Friends of Zanzibar Cathedral
In October 2013, Zanzibar Anglican Cathedral launched its long awaited Restoration and Development Project, including the creation of a Heritage Education and Visitor Centre.
The Cathedral lies within the UN World Heritage Site of Stone Town, the historical centre of Zanzibar. As well as being a place of worship for Christians in the town, the Cathedral is a significant attraction for visitors to the island.
The Christian Community in Zanzibar
Christianity came to Zanzibar with the Portuguese as they swept up the East coast of Africa late in the 15th Century. They established a Catholic Mission but their main interest was trade until they were driven back by Omani forces 200 years later.
In 1841 the Omani Sultan, Sayyid Said, moved his Capital to Zanzibar. He developed trade by inviting merchants from India and with British involvement in the region was soon hosting British officials and making trade agreements with several Western governments. Though a devout Muslim, out of consideration for his visitors the Sultan allowed people of all faiths to conduct religious services as they chose.
Joseph Krapf visited in 1844 with two CMS companions but it was David Livingstone who made the island famous with his anti-slavery speech in 1857 appealing to England to send missionaries to Africa. Livingstone’s speeches led to the creation of the Universities Mission to Central Africa, UMCA. In 1860 this group sent Charles Mackenzie to be “Bishop of Central Africa”. The group’s mainland base was abandoned three years later and they moved to Zanzibar for its communication networks, food and labour pool. They set up a “hostel for released slave boys” in Kiungani then in 1873 purchased the old market square where slaves were once sold. This was the start for Christ Church Cathedral whose cornerstone was laid on Christmas day 1873. Other projects were developed, many focused on supporting freed slaves. “The most monumental of all this work was surely Christ Church Cathedral. Essentially an amateur project personally supervised by the third UMCA Bishop, Edward Steere, it remains one of the most impressive examples of the early Christian architecture in Africa.” (Barghash).
The Anglican community in Zanzibar has survived the tensions of revolution in the 1960s but remains a small group. The Diocese of Zanzibar was established in 2001 and covers the Zanzibar archipelago. It has 7 churches with 6 evangelists and about 2,000 Anglican Christians. All of the development projects of the Diocese and its Parishes work closely with the Islamic community. One of the hopes of the project is that it will continue to build bridges to the majority population.