Christianity (and Islam) in Kagera, Tanzania

By Philbert Muvunyi

We thank God for receiving missionaries here in Kagera, mainly in the early 1890s, from Europe who came to introduce to us different denominations like Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism & Lutheranism. Before the missionaries, our elders worshiped God in their own local denominations and in their worshiping they described the Lord God as Powerful and capable of judging kindly. Fearless and grateful for the judgment, they offered valuable sacrifices to God such as livestock and food products to demonstrate closeness to God. They recognized their religion as precious and had their authorities and community leaders recognized, obeyed and respected as important people in their community. In 1890 the missionaries arrived and brought us a new Christian religion and Arab traders brought their Islamic religion. In our region Islam was delayed in arriving with us because they came from Zanzibar and coastal regions. The Kagera community readily accepted Islam and their beliefs and doctrines. However, because they are not like their traditional beliefs in worshiping their God, so they were received by a fewer people and so far their number in the region is fewer in rural areas. Christian missionaries, with their teachings of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, attracted many because of their new doctrines as well as the new program of providing school services and hospitals. Our great community struggled and improved educational and medical services, with the emphasis on biblical teaching, first focused on love, unity and cooperation. The locals were brought together by Christianity, having lived along tribal divisions, fearing the occult practices and customs of ethnicity and ethnic strife. Psalm 133 was emphasized by the Christian missionaries, and shows this sense of community.

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!

 It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
 It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore.


Christianity and Islam have been focused on overall development. Christians have built many schools that teach reading and skills that aid in development. Islam has taught much about their faith, and they have taught local people knowledge of business. Christianity has built many clinics and hospitals to serve the community, and all religions highlight the importance of bathing, harvesting and building a good home, etc. Primarily all the religions in the area have taught the importance of living together in love and cooperation.


Over the years many Christians and Muslims lived together for a great deal of cooperation with children who studied together and read together in church schools, shared in church hospitals and lived as one community. 1985 – after being led by our Islamist Ally Hassan Mwinyi, that’s when some little difference with the Islamic ideology were shown. They built few schools, but still we live and cooperate well.


The power of Christian faith has diminished. Christians do not have ownership of their religion. The love of many has healed, but Superstition has begun to be stronger again. Pentecostal churches have confused much of Christianity focusing on miraculous teachings and world achievements only.

Alongside this aid from Europe, America, Australia, has declined significantly and Poverty and food insecurity have risen sharply because globalization and negligence.


1. Modern-day biblical teaching, because we are accustomed to preaching now we need instruction for the people.
2.In 1936, we experienced an East African revival, it was a great help to promote the church, we now need another revival.
3. For Christians to be taught to own their church and to remove the ideas of dependence on Europe and the developed world, many still see the church not as their property belonging rather to the missionaries.
4. We need to prepare leaders with expertise in biblical and theological training.
5.We need a comprehensive network of communication between the African churches and with our colleagues in western countries to exchange our experiences.
6. Believers need to be taught a good Christian education so that they can work hard to meet their daily needs, not to expect miraculous signs of Pentecostal teachings today.
7. The emphasis on the cooperation of Christians and Muslims should be stressed.

Baobab Tree” by David Brossard is licensed under CC by SA 2.0