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.
* 1The 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.