According to Tanzania’s Catholic Church more than 25 priests and 60 nuns have recently died with COVID like symptoms. ‘COVID like’ because the Tanzanian President has of course claimed the country was cured of the coronavirus with prayer. Since the last reported cases in April 2020, there is no COVID testing on the mainland. The loss of lives is unforgivable, almost every Tanzanian is affected directly or indirectly. We should all care and be outraged by Magufuli’s actions. In Tanzania, there are no measures in place to cut transmission offering the virus a sanctuary to mutate and pose a very real threat to the vaccination programme.
Now, you may be thinking what has the Pope’s visit to Iraq got to do with Tanzania? Well, President Magufuli is a devout catholic and his visit inadvertently gives Magufuli’s mishandling of COVID in Tanzania credence. Since the start of the year, there has been a marked increase in people dying of “pneumonia” the codeword for COVID in Tanzania. In February during the funeral of his Chief Secretary, Magufuli said to mourners, “Maybe we have wronged God somewhere..” and declared three days of prayer, urging people to go to church and the mosque. I am convinced the deaths of the Tanzanian clergy are linked to the call to pray by Magufuli in February this year.
I have the utmost respect and admiration for the Pope and his vision for interfaith tolerance. I also recognise Christian minorities in the Middle East and elsewhere have suffered persecution. The Pope meeting Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is not only a historic moment but also symbolic to muslims and christians worldwide. Whilst I am certain the Iraqi and Vatican officials will take all necessary precautions, to a president [Magufuli] who has used religion and prayer to rid himself of responsibility, the Pope’s visit will be spun to validate negligent leadership. I just wish this important visit was delayed and it makes me very angry to think this historic visit will be spun by one of the most unchristian presidents to justify his criminal handling of COVID in Tanzania.