13 February 2007

What's it like here? Contradictions abound

There is much beauty in Dar es Salaam. The Indian Ocean is right nearby, and the weather is very...different from New England. We're still in the wet season, so vegetation is richly green and flowers are lovely. People are pleasant. And then there's the poverty. Mind-boggling poverty. Trash littering streets and pollution that can make the eyes water.

The primates are sequestered at the White Sands, a very nice hotel right on the beach. In the public areas, the atmosphere is relaxed. People on opposite sides of The Issue converse jovially. And then there's the "ring of steel." There is a heavy security force keeping regular people from seeing their bishops. According to at least one report, the security force can be a bit menacing.

And, of course, there's another contradiction. People are here as part of a Primates' Meeting, one of the "Instruments of Unity" in the Anglican Communion. And yet, just down the road, there's a completely separate contingent. Here's what Jonathan Petre reported:

The burgeoning bunker mentality can, perhaps, be explained by the palpable anxiety of the organizers that the meeting could be derailed before it has even started by the powerful conservative group of Global South primates, who are determined to seize control of events.

They have set up their own headquarters a hundred yards up the road in the Beachcomber hotel, where they are holding strategy meetings before moving en masse to the White Sands for the official five-day meeting beginning on Thursday, where a bloody showdown is looming.

When I mentioned to one of the conservative primates that there was consternation among Anglican Communion staff about what is effectively an alternative headquarters, he replied: "This isn't the alternative headquarters. It is THE headquarters." With that sort of attitude to contend with, Dr Williams will have his work cut out.

I'm planning to post photos tomorrow. That will help give the impression of the place. Note that Jonathan Petre also has written about the sartorial splendor and the mood of the gathering.

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