If religious leaders, Christians, Muslims and other religions do not feel the special need to do something for a social moral conscience, then who will form the social conscience in our nation.
When we, the Catholic Professionals of Tanzania (CPT), declared that we needed a moral revival movement, we got some pious nods, but no commitment from clergy and lay leaders.

For what ?

  • There is a strong tendency towards materialism in our society and among educated people in particular
  • The “nothing for nothing” mentality has taken hold in our society
  • Volunteering and service are no longer goals to achieve in life.
  • The « take care of yourself » mentality has entered society and, in a particular way, our young people – collaboration, co-responsibility, solidarity, common good – are running on flat tires.
  • The fact that there are different classes in Tanzania today, rich and poor, is a factual reality which does not give rise to any concern. There is not the spiritual reflex of indignation that we should have when reading the teachings of Jesus.

There is no political and social will to tackle these social problems as priority problems.
Social services are now subject to the economic capacity of our country. It is the economy that must solve our social problems.
It is pure liberal capitalism that we have espoused. Ujamaa is dead. And no tears are shed at his grave.

But should we stop there?
A reaction is necessary, especially as we prepare for Vision 2050.
What are the needs ? Here we pay special attention to our religious community – the Catholic Church. Similar reflection should be carried out for other religious groups.

a) There is a great need to deepen our spiritual life as a community. We must let ourselves be touched by the Spirit of God, taking up his priorities as they are revealed in the Word of God, and in particular those that we read in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This spiritual quality must give us the sensitivity necessary to act and react in the face of injustice and degrading situations. We must learn to respond as a community, in a structured and organized way, influencing public policies, plans and regulations. To fail to respond is to allow the forms of evil, the forces of neglect, or the forces of abuse of others to hold society in its power. These are social sins of omission for which the Lord will judge His people, as we read so often in the word of God and the words of the prophets.

b) The social doctrine of the Church is not known and is not taught in our major seminaries, at least not in its entirety. Only parts are covered in the general teaching of moral theology. This is why this subject is not preached in homilies and catechetical instructions. It cannot become a pastoral priority.

c) Reflecting on the social dimension of the Gospel is therefore still an unknown part of the Christian vocation. Understanding that we must sanctify public life and public affairs is considered playing politics and is not part of our Christian calling.

d) Mwalimu Nyerere had studied the social teachings of popes and other eminent spiritual leaders and attempted to convince fellow Christians to assume their duty (e.g. the Maryknoll Sisters Conference in 1972). He failed to convince them that the spirit of the Gospel required them to commit to socialism. Subsequently, church leaders supported the efforts of TANU and, later, the CCM, but it was never a critical contribution offering ideas for improving policies. It was patriotic support, but not a religiously inspired critical presence. The separation of church and state in political and economic matters was therefore clearly respected. The faithful accepted this position of Church leaders and did not understand that it was their duty to be critically present in public affairs as members of the Church.

e) This is why we, CPT, have drafted a document calling on the Church to take up social teaching as a motivating force, to help our Christians fight against poverty, by encouraging local initiatives and accompanying these initiatives by the effort of local catechists, local teachers, local lay leaders (see: An invitation for a new role of the Church in the public life of Tanzania – 3/12/2023).

We are convinced that we will never succeed in eradicating the poverty that surrounds us if we do not approach in an organized and structured way the bottom-up approach, namely enabling poor people and those without great opportunities, small farmers and people in the sector informal sector to improve their living conditions and obtain more income.

In this article we describe what we, as CPT, have tried to teach our church communities and civil society, and how to contribute to the development of society and the eradication of poverty from the bottom up . We appreciate the current government’s efforts to foster development, particularly through significant investments in infrastructure and close collaboration with trading partners and international organizations. This will certainly bring development, but it will not eradicate poverty for a long time.

This is why we call on the Church to become an agent and facilitator of the development of low-income people.

Fr. Victor Missiaen, M.Afr.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzanie