After the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church at the very end of the 2021 decided to create an Exarchate with 2 dioceses in Africa, accepting 102 African priests under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, various Internet resources, mainly serving the interests of Phanar and Ukrainian schismatics, started publishing dirty materials allegedly about “real” motives of that priests. The exclusively selfish interests were imputed to that priests. It would be fair to give African clergy an opportunity to tell themselves about the reasons that prompted them in 2019 to apply to the Russian Church with a request to join it.
The Orthodox Research Center “Chrisma” (Moscow, Russia) conducted an interview with Laurent Sakwa, a priest from Tanzania. He was one of the first to publicly oppose the decision of Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria to recognize the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine”.
– Fr. Laurent, you were one of those priests who signed the petition for transfer to the Russian Orthodox Church in December 2019. Was it your free decision or someone pushed you to do this? How have these two years of waiting passed? Have you and other priests been pressured by your Greek bishop?
– Yes, I’m the one of those signed a petition, this is my free decision and I understand what I’m doing. Remember I’m the first priest in Alexandria Patriarchate who declared in public to disagree with the Patriarch Theodore’s decision to recognise schismatics of Ukraine.
After the priests wrote an open letter to declare that we are not agree with Patriarch Theodore announced to recognise schismatics of Ukraine, our Greek Bishops started to pressure priests. For example they cut off the salaries and threatened priests. The two years passed with very tough difficulties.
– What part of the priests of Tanzania decided to join ROC? What or who prevents other priests from following your example? If it possible some kind of confrontation between those priests who transferred to ROC and those who remained in the Patriarchate of Alexandria?
– Actually many priests from all the Dioceses decided to join ROC for the purpose of protecting the Canonical Orthodox Church and for our Spiritual life.
Yes, there is confrontation between us and those priests who remain with Greeks, but these priests are two or three. The majority of priests support us and everyone want to join with ROC, they don’t want to be with schismatics of Alexandria Patriarchate.
– What are the arguments of the priests who decided to stay in the Patriarchate of Alexandria?
– The priests who decided to stay in Patriarchate of Alexandria don’t have any arguments. They’re afraid the Greeks to cut off their salaries. And these priests are using by Greeks to threaten the African.
– Does the country’s authorities show any interest in the current situation in Church life? How do they feel about the emergence of the ROC communities in Tanzania? Or don’t they care about it?
– The country’s authorities don’t know what Greeks are doing here, but they know that the Greek bishops are here to serve for Greeks only, not for Orthodox Church. But now when country’s authorities heard about ROC will come in Tanzania they are very happy and ready to support.
– Did your parish fully support your decision? Or were there any people who wished to stay in the Patriarchate of Alexandria? What is the general attitude of the Orthodox people of Tanzania and other African countries towards the ROC?
– I have full support from my parishioners with my decision. Note that the decision of joining ROC is not myself decision but it’s a parishioners’s decision.
The general attitude of Orthodox people of Tanzania and other African countries is a hope to grow in spiritual life and development of the Church of Africa. So African people hope ROC to bring real love, true teachings of Apostles and Holy Fathers for their souls salvation. No more.
– What are your expectations from the transfer to ROC? What changes in Church life do you expect?
– My expectations from transfer to ROC is only for my salvation, spiritual life, to develop the Church of God, spread the Good news of the Kingdom of God, to get true teachings and tradition of Apostles and Holy Fathers.
For changes in Church life I expect to have good administration, development of the Church, true love each other, helping God’s people who are in needs, unite of the Church to be one, to have organisations for communities, seminars for faithful, families, youth and seminary school, Sunday school for catechism, to help people to grow in spiritual life. Not to have a class people in the Church, but all of us to be one. No discrimination in the Church.
– How can the Orthodox faith attract Tanzanians and people from other African countries? What are the main problems of Orthodoxy in Africa and what is needed to solve these problems?
– People in Tanzania and from other African countries are very attract with Orthodox faith when they hear about teachings. The main problems of Orthodoxy in Africa is the Greeks, the way they doing a mission. The Greeks are not in Africa for the spiritual life. They are here for their own profit through the umbrella of Church. They take photos from poor people and find money through these African. Greeks don’t teach people but give sweets. This way doesn’t help the Orthodoxy to grow in spiritual life.
Second problem is the discrimination in the Church, and weak leadership. The Greeks of the Patriarchate of Alexandria don’t teach people in Africa, looking them as a third people. There are many problems here in Orthodoxy of Africa but I can’t mention all.
To solve these problems we need good leadership, true teachings, to be commitment in the Church, to have seminars, schools, hospitals and other things for communities, to send priests at seminary, to remove discrimination in the Church, to take care of priests. We hope ROC by God’s grace will help to solve all these problems of the Orthodoxy in Africa.
– Please tell a little about yourself and your parish. How did you come to Orthodoxy?
– I was born from mixed family, my mother was a Roman Catholic but my Father was a paganist. First time to hear about Orthodoxy I heard from Fr. Peter, Orthodox Priest who was preaching house to house and he is my neighbour in Village. It’s real I was attracted with the teachings of Orthodoxy. For now I have two parishes and small sub-parishes.
For those who want to help Fr. Laurent we publish his bank account:
CRDB BANK PLC TANZANIA
Names: LAURENT SAKWA SIMON.
Account No: 0152442563300.
Swift code: CORUTZTZ