NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – More than 100 Muslim extremists on Tanzania’s semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar stormed a church following an evening worship service on Jan. 11 and beat a visiting preacher, sources said.
The mob, including suspected members of Islamic extremist groups, meant to attack the Pentecostal Evangelism Fellowship of Africa (PEFA) congregation’s senior pastor, Bishop Daniel Kwilemba, who was not present at the church site in Kisauni village, outside Zanzibar City. Instead, they found a preacher visiting from the Tanzania mainland – William Saidi of the Free Pentecostal Church in Tanzania in Dar es Salaam, church leaders said.
“These rowdy Muslims were shouting and yelling, saying, ‘We are looking for the bishop of the church to slaughter him – we are tired of the existence of this church near our mosque and the noise they are making,’” said a church elder.
The mob fled when police arrived and rescued the pastor after he had suffered multiple contusions for which he is still taking medication, sources said. The assailants tore his shirt and suit coat.
Since the attack, the Muslim extremists have been issuing threats that the church should leave the area near Zanzibar City, capital of the semi-autonomous island in the Indian Ocean about 25 kilometers (16 miles) off the coast of Tanzania, sources said. A church member added that the congregation has been living in fear for their lives.
“At the moment we cannot worship freely because we are being threatened,” the church member said. “The Muslims are accusing us of making a lot of noise while they themselves make a lot of noise.”
Police arrested some suspects and took them to Kisauni police station, but they were later released, sources said.
During the past Christmas season the Muslim extremists threatened to burn down the building of the PEFA church, which began three years ago.
On Sept. 13, 2013, on the outskirts of Zanzibar City, suspected Muslim extremists threw acid on the Rev. Joseph Anselmo Mwangamba, a 60-year-old Catholic priest, outside an Internet café.
On Feb. 17, 2013, suspected Islamic extremists on shot and killed the Rev. Evaristus Mushi, a 56-year-old Roman Catholic priest, in the Mtoni area outside Zanzibar City (see Morning Star News, Feb. 20). The murder came nearly two months after the Christmas Day 2012 shooting of another Catholic priest, the Rev. Ambrose Mkenda, that seriously injured him.
At midnight on April 20, 2013, Islamic extremists in Kianga, 16 kilometers (11 miles) from Zanzibar City, demolished most of the Church of God’s Pool of Siloam church building, a church leader said. Three suspects were arrested, only to be released after three days.
Muslim extremists had attacked the church building before, setting part of it on fire on Feb. 19, 2013 and battering it with sledge hammers in November 2011.
While Tanzania’s population is 34.2 percent Muslim and 54 percent Christian, according to Operation World, the Zanzibar archipelago is more than 97 percent Muslim.