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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What makes Loliondo treatment tick?

I am on my way to Loliondo. The area is on the limelight again but then, this time around, it is not on the headlines because of the contentious Serengeti Highway or the scandalous Loliondogate.

A retired pastor-cum-healer is treating thousands of patients there. Various versions of what has been going on continue to grip the public imagination. The proverbial curiosity that killed a cat has not spared the sceptic in me. That is why I had packed my bags and started this journey to Loliondo.

For some strange reasons my ticket got mixed up. So I ended leaving Dar es Salaam earlier than planned. That is when a series of incidences, or rather coincidences, began to happen. At the airport I found a member of my extended family escorting her 83-year-old ailing dad to Loliondo.

In the parlance of miracles one would claim that it was not by chance that I ended up flying with them since he actually needed some extra escorting from a fellow male in the airport.

While waiting for our delayed flight a fellow passenger asked if our granddad was/is sick. I could not give a straight answer, as I was not sure how much I should disclose to a total stranger about his medical condition. “Send him to Loliondo,” he quipped, “I was one of the first people to be treated there for a high level of cholesterol.” As he testified he was, interestingly, munching crisps.

In our short ride from the Kilimanjaro International Airport to Arusha with a couple of friends the hot topic was the Loliondo treatment. One could sense that what has made people seek a miracle cure in Loliondo is not only what they have heard but also what they have seen. I have also heard. But, frankly, the “Biblical doubting Thomas” in me has not seen anything yet.

Yet Arusha is abuzz with testimonies. A taxi driver I met was thus categorical about Loliondo: “I drive medical doctors and they affirm that Loliondo’s healing works.” I ask: “But how do they know?” He responds: “They say they have cross-examined their patients who have gone to Loliondo.”

I wonder if that is indeed true why they have not come out in public. Then I remember, oh, ours is a very “political” bureaucracy of “well, I am not the official spokesperson”.

The intrigue continued when I met my three close relatives who have been to Loliondo. They all assert that they feel very well after being treated in Loliondo. One even admits that she has stopped using her daily medication for an ailing heart and blood pressure. Yet they are all honest enough to disclose that they have not yet gone for the “modern” medical check-up in any hospital.

They went to Loliondo after hearing that the treatment works from other relatives. So, I drop my bombshell: Have you ever seen anyone - with your own naked eyes - who was very sick and has recovered?

“Yes”, one of them affirms, “there was this person we travelled with from Arusha to Loliondo who could not walk because of paralysis but he started to walk five minutes after getting treated.”

My mind drifted to those preachers who demonstrate similar cases, albeit, on TV. She continued: “I also saw a lady from Singida who was too sick to eat and walk and had to be allowed to bypass the queue; she returned walking and rejoicing.” Well, my mind drifted, again.

How do we classify such a treatment as African traditional healing or/and spiritual Christian healing? None could really tell but the Christianity in them affirmed that they did not see anything related to witchcraft. They would have not even gone if it had a semblance of sorcery.

These are second, third and fourth generation Christians in Tanzania. They grew up in an area called “Misheni”, that is, “Mission” that was named so because of the German missionaries who introduced the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) brand of Christianity in Tanganyika. SDAs are well known for strict adherence to health principles with respect to what the Word i.e. the Bible, says.
To an SDA, any claim to miracle healing must be subjected to Biblical/Doctrinal tests of spirituality. However, by the very nature of SDA’s adherence to healing from natural remedies as captured in the acronym NEWSTART (Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunlight, Temperance, Air, Rest and Trust in God), these relatives of mine still use traditional Pare herbs which work well.

No wonder, from the SDAs have come out natural/herbal remedies’ experts such as Evangelist Ndodi, Doctor Mtango and the late Pastor Shuli of Mwanza. It is this context that seems to inform my relatives as they seek the treatment from Loliondo. To them there is no “duality” that is often used to explain why Africans subscribe to inconsistent or mutual exclusive sets of belief.

It is that quest for an explanation that is driving me to Loliondo. The Africanist in me is curious to know the place, if any, of African traditional/indigenous knowledge systems of healing in the treatment of Loliondo. Yet the Adventist in me is interested in knowing the role of SDA Biblical analysis in making sense of what is happening in Loliondo and beyond in the current global age.

So at dawn I board a bus to Loliondo. I can hardly wait to hear things. And to see what happens.

© Chambi Chachage - Published by The Citizen 15 March 2011

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