Σάββατο 29 Αυγούστου 2015

The Orthodox Church in Tanzania


Tanzania Map

by Bishop Theodoros Nankyamas (1964)
From the site of Archdiocese of Mwanza

Tanganyika has always been considered as being more favorable than Uganda and Kenya for those who would want to become Orthodox, for the main reason that more Greek Orthodox people lived there. Nevertheless, until today, no African Orthodox existed in that country. Even those said to have been baptized by the late Archi­mandrite Sarika were nowhere to be found. One might well have said that the Africans of this country were not interested in Orthodoxy.

Despite these facts, however, it appears that the natives of Tanganyika were not devoid of desire for Orthodoxy. This desire lay dormant in the depths of their soul until the dawn of Orthodoxy arrived and the Lord summoned then to a spontaneous awakening. It happened like this. In the village of Kassamua, 65 miles from Muanza, on the way to Geita, there is a wealthy seeding factory built and operated by Africans. In this factory many foreign people are employed, mostly Europeans and Indians. Among the employees there was the Greek Constantine Hadjipanayotou from Cyprus. The kindness and industriousness of this man soon attracted the attention of his African fellow-workers. The young Africans working in the factory were impressed by his readiness to help and teach them, in a kind and loving way, about the various aspects of their work. It was not long before they asked him about the religion of the Greek people – and he proceeded to tell them all he knew about Orthodoxy.

The most attentive of his listeners, Paul Budala, was an unmarried, smart, energetic, honest and willing young African about 25-30 years old, who knew English very well. He did not content himself with the few facts conveyed by Mr. Hadjipanayotou in their first contacts, but continued to visit him very often posing various questions. Mr. Hadjipanayotou had confided to me once that many times Mr. Budala had kept him from his work and quite a few times became annoyed at him for becoming a most astonishing nuisance. Young Budala wanted to know everything about Orthodoxy and many times at the expense of eating or sleeping. Finally, Mr. Budala asked Mr. Hadjipanayotou to at least teach him Greek, so that he can read about Orthodoxy from Orthodox books. After searching all the bookstores for a Greek language text in vain, Hadjipanayotou remembered that there was an Orthodox Church in Kampala, Uganda and told young Budala to write there.

Indeed his first letter was received without delay, despite its insufficient address. The letter was photo typed in Kampala and sent off to many Orthodox bishops and magazines. The astonishment at Mr. Budala's zeal was practically unanimous. From then on, a beautiful regular correspondence started between the Orthodox and Mr. Budala. Each letter from him was warmer than the previous ones, and his zeal steadily increased.

Early last December I had the opportunity to visit Kassamua, and was personally surprised at the enthusiasm of our Lord's new militia there. I arrived in the evening. After a short prayer, I offered them a short introduction to Orthodoxy. I was subsequently literally "bombarded" with questions until early next morning; even then their storehouse of questions was not exhausted.

I stayed with them for two days. Before my departure I gave them the addresses of godly Orthodox Christians as well as Orthodox magazines to write to. Since then, they have received Orthodox books, and many nice letters from several of them. We have to thank the Lord for this spontaneous expression of Christian brotherhood within our Church.

During my stay there they asked me to baptize them without further delay. This I did not do, how­ever, because no other Orthodox was there to be the god-father (Mr. Hadjipanayotou was away then) and secondly because they needed to be more fully aware of their faith, since most of them were adults.

Four months later Mr. Budala wrote to me that there were thirty persons on the list of cate­chumens and that he was the thirty-first. I replied to him that three priests from Kampala would go to Kassamua on the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearers to baptize them into the Orthodox faith. After completing my itinerary through Tanganyika I finally arrived at Kassamua. Unfortunately the other Orthodox priests could not be present. They were held up by transportation difficulties caused by the flooded rivers. So, I presided at the divine services by myself. All Greeks living in Mwanza were present this time. They arrived in Kassamua Saturday afternoon and brought with them all they thought necessary for a festive occasion.

Early Sunday morning everything was ready: First twenty persons were baptized and chris­mated, together with ten more persons that were only chrismated. After this, I celebrated the Divine Liturgy in a guest house. Subsequently, I joined four couples in holy matrimony who were al­ready married according to law and local customs. The Liturgy was said and sang in Swahili, pro­bably for the first time, because Mr. Budala had already made the translation.

It was April 28, 1963. The Sunday of the Myrrh-bearer women. All the Greeks stayed with the catechumens in the factory guesthouse where Mr. Hadjipanayotou usually stays when he works at the factory. He was kind enough to make all arrangements for this. The food and drinks that the Greeks brought with them were more than enough for the forty-five of us present. The fiesta was wonderful. Mr. Hadjipanayotou also prepared a baptismal font out of a steel barrel.

Fortunately, the guest house had running water which helped things very much. It was 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon when all was over. I was tired but somehow so deeply gratified, that I hardly felt it at all. All of us who have formerly been received into the Orthodox Church glorify Almighty God for this birth in Christ of our brothers in Tanganyika.

This amazing story from Tanganyika should not be looked upon as something entirely solitary. There are many others also, not only in Tanganyika, but also in Kenya and Uganda, that want to receive the True Faith of the Orthodox Christians. Unfortunately, the workers of the Church are few and cannot satisfy all those impatiently waiting for us to visit them and bring Christ to them.

These new Orthodox Christians of Tanganyika have already bought a plot of land where they will build their Church when the money is found. Mr. Hadjipanayotou advised young Budala to go to the Orthodox Seminary in Cyprus and prepare to become a priest. But he refused saying that if he went, the wolves would disperse his sheep. Instead, he gladly recommended another young man from the catechumens to go in his place. Young Budala has already translated the Orthodox catechism into Swahili. It will be printed in two languages as soon as the funds are allocated.

It is said that many Orthodox countries have not yet sent missionaries to East Africa , where a lot of people extremely thirst for Orthodoxy. Nevertheless we hope that they will do so. In the meantime we ask for your prayers as well as for your help for our Church in order that we may be able to maintain Orthodoxy, until your arrival, which we hope, will be quick, as we desire.

"Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."

Fr. Theodoros NANKYAMAS
among brothers, the least 

The Orthodox Church in Tanzania has three holy dioceses: of Irinoupolis, Mwanza and Arusha.


The Holy Archdiocese of Irinoupolis, also known as Dar es Salaam, is a diocese under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. Its territory includes the parishes and missions located in the countries of Tanzania, and the Seychelles Islands.
When the diocese was originally established in 1959, its jurisdiction included Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. At that time Metropolitan Nicholas established his see in Kampala. Since that time the archdiocese has been divided, with the formation of the Archdiocese of Kampala and All Uganda in 1995 and the Archdiocese of Kenya in 2001. 

Ruling Bishops 

Nicholas (Valeropoulos) 1959 — 1968
Nicodemus 1968 — 1972
Frumentius 1972 — 1981
See vacant after the death of Metr. Frumentius
Anastasios (Yannoulatos) — 1991 Acting metropolitan from the Church of Greece
Petros (Papapetrou) Exarch 1991 — 1994
Philemon 1999 — 2000
Dimitrios (Zaharengas) 2004 — Present 

Visiting a Maasai village
Photo from the article of sister Thekla My blessed tour in Iringa

Maria Vraka
Day nursery teacher
Orthodox Missionary Fraternity

Tanzania is a country of Eastern Africa eight times larger than Greece. AIDS is one of the most serious problems for its poor people. The Holy Metropolis of Eirinoupolis through His Grace Demetrios and the Missionaries Archimandrite Fotios Chatziantoniou and Michael Danios, participates in the daily struggle for survival of our African brothers in Tanzania by providing pharmaceutical medication to hundreds of AIDS patients and other sick people.

It has also created nine schools in various regions and cities. Primary schools, Junior and Senior High Schools, which, being constructed even in these days thanks to the support of sensitive donors, are handed over to the government for the service of the students of the Maasai tribe.
The Metropolis pays the tuition fees of many needy Orthodox students every school period. It also drills a lot of wells with potable water, since most houses have no taps. In addition, it offers daily a glass of milk and biscuits to two hundred and fifty starving children and every Sunday a meal to hundreds of young and old.

Moreover, it helps the twenty orthodox African priests spiritually so that they can become good spiritual fathers and take over the Missionary work. This, however, requires a big spiritual struggle and time. In terms of material needs, it has built a lot of presbyteries for the priests and cares for their necessary daily food provisions.

It is very moving to see the Africans sit in church quietly, receive the Holy Communion in perfect order and say all together the “Creed” (the Symbol of Faith) and the “Lord’s Prayer”, give out their hands when the priest says: “Let us love one another” and at the end of the Holy Liturgy sing so beautifully the hymn “O Virgin Pure”. By the Grace of God there are thirty holy churches which have been erected, and thousands of christenings that take place.

However, there are still plenty of needs as well as temptations for the poor children who walk on the streets barefoot but always seem to be happy and smiling.

It is truly remarkable the fact that only the Orthodox Mission managed to assist and stand by these children and those miserable people. By offering our slightest contribution to these happy little faces, we fill up with the joy of giving, which is one of the most wonderful moments for every Orthodox Christian.

Let us all pray to God to give health to both our African brothers and the Greek missionaries, who, setting their life at risk, struggle in order to bear witness to Orthodoxy and Greece.

"The second thing we would like you to know is that the ten thousand copies of the New Testament in the Swahili language, project which you kindly funded, have already been distributed. This means that ten thousand families have at home the saving Word of Christ and can study it and get the living water, which will become in them the spring of water gushing up to eternal life..." (Archimandrite Photios Chatziantoniou, from here).

Sister Theodora: the first Orthodox nun in Tanzania's Orthodox Church (Metropolis of Irinoupolis)

Can you see news & articles from the Orthodox Archdiocese of Irinoypolis here.

Video from Poreia Agapis


From the site

Metropolitan Jeronymos of Mwanza, Tanzania

From its creation by the Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria in 1997, the Diocese has been a success story in its mission work over the past nine years. The number of communities has gone from 55 to 164, the number of faithful has increased from 17,000 to over 41,000, permanent churches constructed have risen from 5 to 70, while the number of clergy has more than tripled, from 9 to 34; a seminary was opened and is now operating with 12 students in each academic year; two monasteries (one for women and the other for men) are under construction; two secondary schools have been built; four clinics and one hospital have been constructed. In addition, 7 mission houses have been constructed, a drilling machine has been acquired, a carpentry workshop has been opened, and we are receiving each year not less than 300 missionaries on short term basis to help us. All these successes are indeed owed to Christ Himself, for without Him nothing can be done. Additionally, the prayers of all the Saints. And last but not least, the prayers and blessings of His Beatitude Theodore, the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa. 

Weddings of many couples of Orthodox Christians in Tanzania.
Photo from here. About the Great Sacrament of Marriage in the Orthodox Church you can see here.

Mission Work

Much attention and effort has been put into moving from rural missionary work to urban missionary work. While maintaining our presence continuing to expand in rural settings, we have moved to some of the small and larger towns in the five regions of Kagera, Kigoma, Shinyanga, Mwanza and Musoma of the Diocese. In towns like Nkwenda, Kyaka, Kayanga, Bunazi, Muleba, Mugaza Muhutwe, Ibale, Buseresere, Geita, Magu, etc. an Orthodox Church has been planted over the past five or so years. However, we have had many challenges to face in towns, particularly because of the lack of capable personnel to administratively and pastorally manage town affairs. Nevertheless, the Orthodox Church is popular in both the rural and urban areas of the above mentioned regions.

In order to prepare for the future, we have encouraged education and training for our young men and women. Because most of our faithful are from the peasantry or lower classes of the urban dwellers, we have set up a scholarship program to enable them to pursue secondary and tertiary education. We have begun to reap the fruits of this program: Mr. Nestory Tibaza graduated and is now supervising the construction of the Kayanga Secondary School; Mr. Abel Eustad, a graduate of Law at Mzumbe University, is now the manager of our Church farm at Kenyana; and Mr. Dionysios Mulindwa, a graduate of Muhimbili College of Dar-es-Salaam University, is now in preparation to head our Mission Hospital in Bukoba. 

Photo from here

Necessary training and continued expansion of our Diocese is accompanied by the search for spiritual quality for our faithful. This led us not only to open up a seminary to train future priests and catechists but also to organize, on regular basis, seminars for priests, catechists, women, youth and students. The attendance is good and the results are encouraging. We are also encouraging the development of liturgical and sacramental life in our Diocese. Regarding liturgical life, we recently gave a special scholarship to a candidate named Mr. Leonard Thomas, to train in music in Nairobi-Kenya. This will help us to have our own music teacher to train our church choirs in chanting the different services of our Church well. When it comes to sacramental life, more effort has been put on marriage and frequent communion. The response from our neophytes is good and encouraging.


The contribution of monasticism in the history of our Church is well documented. We do feel that if we are looking for a solid way of rooting the Orthodox faith in the hearts of the African people, we have to, as early as possible, turn to monasticism. Monasteries will give the novices a chance to be exposed to the riches of the Orthodox theology and teachings, art, tradition, liturgics, and most importantly, through daily spiritual ascesis, to experience that communion with God which leads to enlightenment and theosis. Pious monks and nuns in turn will be the bearers of the Orthodox banners in their communities and the Diocese at large. Two monasteries are being erected. One, a convent, in the town of Bukoba, is just five kilometers from the town center. And the other is a monastery being erected about thirty five kilometers from the town center. These two monasteries are the hope of our future Orthodoxy in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Church Construction 

A recently built church in the Diocese of Bukoba

As we open up new communities, there is a need to set up a place of worship. Worship is the unique identity of an Orthodox community. Most worship places are huts. This has been non-pleasing to most of our pious and mission-loving faithful. And they have responded by being very generous to the cause of church construction. For our part, we have organized our neophytes to participate fully in the erecting of permanent churches for their communities. Since 1998, the year in which the first church was built, we have built over 70 permanent churches with the assistance of our Orthodox brothers and sisters in Cyprus, Greece and the U.S.A. and with the active participation of our neophytes. A permanent church, in any given Orthodox community, sends a clear message to the Orthodox people but even beyond that the Orthodox Church is here to stay and to stay forever in order to sanctify and save her faithful.

Social Work

We do our mission work in this part of the world with concern for social work. This has been done so for two reasons: First, our mission is always holistic in the sense that salvation is for the whole person, body and soul. Second, we are doing mission in Sub-Saharan Africa where poverty, ignorance and disease have tightened their grip on the population. In our social work, we are freeing our brothers and sisters from the tyrannical bondage of the vicious circle of poverty, ignorance and disease. Always hand-cuffed by limited resources, we have acquired a drilling machine to dig wells for clean and safe drinking water. We have built a hospital in the municipality of Bukoba and clinics in rural areas for the provision of both curative and preventive medical services. We have built two secondary schools, one in Rubale and the other in Kayanga, for the provision of quality education for our young men and women. And more projects are being drawn up with the aim of fighting the poverty, ignorance and disease that so afflict our people. 

Concluding Remarks

The Bukoba Diocese is situated in an area of Tanzania where there is a great potential for its growth and expansion. So if there is a collective effort from within and without, we can have a large and dynamic local Orthodox Church in this part of the world. In order to achieve this, there is a need to consolidate what has been achieved up to now by mobilizing trained personnel in different disciplines from other Orthodox countries to come and assist in training priests, teaching catechism, running schools and hospitals, etc. This should be done in close cooperation with our neophytes so that we can cultivate an Orthodox ethos in our institutions which eventually will be reflected in this pluralistic religious society of Tanzania. 

Can you see news & articles from the Orthodox Archdiocese of Mwanza here.

On 11th December 2016, the Sunday of the Forefathers, His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa conducted the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy and during the service he performed the ordination of His Grace Agathonikos, Bishop of Arusha and Central Tanzania, at the Hοly Patriarchal Church of St. Savvas the Sanctified in Alexandria.
Our Lord Jesus Christ bless his work. Amen.

On Saturday 29th April, the eve of the Enthronement of His Grace Agathonikos Bishop of Arusha and Central Tanzania, with the blessing of His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa and in the presence of His Eminence Dimitrios Metropolitan of Irinopolis, Caretaker of the Diocese, a group of visitors from the Holy Metropolis of Kitros and Katerini, comprising the Very Reverend Archimandrite Maximos Kyritsis, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of St Dionysios in Olympus, the Very Reverend Archimandrite Barnabas Leontiadis, Chancellor of the Holy Metropolis of Kitros, the Reverend Protopresbyter Fr. Angelos Giannikis and the Archdeacon Fr. Panteleimon Tsarapatsanis as well as Monk Marcellus from the Holy Monastery of St Anthony in Arizona, America, in the Missionary Centre of Kidamal in the Iriga district, group baptism took place in the outdoor baptistery of the Holy Church of Ss Andronikos and Athanasia.
Specifically, 165 natives were baptized, among whom were many Masai from the surrounding areas. These are moments that remind us of the first Christian years, when you are faced with the enthusiasm and the appeal of faith of those being baptized reflected in their illumined faces. After the baptisms which lasted for four hours, a rich outdoor lunch was hosted for our four hundred brothers and sisters present.
On 30th April, Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, and with the blessing of His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, the enthronement of His Grace Agathonikos Bishop of Arusha and Central Tanzania took place at the Holy Church of St Dimitrios in the Hellenic Community of Iriga. The Enthronement took place after the end of the Divine Liturgy and was officiated by the Caretaker of the Diocese, His Eminence Metropolitan Dimitrios of Irinopolis, who read the Greeting of His Beatitude and addressed the newly-enthrone Bishop.  More here.

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