President Jakaya Kikwete puts a wreath on the grave of the late Head of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania North -Central Diocese Bishop Dr Thomas Laizar during the funeral held in Arusha yesterday. (Photo: State House)
President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday warned religious leaders to stop uttering provocative words, calling for tolerance among clerics in the country.
The president was speaking here, when he led thousands of mourners from within and outside of the country at the burial of Bishop Thomas Laizer (67) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania—Northern and Central Diocese.
But as President Kikwete condemned religious based violence, yesterday Police in Dar es Salaam arrested about 90 Muslims who illegally demonstrated to protest the trial of Sheikh Issa Ponda.
The demonstrators were intercepted by the armed police before the protesters arrived at the offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions located at Sukari House building located along Ohio Street.
According to Police reports, the demonstrators were planning to invade the DPP’s office to protest the latter’s decision to prosecute Sheikh Ponda.
Pressident Kikwete said, “Let’s avoid using statements that would incite other people, as by doing so, we’ll end up causing chaos in the country. We should also put aside our political and religious differences and adhere to principles and foundations which were laid by the fathers of this nation,” the president said.
He implored clerics to imbibe a culture of tolerating each other’s religious persuasions, saying tolerance was an important tool towards ensuring peace and harmony in the country.
The president also described the late Bishop Laizer, as a man who lived an inspired life, fully devoting his energies and abilities for the entire community.
“This man played a big role in bringing social and economic development. Many people have benefited from Bishop Laizer’s contributions, as spent most of his time to ensure that people get education by building a number of schools and colleges,” he stated.
The chairman of the Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD), James Mbatia urged religious, party leaders and government officials to convene a special forum to discuss the fate of the nation.
He said currently the country was facing a number of challenges that need to be addressed.
“As a nation, we are in trouble. Let leaders meet immediately to find a solution to the ongoing sporadic bloodshed in the country,” he said.
He also suggested the need for ELCT to come up with a Bishop Laizer Education Foundation to honour the late leader.
Freeman Mbowe, the leader of the official opposition in the National Assembly, also implored clerics to pray for the country’s peace, which in recent days seems to be in a dilemma.
Head of ELCT, Bishop Alex Malasusa said the church lost an iconic leader, who fought for sustainable development of the church.
“Christians should emulate all good things the late Bishop Laizer did for the development of the church and the country at large,” he told the gathering.
IPP executive chairman Dr. Reginald Mengi described the late Bishop Laizer as “a man of God and a friend of everybody in his life time.”
“He (Bishop Laizer) established different social and economic projects in education and health sector. One of them is the Maasai Girls’ secondary school, an orphanage center of peace house, and Arusha Lutheran Medical Center,” Mengi said, adding: “Bishop Laizer was a disciplined man, who worked for the church,”
According to Mengi, before his death the late Bishop Laizer, had been asking the government to elevate Simanjiro hospital to a district designated hospital.
Moving his condolences, CRDB Bank Managing Director Dr Charles Kimei described Bishop Laizer as a man who had a daring spirit, saying: “The success of ELCT in this diocese is a result of the late bishop’s work.”
Simanjiro MP Christopher ole Sendeka also called upon ELCT followers in Arusha to ensure that all projects which were started by the late Bishop Laizer will be maintained.
He cited the Corridor Spring Hotel as one of the serious investments that were established by the late Bishop Laizer, which needs to be sustained in honor of his memory.
Former President Benjamin William Mkapa and his predecessor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi were both present at the burial mass which started at noon on Friday.
Bishop Laizer died on Thursday last week and is survived by a widow and four children