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The Mission Center of Arusha in Tanzania
Arusha is the most famous tourist center of Tanzania. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain of the African continent, in combination with the vast national parks, which host endangered species of animals, compose a breathtaking tourist destination, a pole of attraction for tourists who are lovers of the natural environment.
It is the reference city for the states of East Africa, since it is their indisputable capital. The courts and the UN headquarters are located in Arusha, where the trial for the prevalence of peace during the Burundi – Rwanda civil war was held.
The first Missionary of Tanzania, late Archimandrite NicodemosSarikas, who reposed in peace in Tanzania in 1941, established the mission in the greater Arusha region, and specifically in Mosi. He was the first to take the brave and blessed decision to open “new horizons” in the ecclesiastical matters of Africa. The first to open the arms of the Orthodox Church to our native brothers and sisters with a huge missionary and charitable work. The humble grass-hut at the outskirts of Mosi was a point of reference for thousands of African people, who flocked there to find consolation and to be catechized in the Orthodox faith.
Now, 80 years later, the orthodox presence in the city of Arusha is reviving. The Holy Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos, of the formerly prosperous Greek community, which stands in the courtyard of the international school of St. Konstantinos, was, until today, the only orthodox evidence in the wider area of Arusha.
The once prosperous Greek community has left the best impressions on the citizens of Arusha, a fact that helped the acceptance of the now new Greek-Orthodox presence in this area. Our brothers and sisters in Arusha, although accustomed to the presence of the “white” tourists, were thrilled with the re-opening of the Holy Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos.
In December 2016, during the ordination of his Grace Bishop Agathonikos of Arusha and Central Tanzania, His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa revealed to all those present his vision, as of the day of his ascension to the patriarchal throne of St. Mark, about the city of Arusha. According to the will of his Beatitude, the establishment of the new Diocese of the Throne of Alexandria for Central Tanzania, seated in the city of Arusha, was progressively being prepared; for which he envisioned the founding of a multifaceted Mission Center with various religious, educational and charitable structures, so that Arusha becomes the reference point for the whole of East Africa.
In March 2017, after the enthronement of his Grace Bishop Agathonikos of Arusha and Central Tanzania, the plans for the new dynamic presence of the Orthodox Church in the region were timidly introduced. With the help of all the members of the Missionary Shelter of St. Dionysius of Olympus a plot of 10 stremmas1 was purchased near the main road network that leads to the international airport and the universities. It is centrally located and easily accessible from both the city of Arusha and the nearby area.
Arusha, being a tourist center, has attracted many groups of Christian heretic branches, which have been in the city for decades. Protestants and various “Christian charismatic groups” are particularly developed. None of them accepts our Most-Holy Lady Theotokos or the Saints, and they offer a “distorted” faith to our native brothers and sisters.
In the midst of this tumult of heresies and difficulties, while humbly praying and anticipating God’s blessing, we hope that Arusha shall once again become a new significant Mission Center, with a proper Orthodox presence, for the dissemination of the Word of God. The necessary fencing works of the area have been completed, the entrance gate has been built and a borehole has been drilled, which shall cover the needs of the future works as well as the water needs of the future people serving there and the people of the area.
* The stremma is a Greek unit of land area that is now equal to precisely 1,000 square meters.
Following the completion of the first necessary works and the landscaping, the next and most important project is the construction of the Holy Church in honor of the Most Holy Lady Theotokos, asking for Her prayers and Her protection, so that in a society where dozens of Christian denominations are activated and through financial difficulties Orthodoxy be consolidated and the Mission Center become a beacon of light transmitting the light of Christ in the darkness of the heresies. Furthermore, the attachment of chapels in honor of St. Dionysius of Olympus, the patron saint of the Association and of the whole of Pieria, and St. Catherine the Great Martyr and All-Wise, to the Holy Church of the Theotokos is being planned.
However, listening to the needs of our brothers and sisters, the construction of a medical center is planned within the framework of a continuous care to combat hundreds of contagious diseases threatening the lives of young and old people in Tanzania, and also in the whole of Africa. Moreover, the multifaceted Mission Center of Arusha shall include a school where theological and liturgical seminars will be held and technical professions, such as sewing and housekeeping for girls, and computers, carpentry and engineering will be taught. Last, the translation committee of the Holy Diocese of Arusha and Central Tanzania, consisting of native priests who speak English and know Greek, shall be housed therein. The translation of liturgical and patristic books is of particular significance for the spiritual life of our native brothers and sisters, because even the daily liturgical texts of the Church, such as Paracletiki and the Menaia have not been translated to this day. Significant efforts are being made in this sector in order for the liturgical spiritual life in Central Tanzania to acquire an “appropriate” status.
It is worth the try for all of us to support the new beginning that aims to spread the Gospel and the offer of love to our brothers and sisters. The Mission Center of Iringa, which already operates, has become a haven for thousands of children who go there daily to play, attend the services of vesper and compline, and receive their daily food, a small meal or milk with vitamin-enriched cookies. Let us all embrace the new effort that is being made in the city of Arusha. Let as contribute with great joy to the struggle for the distribution of the unwaning Light of Orthodoxy and the elimination of pain and hardship for thousands of our brothers and sisters.
"...My Dear Brothers in Christ,
By the grace of God and with your own constant support, the work of our Church in Central Tanzania is progressing, despite the difficulties that afflict modern society due to the corona virus pandemic. It is a fact that in the wider region of Central Tanzania, the pace of life of our native brothers has not been significantly affected; these simple-hearted people have been facing this threat with calmness and faith in the providence of God. The prayers of all the members of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity have been supporting us in our difficult but God-pleasing work!
In our previous communication I informed you about the progress of the construction works in the Orthodox Mission Center in the city of Arusha. We hope that the church dedicated to Our Lady, which is scheduled to be rebuilt there, will become a reference point for the entire missionary work in Central Tanzania. Given our limited financial resources, we are starting the project for the erection of the sacred church in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos rather shyly, but we hope for your wholehearted support. During this period, an effort is being made for the architectural blueprints to be completed so that in the near future, our vision deriving from the noble heart and plans of His Beatitude our Blessed Patriarch Theodoros II for the city of Arusha will begin to take shape. I am making an earnest appeal to your charitable hearts for assistance through your contribution to this important task for the Diocese, always to the extent possible. Let us all play our part so that the Orthodox Church can have a serious presence in Arusha, the heart of East Africa.
In the same area, there are plans for the construction of a school complex for theological and technical courses. Education is a valuable asset and no child should be deprived of the right to participate in the schooling provided. In Central Tanzania as well as throughout Africa many children are unable to attend even basic education. School dropout rates are rising because many families are unable to meet the financial demands of paid education. Thus, the vision of schooling seems utopian to thousands of children in Central Tanzania and all around Africa.
With the help of all of you together, our Diocese activity hopes to be extended to the educational sector as well by organizing theological seminars and by creating professional – technical study courses. The theological training of the clergy and the lay members is considered necessary so that all those ministering in our Diocese will possess the necessary theological education.
At the same time, there are plans for the establishment of a Technical School with practical studies for both boys and girls. Informatics, Engineering, Hygiene, Cooking, Sewing, Housekeeping, are some of the educational programs that will be included in the curriculum of our Mission Center Technical School in Arusha. These courses will have an immediate response to everyday needs and will offer easily accessible education, open to any young person in Central Tanzania.
An additional important area of action is the translation of liturgical and patristic writings of our Church into Swahili. The existence of liturgical and patristic books in the language of the natives is considered necessary not only for the beginning of their course in the Orthodox Church, but also as a support for their later spiritual life. Moreover, the lack of liturgical books, which are absolutely necessary for the performance of sacred services, is considered particularly important. The Octoechos or Parakletike, the Menaea, the Triodion, books whose existence is taken for granted for the Greek Orthodox liturgical reality, are absent from our daily services. There is a great need for translation of all the liturgical books of our Church. We have been working in this direction since we first came to Central Tanzania. We formed a translation committee consisting of clergymen fluent in English. The seat of this committee will be located at the Orthodox Mission Center established in Arusha.
For all these actions which we are planning to carry out, we need your valuable contribution! Once again, we make an earnest appeal to your charitable hearts, asking you to assist in the work of the Church and our Patriarchate. It is an indisputable fact that without your financial and spiritual support, none of these important projects could have been accomplished.
With feelings of deep gratitude and love in the Lord, †Agathonikos of Arusha".
Bishop Agathonikos of Arusha
His Grace bishop Agathonikos of Arusha and Central Tanzania was born in 1964. He serves the Orthodox Missions in Africa since 2004, while in 2016 he was ordained the bishop of the newly-founded diocese of Arusha.
Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, Mackenzie King 6, 546 22 Thessaloniki, Greece