has faced a series of overwhelming disasters and challenges. Eruptions of civil war in neighbouring Rwanda led to a massive influx of refugees causing significant disruption to socio-economic life.

The 1979 Tanzanian war of liberating Uganda demanded a heavy toll on the Kagera region as the neighbouring province. Kagera was at the heart of the international UN and humanitarian support for the refugees. The HIV pandemic, though widespread throughout the country is compounded by cross-border migrations from the neighbouring countries.  

Over 130 lay leaders and youth leaders were trained to use Christianity Explored in January 2018. As a result, over 50 CE courses have been running in the Diocese over the last 18 months. A generous donor has sponsored the printing of sufficient copies of the Swahili CE leaders guide, participants guide and Mark’s gospel to resource 700 additional groups in the Diocese in the future. I recorded a video interview with Sam Oyirwoth about the impact of the training given 18 months ago.

Because Kagera is largely rural and far from the capital, Dar Es Salaam, it has not always received the same level of training resources such as in leadership development as other dioceses.

The partnership with Christianity Explored East Africa is therefore an opportunity for the diocese to equip and train its lay leaders as well as clergy to reach everyone on the diocese with the good news of Jesus Christ.