Lately in the evenings we have started to hear church bells. Rather tinny more akin to door chimes and definitely electronic but certainly church bells. These have obviously been installed in a local church building nearby (or maybe not so near but with loud speakers). This is in addition to the calls to prayer of the Imam from the local mosque which sound out near to sunset and the chanting which I assume come from the Hindu Temple in town.
Mwanza has several mosques, at least three Hindu Temples and a Sikh one, several Seventh Day Adventist Congregations and numerous churches scattered across the town. As we walk to town we often hear choral singing.
Three faiths co-existing in this town and from my perspective peacefully co-existing in a tolerant fashion. Mwanza is a place of faith however you look at it!
As a Christian it is a strange experience. Having a faith is not unusual here, indeed quite the opposite people expect it. Growing up in the UK where religion is increasingly something of a dirty word it is actually quite refreshing. Back home it seems like you have to defend yourself or else can face incredulity or even mockery. Religious faith is often viewed as quaint or old fashioned, misguided or intolerant (it is in truth none of these!)
In the West, many think they have outgrown religion (not the same as faith by the way) and have cast religious faith in the same bucket as the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. Perhaps people here are viewed as unsophisticated and ignorant of the worldly truth. I would argue that while people here may lack wealth and formal education, they are not lacking wisdom or intelligence. Their faith is shaped by their poverty and their experience, many live hard lives ‘on the edge’ but faith remains strong. Maybe our wealth, our technology, our so-called worldly wisdom has hidden something from view. Our Western news tends to focus on religious hatred and bigotry whereas here they are more tolerant. I am not saying all faiths are the same (quite the reverse), I don’t think all of those with faith get it right either but where we disagree we can still respect one another. I sometimes wonder why some of those with no faith are disrespectful of those who do.