President Emmerson Mnangagwa has reiterated the need for religious institutions to preach the gospel of tolerance, peace and unity and to promote the spirit of religious pluralism that has always existed in the country.

President Mnangagwa who was represented by Vice President Kembo Mohadi made the remarks at the Young Muslims Association interactive rally held at the City Sports Centre today.

The exact number of Muslims in Zimbabwe is not known but estimates vary from as low as 50 000 to as many as 1.3 million with the biggest population found in Mashonaland Central Province, Gokwe, Gutu and Mberengwa where the Varemba people who are the earliest group in the country to embrace the religion live.

According to historians, Islam is the first foreign religion to come to Zimbabwe during the Great Zimbabwe State era when the Karanga people traded with Arabs from Sofala land.

It is believed the Shona word Changamire, is derived from two Arabic titles Sheikh and Ameer.

Today’s meeting organised under the auspices of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in Zimbabwe is the first ever interactive meeting that brought together the country’s political leadership and members of the Muslim community.

Vice President Mohadi who read President Mnangagwa’s speech said the Zimbabwean Constitution provides for freedom of worship and Muslims like other religions are free to practice their faith in peace.

There are mosques located in nearly all of the country’s large towns including 18 in Harare, 8 in Bulawayo and a number are also found in the rural areas, a demonstration that Muslims are part of Zimbabwe’s religious landscape and co-exist peacefully with their fellow Christian brothers and sisters.

Muslims are part of the fabric of Zimbabwe to an extent that inter-marriages across religious identities have always been taking place and President Mnangagwa emphasized the need to continue preaching the gospel of peace.

The meeting was attended by business people and investors from outside the country and President Mnangagwa extended an invitation to Muslim business people from the region and further afield to come and invest in Zimbabwe.

“Religious institutions must also participate in policy initiatives like the command agriculture which has now extended to other sectors such as wheat, soya beans, fish, livestock and wildlife production,” read part of the President’s statement.

He also implored religious institutions like the Muslim community to play a part in the development of SMEs, vocational skills and training centres for the youths.