Zanzibar is an island of different cultures and religions being a melting pot between Africa, Europe, the Arab world and Asia. It has a history of more than 500 years of interfaith relations and valuable experiences in terms of peaceful coexistence in a multicultural and multi-religious society. None the less, Zanzibar and many other areas of Tanzania also struggle with religious tensions between Christians and Muslims, which seem to be on the rise during recent years.
The Zanzibar Interfaith Centre (ZANZIC) was established in 2009 as a support center of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania with the help of Danmission. It has since then grown and developed and is now offering a Diploma in Intercultural Relations beyond facilitating a number of activities supporting religious leaders, local peace committees, interfaith youth activities, and conducting training programmes for Qur’anic school teachers in peacebuilding.
After years of work to establish a Diploma in Intercultural Relations at ZANZIC, the first class successfully started in February 2017 with eight students, both men and women, from different religious backgrounds.
The two-year education, which is at the National Technical Award level 5 and 6, is launched together with Tumaini University Makumira, Dar es Salaam College, and is recognized by the educational authorities in Tanzania. The Diploma aims at enabling individuals to develop the capabilities needed to successfully influence intercultural relations in a positive manner in various multicultural societies.
The current students are religious leaders working at grass-roots level in Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania, but the aim is to attract students from all of East Africa.
Since 2015, ZANZIC has collaborated with the Ministry of Education in Zanzibar and the Mufti’s office conducting seminars for Madrasa and Qur’anic School Teachers on non-violent teaching methods, children’s rights, interfaith tolerance and peacebuilding.
Danmission and ZANZIC are in the process of designing and offering interfaith seminars and training programmes targeting Madrasa and Qur’anic School Teachers, Sunday school teachers and confirmation teachers. The aim of these collaborative efforts is to solve jointly faced challenges, but also to build the spirit of interfaith and create a platform to prevent and combat verbal, physical and structural violent extremism imparted to young minds.
The youth department of ZANZIC has a very well-functioning and active committee, which plans and implements interfaith youth activities with representatives from the three historic churches in Zanzibar and some of the main mosques.
Various activities take place across Zanzibar through local groups, including interfaith soccer, interfaith drama and interfaith English- and computer courses, in order to build relationships and engage youth in raising awareness on peaceful coexistence.
ZANZIC supports the efforts of religious leaders through the Joint Committee of Religious Leaders to advocate for peace and non-violent transformation of conflicts, both at the national level and at the grass-roots level through local peace committees throughout Zanzibar.
The committee comprises of members from the Mufti’s office, Kadi courts, Wakf and Trust commission, the Anglican Church, the Lutheran Church and the Catholic Church and meets regularly to build trust and share ideas.