Introduction / History
The Segeju are a people group living on the northeast coast of Tanzania, between the town of Tanga and the Kenya border. The Segeju are virtually all Muslim.
Our visit to a Segeju village unfolded in a beautiful way. The driver stopped at a village on the main road (which was dirt), and the tour guide inquired concerning the possibility of visiting an all-Segeju village. A young man gave directions. Proceeding a few more kilometers, we came to a junction and turned toward the Indian Ocean.
Only one mile from the village, we were amazed at the number of secondary school students, perhaps 100, who were returning home after a day at school. We discovered they were all from the Segeju village.
Driving to the center of the large village, we stopped in front of a house where a man was working on his bicycle. He was friendly and spoke English well. He offered to lead us to the chairman's office near the fish market.
I presented myself as a tourist accompanied by two friends from Dar es Salaam. Learning that I had come to Tanzania specifically to meet them "face to face," they were pleased and agreed to give us a tour of the village.
The first stop was the fish market located on the beach. The catch of the day had been brought in earlier, and a few customers were engaged in getting the best bargain possible.
Down at the water's edge, a young man was filleting a large stingray. Several boats were anchored near the shore, and our guide was quick to point out that they had all been constructed by their own village craftsmen. It was easy to see that the fishing industry was the primary source of income.
I asked if the people spoke their own Segeju language. Our guide explained that along the coast only Swahili was spoken, but inland the people still communicated in their mother tongue.
The main historic site was an old stone wall that previously circled the village. It was built to protect from the attack of Maasai warriors. The Segeju forefathers were good fighters and held out against the constant, fierce attacks of the Maasai.
Next we visited with an old man about the early days. He was pleased to interact with us. I swapped hats with him and we had our picture taken together. We left 2,000 Tanzanian shillings ($2) with him, a habit we practiced along the coast as a sign of respect to the elderly.
An old mosque, no longer in use and totally deteriorated, was of interest to us. It was a piece of history that needed an explanation. Our guide said that it was built by Asian Indians who were Shiite Muslims. When they left years ago, no one used it, for the Segeju are Sunni Muslim. I found it interesting that the two groups would not worship together.
Approaching the current Sunni mosque, we met an old man well over 90 years of age. My question about what makes him happy today caused him to stop and think. He responded, "Knowing that I will be cared for in my old age." I then asked permission to take his picture in front of the mosque. He cooperated and even flashed a smile!
The last point of interest on our tour was the village "shipyard." Three men were in the process of constructing two large fishing boats. They knew what they were doing, but one still had to use his imagination to visualize a completed boat that didn't leak.
On the walk back to our vehicle, our guide discussed with us the relationship between Muslims and Christians. He admitted that Christians were good people, for they believed in and used three of the four books that are most important to Muslims: Books of Moses, Psalms, and the Injil (Gospels). It was refreshing to interact with a moderate Muslim who could rationally accept a peaceful coexistence with Christians.
All in all, it was a great visit! The hand of God was evident in each exchange and contact. There was a definite sense that the Lord had prepared the way for our visit. The basis of friendship exists; an opportunity to present the gospel is at hand!