Peace in Zanzibar

Proceedings of the Joint Committee of Religious Leaders in Zanzibar, 2005–2013

by Arngeir Langås (Author)
©2019 Monographs XXXVIII, 324 Pages
Series: Religion and Society in Africa, Volume 5


Peace in Zanzibar: Proceedings of the Joint Committee of Religious Leaders in Zanzibar, 2005–2013 brings a multiperspective analytic lens to the Joint Committee of Religious Leaders for Peace (JVD), a unique Christian-Muslim peace initiative in Zanzibar. Drawing on eight years of experience working as a missionary with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania and serving as a member of the JVD itself, in addition to formal fieldwork, Arngeir Langås asks whether Christian-Muslim cooperation can contribute to peace on the East African islands and, if so, how. Situated in the academic field of missiology and taking abductive reasoning as its primary research method, Peace in Zanzibar demonstrates numerous areas of academic interest that can be addressed through studies of interreligious practice, including identity, syncretism and popular religion, the politicization of religion and the religionization of politics, and state-religion models. This book will find a broad and receptive audience among students, interreligious dialogue practitioners, missionaries, theologians, and missiologists.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Peace in Zanzibar
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Glossary
  • Notes to the Reader
  • Quotations from the Bible and the Qur’an
  • Emphasis and quotation marks
  • Translation and transliteration
  • Chapters, sub-chapters, and sections
  • Chapter One: Introduction
  • General introduction
  • Literature review
  • Research questions and clarifications
  • Unit of analysis and research questions
  • Clarification of central concepts
  • The Joint Committee as a diapraxis initiative
  • Theoretical perspectives
  • Religious leadership
  • Religious identity
  • Religion and politics
  • Research design and structure
  • Chapter Two: Method and Material
  • Missiology as the disciplinary framework
  • Critical realism as the epistemological assumption
  • Abduction as the main research strategy
  • Research material
  • Observation material
  • Interview material
  • Archival material
  • Unpublished material
  • Public material
  • Situatedness of the researcher
  • Simultaneously insider and outsider
  • New situation: From missionary to researcher
  • Violence influencing Zanzibar at the time of the fieldwork
  • Changing political circumstances influencing researcher’s positionality
  • Production of material
  • Before the interviews
  • Conduct of interviews
  • Observation material produced by me
  • Texts composed by me
  • Reliability of the material
  • Analyzing the material
  • Ethical considerations
  • Conclusion: Quality of the research
  • Part One: The Historical Development in Zanzibar 1612–2013
  • Chapter Three: A Historical Introduction to Christian-Muslim Relations in Zanzibar
  • Zanzibar and Christian-Muslim relations 1612–1957
  • Islam and Christianity arriving on the Swahili coast
  • The Sultan and the churches
  • The end of slavery
  • Becoming a protectorate
  • Muslim religious leaders in Zanzibar
  • Christian education and Bishop Frank Weston
  • Towards a more turbulent period
  • Zanzibar between 1957 and 1992
  • Turbulent times
  • Zanzibar in the United Republic of Tanzania
  • Greater integration in the union and beyond
  • From 1992: Multipartyism reintroduced
  • Disputed elections
  • Troubles in 2012–2013
  • Interpreting the violence
  • Conversion: A key issue in Christian-Muslim relations
  • Causes of changes in Christian-Muslim relations
  • Summary of the historical chapter: Lessons learnt
  • Chapter Four: The Joint Committee of Religious Leaders for Peace in Zanzibar: The Journey, 2005–2013
  • Enabling preconditions and preparations
  • Historical precedents
  • The Lutheran and missionary components
  • Missio Dei as theological justification
  • Enabling preconditions
  • Breakthrough and preparations
  • The WCRP and PROCMURA approaches: Considerations concerning autonomy and context
  • Establishing the committee
  • Making the case for Christian-Muslim cooperation for peace in Zanzibar
  • The founding meetings and the founding document
  • The committee at work
  • The first test: The 2005 elections
  • Expanding the scope: Establishing local peace committees
  • The committee members’ understanding of their own role as religious leaders
  • The inner workings of the committee
  • Engaging beyond Zanzibar
  • Developments after 2010
  • Impact
  • Contributing to peaceful elections and perhaps inspiring the coalition government
  • Reasons for the Joint Committee’s impact
  • Part Two: Key Theological Issues at Stake
  • Chapter Five: Religious Identity
  • Religious identity
  • Belonging to it: The communal character of religious identity
  • Believing it: The role of theology in religious identity
  • Performing it: The role of enactment in religious identity
  • Interreligious cooperation understood as mixing religions
  • The accusations
  • Refutation
  • Islam and Christianity as distinct and different religions
  • Complexities of lived religion
  • ‘Ecumenical religion’ and ‘elite religion’
  • ‘Popular religion’ in Zanzibar
  • Intertwining of multiple identities
  • Religious identities in interreligious cooperation
  • The PROCMURA approach
  • Acknowledging religious difference
  • Conclusion: The reality and dignity of difference
  • Chapter Six: Religion and Politics
  • Navigating the interface between religion and politics
  • Engaging the political sphere as religious leaders
  • Retaining the distance while maintaining a cooperational approach
  • The accusations of mixing religion and politics
  • Bearing marks for the navigation
  • Politicization of religion and religionization of politics
  • Three models for state-religion relations in Zanzibar
  • Conclusion: Engaging for peace and peaceful coexistence
  • Chapter Seven: Conclusion: Diapraxis as the way forward
  • Whither diapraxis
  • Unity is strength, division is weakness
  • Peace as the unifying goal
  • Peace as a joint project
  • Diapraxis as witness
  • Diapraxis as a way of life
  • Appendices
  • Timelines
  • Appendix I: Timeline 1612–2000
  • Appendix II: Timeline 2001–2013
  • Interview appendices
  • Appendix III: Invitation to participate in a research project
  • Appendix IV: Interview guide
  • Appendix V: Full list of public dialogue meetings 2005–2010
  • Committee guidelines appendices
  • Appendix VI: Muongozo [original Swahili version of the Guidelines: English translation in the next appendix]
  • Appendix VII: Guidelines for local committees
  • Primary Sources
  • A: Observation material
  • Notes from committee meetings
  • Notes from public dialogue meetings
  • Other observation material
  • B: Interview material
  • Transcribed field study interviews
  • Other interviews
  • C: Archival material
  • Zanzibar National Archives
  • Archives of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost, Chevilly Larue, Paris
  • UMCA Archives, Rhodes House, Oxford
  • D: Unpublished material
  • Joint committee material
  • Newsletters
  • Correspondence
  • Other unpublished material
  • Bibliography
  • Scriptural references
  • Biblical
  • Qur’anic
  • Index
  • Series index

| xv →


Table 1.1: Crucial elements in diapraxis.

Table 2.1: Material produced by me.

Table 2.2: Interview locations.

Table 3.1: Causes of change in Christian-Muslim relations in Zanzibar from 1960.

Table 4.1: The Joint Committee institutions’ years of origin.

Table 4.2: The local committees’ project in numbers.

Table 4.3: Joint committee members 2005–2013.

Table 5.1: Aspects of religious identity.

Table 5.2: Components shared by Muslims and Christians concerning a theology of dialogue for Zanzibar.

Table 5.3: Types of religion.

Table 6.1: Models for state-religion relations in Zanzibar.

Table 6.2: Issues not resolved by the pragmatic model.

Table 7.1: Three levels of unity.

Table 7.2: Three kinds of power.

Table A.1: Full list of public dialogue meetings 2005–2010.

Table PS.1: Full list of own newsletters, 2002–2010.

| xvii →


Arngeir Langås’s book Peace in Zanzibar: Proceedings of the Joint Committee of Religious Leaders in Zanzibar, 2005–2013, provides the readers with a detailed analysis of the interfaith relations that has both history, theology, faith and practice. This book is well structured with each chapter dealing with an important aspect. The book employs a narrative methodology located in the author’s missionary work. The book uses important resources from archival to interviews, making it a resource for further research. The author locates the narration of the relationships in history well covered in chapter three. Chapters four provides a detailed analysis on the formation and development of a working committee of religious leaders. In chapters five and six the author discusses the impacts of the multiple identities of the groups in Zanzibar and the implications these have for Christian-Muslim relations.

The study acknowledges the missionary nature of the two religious traditions and some of similarities in their practices in winning people. The methodologies that are used in both traditions to attract converts have a potential for conflict. The fact that each tradition requires numbers, there are aspects of rivalry and competition. Numbers have political, economic and religious implications for each tradition’s growth and survival. The underlying factors in these methodologies have a missiological nature and in the theologies of each of the traditions there is a strong aspect of the missio Dei which the author discusses at length. The missio Dei notion ← xvii | xviii → is weaved through the study and the conclusion then provides the ways in which Diapraxis is important for both traditions if they have to have unity which is a strength and not a weakness.

The historical background of this study is well articulated for both traditions in Zanzibar. The context is complex in the spheres of politics, economics, social and cultural and the multiple identities of the people in Zanzibar. The theme of slave trade is significant for both traditions because of the ways in which both traditions deal with it. Economically and politically the trade had to do with power and racial prejudices. The religious implications of slave trade for both traditions in Africa cannot be concluded in one research. While the study is not about slave trade, the author shows how both traditions deal with the slave trade and the implications it has in regard to working with each other. The facts and dates of history are accounted for in a progressive manner making it easy for one to see the relationships within the two traditions. The historical sections have a lot to offer in terms of knowledge and it lays a foundation for the study but also shows the areas of cooperation and conflict. The periodization of history shows how in each stage of history both traditions have had to relate to each other positively and or negatively. The history of both traditions brings to light the roots of the multiple identities of the people in Zanzibar which include race, ethnicity, class, and gender. Zanzibar is a unique space in Tanzania and as a coastal region its story provides a case for looking at unity among the two majority religious traditions.

The theme of peace is well covered and especially in the way the two traditions would ideally live and work with each other well. Suffice it to say that this is not the case because of some of the things I have raised in the preceding paragraphs. The conflict situation leads to seeking peace with each other rather than portraying peaceful relations. The theme of peace is therefore sought in a polarised situation, and a struggle for nationalism and domination. In the search for peace the author interrogates the role of religion in the search for peace.

The methodology for the search for unity is an interesting factor in this book. The choice of using a committee of religious leaders to create a cohesive atmosphere is a major contribution. The composition of the committee is inclusive of Christians and Muslim key leaders. The membership of the committee is membership of the religious committee thus they have a status, voice, influence power and are a witness to what the context requires. The methodology of the committee arises from a theology of partnership in the context of missio Dei mentioned earlier. The theology of partnership is influenced by the Lutheran tradition, which the author discusses well. In this methodology, the leaders are engaged in aspects of dialogue, comprising of negotiation and persuasion. The composition of the committee and the space of discussion alleviates fear and suspicion and has room ← xviii | xix → for developing trust. The membership of the committee has a historical context to work from and are aware of the power of religion. The author discusses this in regard to religionization of politics and the politicization of religion. These two become lenses through which the committee functions and works for unity. The committee has an awareness of the complexities of the call for unity and especially the long history of suspicion and complicated relationships. The committee in compositing and responsibilities is a paradox and what do I mean by the term paradox? It is the strange coexistence of mutually opposing realities and that is what we see in the composition of the committee and the views they hold. It seems to me that all the basic elements of the composition of this committee is paradoxical and yet as a team they are able to establish some working order. It is interesting that the committee is aware of the things that will divide them and they name them from the onset such as politics and media and the role they play to polarise more than unite. The committee includes this in the working document that is their guidance. It is the paradoxical nature of the committee that makes it suspect from their membership questioning what they are up to. It is the same paradoxical nature that makes the committee suspect from politicians who wonder how they mix religion and politics.

Despite the paradoxical nature of the committee and its workings, the author concludes the book by analysing two methodologies of Dialogue and Diapraxis. The central themes of both the methodologies are well constructed with examples in the history of Christian-Muslims relations in Africa as expounded through PROCMURA. While the two models have strengths and weaknesses, the author proposes Diapraxis, which is a working together toward a common objective, as important for Zanzibar’s context. The background to this is history and the nature of the two faith traditions. In Diapraxis, the common theme from the onset is peace. Diapraxis offers a space to dialogue in practice rather than in abstract terms. In proposing Diapraxis, the author acknowledges the realities and challenges of Zanzibar and of the committee. In unity there is strength and in unity one seeks that which unifies and it is of the human longing, in this case peace. In Diapraxis, therefore, both groups are able to live alongside each other and to witness to each other. The Diapraxis methodology employed here is a feminine model even though the religious leaders appear to be male. The engagement of the women is not clear as religious leadership at the level the book is talking about is largely male. This is the area that may need further research and interrogation.

Esther Mombo (Professor St Paul’s University, Nairobi, Kenya)

| xxi →


Christianity and Islam are the two largest world religions. Both are missionary religions, bearing witness to the revelations with which they believe they have been entrusted. Christians and Muslims have interrelated without interruption in Zanzibar since the 19th century, but whereas Christian-Muslim relations elsewhere have been studied, their dynamics in Zanzibar have yet to be thoroughly analyzed.

This book is a revised edition of a PhD thesis defended in 2017. Its main unit of analysis is Zanzibar’s Joint Committee of Religious Leaders for Peace’s dialogue activities from 2005 to 2013. Studies of practical cases of Christian-Muslim cooperation, such as the Joint Committee, are scarce.

The study shows that the Joint committee had a major impact on peace in Zanzibar around the 2005 elections, and possibly beyond. It argues that Christian-Muslim cooperation can contribute to peace, but also that one of the factors on which its effectiveness depends is whether the religious leaders participating are recognized by their constituencies as authentically representing the core Christian and Muslim theologies as delineated against other religions. The other main factor is whether they navigate wisely the interface between religion and politics and are perceived as authentically religious leaders, delineated against the political sphere. The study argues how, in the face of political and religious dichotomizations, the committee’s initiatives comprised an example of diapraxis, i.e. interreligious cooperation motivated by religion.

| xxiii →


I dedicate this work to all who have moved the vision of improved Christian-Muslim relations forward, whether through practice, thinking or both. This not only includes the Eastern and Coastal Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania and Danmission, who jointly established the position in Zanzibar with which I was entrusted from 2002 to 2010, nor solely the members of the Joint Committee of Religious Leaders for Peace in Zanzibar, with whom I was privileged to cooperate. It also includes visionary thinkers who continue to make such efforts possible or provide inspiration, four of whom will be mentioned below.

It would be invidious to name every individual who has in some way contributed to this work. Through their love and hospitality, so many Zanzibaris and Tanzanians made our small family’s life in Zanzibar meaningful.

The scholarly enterprise of shaping this book owes much to the professionality of my supervisor Rev Dr Kari Storstein Haug. For her having spent many hours scrutinizing numerous drafts to make the text more coherent, I am grateful for a job well done.

The staff at the Zanzibar National Archives, the Archives of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost at Chevilly Larue in Paris, and the library of the School of Mission and Theology in Stavanger (from 2016: ‘VID Specialized University’) all provided important assistance during the research. I thank Dr John Chesworth at the Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies (CMCS) in Oxford for his valuable ← xxiii | xxiv → guidance when I studied at the UMCA archives at the Bodleian library there. His feedback at other stages was important, too.

Dr Alex Mallett took on the large task of proof-reading. I thank him for his patience and diligence in that process.

By sending me to Zanzibar, Danmission opened the door that made this research possible. During my employment at Mission Afrika, I was, crucially, allowed to conduct it part-time from 2012 to 2015. VID Specialized University granted me a six-month scholarship in 2016, and in 2017 Danmission granted me three weeks to improve the final draft. Three and two scholarships were provided by GADs Fond and Karoline, Thomas Racin og Tor Birkelands Legat respectively. I am very grateful to all.

A special gratitude is extended to Peter Lang Publishing Group and its professional and friendly editing team, who made the publication of this book possible.

In the research process, I discovered countless treasures dug up and shaped by the academic community and made available to me. Aware that I build upon insights that have been reached through other researchers’ inspired and meticulous labor, I hope that I have done justice to the academics and interviewees quoted in this book.

This work is dedicated to four people in particular, all of whom have a special place in my heart. Without Sh Fadhil Suleiman Soraga, there might not have been a Joint Committee. Although the acid attack left indelible marks on his life, his commitment to Christian-Muslim relations remains strong. Sh Soraga has been an inspiration and left permanent marks in mine and in many others’ lives.

Rev Dr Johnson Mbillah has spent years listening to various configurations of Christian-Muslim relations throughout Africa and across the world, while also sharing relevant aspects of PROCMURA ideas. His philosophy and deep insights have influenced the Joint Committee and myself, thereby permeating this study.

Rev Dr Sigvard von Sicard suggested to me in 2001 that I write a PhD as part of the mission work. A former missionary in Tanzania and a Nestor in the field of Christian-Muslim relations, he has been a light for me throughout the whole process, sharing much wisdom and knowledge, and always believing in me.

The fourth is my beloved wife Dorthe Davidsen Langås, whose own contribution to Christian-Muslim relations, through the visionary establishment of and devoted commitment to the diapraxis project Upendo, remains a lasting inspiration. For me, she has always been a wonderful dialogue partner who has nurtured my thinking and my faith. During the course of this research, she looked after our children Selma and Noa in the lengthy periods when I was away, and without her constant support this work would never have become a reality. ← xxiv | xxv →

To all those mentioned above I am deeply indebted, but any shortcomings are my responsibility.

It is my hope that this study may in some way or other contribute to a deeper understanding of Christian-Muslim relations, Zanzibar, mission, diapraxis, Islam and Christianity. It is also my prayer that it may somehow inspire thinking and cooperative initiatives for the common good elsewhere.

Finally, I thank the one and triune God for the gifts of life, peace, and inspiration.

Voel, Day of Pentecost, 2017

Arngeir Langås

| xxvii →


AACC All Africa Council of Churches

AMNUT All Muslim National Union of Tanganyika

ASP Afro-Shirazi Party

ASYL Afro-Shirazi Youth League

AU African Union

BAKWATA Baraza Kuu la Waislamu Tanzania (‘The Supreme Council of Muslims in Tanzania’)

CCM Chama Cha Mapinduzi (‘The Revolutionary Party’)

CCT Christian Council of Tanzania

CCV Combatting Community Violence

CEOSS Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services

CMCS Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies

CMS Church Mission Society

CPT Christian Professionals of Tanzania

CSIC Centre for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations

CSP Community of the Sacred Passion

CUF Civic United Front

CWME Commission on World Mission and Evangelism

CYCOM The Commission on Younger Churches and Orphaned Missions ← xxvii | xxviii →

DMCDD Danish Mission Council’s Development Department

DMS Danish Mission Society

DPM Danish Pathan Mission

ECD Eastern and Coastal Diocese

ELCT Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania

EMS Evangelical Mission Society for German East Africa in Berlin

FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation

FPCT Free Pentecostal Church of Tanzania

GNU Government of National Unity

IAP Islam in Africa Project, later called PROCMURA

IMF International Monetary Fund

IRCPT Interreligious Council for Peace, Tanzania

JMZ Jimbo la Misioni la Zanzibar, one of the six ECD-ELCT districts

JVD Juhudi za Viongozi wa Dini (‘Religious Leaders’ Efforts’: The Swahili title of the Joint Committee)

KAS Konrad Adenauer Stiftung

KMKM Kikosi Maalum cha Kuzuia Magendo (“Special Force to Prevent Smuggling”)

LegCo Legislative Council

LCS Lutheran Cooperation Services

LFA Logical Framework Analysis

LMC Lutheran Mission Cooperation

LMS London Missionary Society

LWF Lutheran World Federation

NCA Norwegian Church Aid

PROCMURA Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa

SPG Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts

SWAT Subhana wa T’ala (Ar.): ‘Glory to Him, the Exalted’

TAA Tanganyika African Association

TANU Tanganyika African National Union

TEC Tanzania Episcopal Conference

TSH Tanzanian Shilling

TUKI Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili (‘Institute for Swahili research’)

UDHR Universal Declaration of Human Rights

UEM United Evangelical Mission

UMCA Universities’ Mission to Central Africa

USPG United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel

WCC World Council of Churches

WCRP World Conference on Religion and Peace ← xxviii | xxix →

ZANZIC Zanzibar Interfaith Centre

ZEC Zanzibar Electoral Commission

ZIADA Zanzibar Interfaith Association for Development and Aids

ZNP Zanzibar Nationalist Party

ZPPP Zanzibar and Pemba People’s Party

| xxxi →


alawiyya a Sufi brotherhood, in practice confined to certain families with Hadhramaut origins


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (May)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XXXVIII, 324 pp., 16 tables

Biographical notes

Arngeir Langås (Author)

Reverend Arngeir Langås received his MA in theology from MF Norwegian School of Theology (Oslo, Norway) and completed his PhD in missiology at VID Specialized University (Stavanger, Norway). He currently works as a consultant for church development and dialogue with Danmission in Copenhagen, Denmark.


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