(Morning Star News) – The pastor of a church on Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar Island was preaching earlier this month when a plainclothes police officer and local officials strode into the church service.
“One of the police officers in civilian clothes walked through the church’s door, stepped up to the podium and then grabbed the bishop by the arm,” a church member told Morning Star News. “The bishop pleaded with him to allow him finish the preaching.”
The congregation of the Pentecostal Evangelistic Fellowship of Africa (PEFA) church in Kisauni, near the Zanzibar City airport, was gripped with fear that day (May 6) as the pulpit microphone picked up Bishop Daniel Kwileba Kwiyeya’s plea. The regional and local district commissioners ordered him to stop the worship service as the officer dragged him into a police car, said the church member, unidentified for security reasons.
“Why are you arresting my father without giving us the reasons for his arrest?” the pastor’s daughter cried. “This is very inhumane.”
The local district commissioner slapped her and pushed her into the police vehicle, the source said.
Other church members tried to intervene, in vain. Bishop Kwiyeya and his daughter were taken to the police station in Mazizini. The 160-member congregation went back into their church building and began praying for them.
“No one can take away our faith in Jesus Christ – Jesus is always with us and is ready to help us,” a church elder told them.
Congregation members later went to the police station, where the chief officer told them there were no charges against the pastor and his daughter, and they were released later that day.
The incident followed an order to close the church after Muslim sheikhs from a nearby mosque complained that services on Sundays and weeknights were too loud – though the congregation does not use loudspeakers as the neighboring mosque does.
“We have the right to worship God just like our brothers the Muslims who worship God using loudspeakers, but no one terms their worship a nuisance,” the church member told Morning Star News. “We as the church are of the opinion that the order to close the church is tainted with favoritism and unconstitutional.”
On April 26, the regional and local district commissioners met with Muslim leaders on the church premises – without inviting the church leaders – and discussed the allegations that the church was becoming a nuisance to the community due to loud noise. The regional district commissioner then ordered the church be closed.
The church did not comply with the order since leaders had not been given the opportunity to defend themselves, the source said. The church instead filed an objection with the regional district commissioner.
“The church could have been given a hearing before such radical decision of closing the church was taken,” he said. “This is quite unfair and contrary to the provision of the constitutional rights of freedom of worship of the United Republic of Tanzania.”
Church members say the closure was a calculated move to weaken Christianity and do away with it in Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, he said.
“The worship by the church should be respected as it is guaranteed by the constitution of Tanzania,” the church member said.
Area Muslims did not complain about noise at the church until it completed a worship building with a seating capacity of 500 people in February, he said. Previously church members worshipped in a tent.
In March, authorities closed another church in Zanzibar when police pulled down the temporary structure of 50 iron sheets of the Free Pentecost Church of Tanzania in Kiwengwa, sources said. The congregation has yet to find another worship place.
On Jan. 7, local government officials in Zanzibar Town gave no prior warning to church leaders before a bulldozer arrived and razed the building of Zanzibar Pentecostal Church of Jesus to make way for a state university.
Over 90% of the population of Tanzania’s island of Zanzibar is Muslim, with a small Christian and indigenous minority. Addressing complaints by Christians because they are not allowed to slaughter animals for consumption, an authority told World Watch Monitor,
“Our national policies are silent on who deserves to be a slaughterer. But we have experienced seeing Muslims as our animal slaughterers, mainly because they have been directed by their holy book to eat meat slaughtered by Muslims, while for Christians there is no such condition stating that meat must be slaughtered by a Christian. What this means is that Christians can eat meat slaughtered by anyone.
“This is our custom. We will not allow Christians to engage in this business, as we feel that it will create violence in society. Christians are allowed to sell meat, including to their own butchers; the only problem is around slaughtering the animal.”
WWM reported the recent attack on a mosque in Mwanza, northern Tanzania, has highlighted the area as one [undergoing] pressure from political Islam.
More than three years have passed since the murder of a Tanzanian pastor, killed when rioting Muslims protested against Christians working as butchers. Tanzania is believed to have equal numbers of Christians and Muslims, although no official census figures are available. As Muslims are only permitted to eat meat that has been ritually slaughtered, while almost all Christians have no such restraints, it is typically considered acceptable for only Muslims to work in the trade, even though there is no official legislation to enforce this.
On 11 Feb. 2013, after Christians in the north-western city of Buseresere had arranged for a non-Muslim butcher to prepare meat for a Christian funeral reception, Mathayo Kachila, the pastor of the local Assemblies of God church, was hacked to death by rioters.
For six years before, tension had been building between Muslims and Christians in Buseresere over the issue of animal slaughter. The local government had forbidden non-Muslims from working as butchers, but Christians in the Geita district had begun to do so.
When Muslims heard that a non-Muslim was providing the meat for a funeral reception, they began looting Christian butcheries, urinating on the meat, and assaulting other Christian businessmen. Several were injured. Kachila was on his way to a friend’s house, when he was caught in the riot and received fatal machete wounds. Another nine people were injured.
Police arrested six suspects, but those cases have since stagnated due to lack of evidence and witnesses.
Hundreds of people attended Kachila’s funeral. Although they live in a Muslim-dominated area, it was the first time anything like this had happened there and the Christians were stunned.
Following the riots, police arrested and charged two local pastors, Obadiah Mlokozi Madini (who has since died) and Isaiah Rutha Ikiri (now 56), for “slaughtering animals without considering the law on food, medicine and law about livestock diseases”. Their cases lasted for almost two years, before being dismissed early in 2015.
Geita’s Regional Police Commander, Mponjoli Mwabulambo, told World Watch Monitor: “It has been our custom since the establishment of Tanzania – and even before – to see Muslims slaughter animals for public use, and we have not seen any problem. We have to care for our traditions and customs, which is to see Muslims doing this. If Christians slaughter animals, Muslims will not eat them. We feel that it will create violence in society, especially on the Muslim side.”
But some Christians believe that the eating of halal meat goes against their religious beliefs.
There is also an economic element. The halal slaughtering service costs TShs500 (US$0.22) per chicken, 1,500 TShs (US$0.67) per goat/sheep and TShs2,500 (US$1.12) per cow, and customers are issued a receipt from the Tanzania Supreme Council of Muslims, to whom the remittances are paid.
Local Muslims also complained over losing income to Christian butchers, as demand for non-halal meat increased and more Christians took up the trade.
My heart is breaking. We have spent countless hours on video conference calls, and phone conversations with our brethren in Nigeria and Pakistan. Two countries, our Lord has laid on our hearts to intervene and bring hope. We have listened to heartbreaking story after story of the desperation, the untold death and suffering. We comfort those who have fled, forced to leave loved ones behind. The sorrow and helplessness in their voices digs at our very soul. But we do this with great love and joy as our Lord commanded us, but at times we shed uncontrollable tears. And today is one of those times.
As I look at videos and pictures of the achievements and growth of a family that we are aiding, I hear sadness in the father’s voice. He is alone, without his family, not by choice but a situation forced on him through extreme persecution.
A short while later I reviewed videos of another sort—the death and destruction carried out by evil men and my soul cries out like theirs does. One on the frontlines was literally broken for a time. The sights of brutal slayings, wails of brokenhearted and lives forever turned upside down, proving too much for his mind and soul to process—literally unable to speak of it. He even began questioning his own faith. After much prayer and comfort from God, he is healing with a renewed spirit and sense of commitment.
We could share all the details that would break your heart in two, but for fear for our brothers and sisters safety, the risk is too great. But know this, their suffering is real, their tears are real, what they are witnessing is real. Traumatized until they reach the Kingdom of Heaven and all sorrow is wiped from their eyes.
The shock and pain the children are enduring is impossible for us to recognize in the West. Our precious brethren in Nigeria and Pakistan wonder, “Do our brethren in the West even know, do they care?” They wonder what would it be like to live in a country where you can walk the streets without fear. Never needing to look over your shoulder, or fearing what awaits around the next corner. To live in a nation not bombarded by targeted attacks month after month, week after week. No need to flee their home to find safe places, as they pass the dead careful to avoid bodies strewn along the path. Why can’t it be this way in their own country, their generational homeland, they don’t want to leave. “We just want to live in Peace.”
I want to share their story, but must do so with discernment.
Recently, we learned of 2 men who were captured by the Boko Haram. They were given the options, convert or die. In fear, one converted, but they killed him anyway stating, “We will send you to Allah without sin.” The other refused to denounce Christ. As they butchered him, he began preaching the Gospel. He begged them not to kill him, not because he was afraid, but because in his words, “You will be judged for this, please don’t do it.” He had that much forgiveness and love for his attackers.
One dear soul tells of a vision that keeps him going, a vision from God of the Kingdom of Heaven. Those of you that share the gifts of prayer and hope, letters, and donations mean so much to those persecuted. One day soon they will be able to tell their stories. But as for now I can only ask that God would allow me to take their pain from them, if only for a moment to allow them comfort.
What if each one of us did this every day, or even once a week? Asking God to give us for a time, the pain of one who suffers allowing them to heal and feel peace. Could you handle it? Could you handle the shock, the pain, the sorrow, the helplessness and hopelessness that they feel every day even for a moment? What if we took 5 minutes even 10, every day to pray and intercede ( o in this manner? I believe the healing that would go forth would amaze.
We don’t normally share video’s that portray horrific images, but I turned to this video by accident which normally I will shut off rather than watch. I already hear firsthand these stories vividly in the lives of our brethren, but this time it was as if God said No, you will watch and then share it. Right now, if God is speaking to your heart to intercede for them—watch this video from Nigeria. It’s 2 years old and at present it is much more volatile. Please use discretion, the video is very graphic and not for the faint of heart. Afterwards, spend time with God asking “What can I do?” Let us know how God is using or moving you for care for these dear ones.
C. Refsland, VOP Advocate/News Analyst
WARNING! VERY GRAPHIC VIDEO BY CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN AMERICANS
Interfaith outreach in Zanzibar: Islamic jihadists call Christian churches “dens of nonbelievers,” then bomb them
Qur’an 5:17 and 5:72 labels those who believe in the divinity of Christ kafara — unbelievers, or infidels. And in the context of a holy book that tells Muslims to “fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers and let them find in you harshness” (9:123), that all too often leads to violence. “Anglican bishop Michael Hafidh of Zanzibar told World Watch Monitor at the time he did not know who had planned and executed the attack” on St. Monica Anglican Cathedral, but it is abundantly clear what the attackers’ belief system was.
“Islamists Call Christian Churches ‘Dens of Nonbelievers’ Before Attacks,” from World Watch Monitor
A series of bomb blasts in Tanzania’s island of Zanzibar is stoking fears that an Islamist breakaway movement is increasingly targeting Christians.
Since 2010, the cases have been on the increase and Christians and their leaders—many of them originally from mainland Tanzania—say they are anxious.
In the latest attack on Feb. 24, assailants exploded a homemade bomb near the gate of St. Monica Anglican Cathedral, slightly damaging the church wall and a car park. Anglican bishop Michael Hafidh of Zanzibar told World Watch Monitor at the time he did not know who had planned and executed the attack.
Also Feb. 24, a similar explosive went off at the Mercury restaurant, a popular hangout for western tourists. A day earlier, four people were injured when a bomb was thrown into the Assemblies of God Church in the Founi area of the island. On Feb. 15, in the Tomondo area of the Island, a home-made bomb was thrown at the door of the Adventist Church during a worship service.
Hafidh said although this is not the first time the churches had been targeted, the recent series of explosions has left Christians feeling more scared.
“We don’t know the motive, but the police have said they are investigating. We think these are people opposed to the presence of Christians here,” he said in February.
Christians and Muslims have peacefully shared Zanzibar until 2010, when the Association of Islamic Mobilization and Propagation, a religious movement known as Jumuiya ya Uamsho na Miadhara ya Kiislam, or UAMSHO, began clamoring for Zanzibar’s autonomy.
UAMSHO registered in Zanzibar as a non-governmental organization in 2001. In its charter, it declared its aim of aim of establishing Zanzibar as a center of Islamic institutions under Islamic law and free from the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, the official name of Tanzania.
In more recent years the campaign has taken on religious overtones. Clashes with police have ended with churches being burned and clerics being attacked. In February 2013, a Roman Catholic priest in the Zanzibar Diocese, Rev. Evaristus Mushi, was killed by unknown gunmen. His death followed a shooting two months earlier that left another priest, Rev. Ambrose Mkenda, badly injured.
Before Mushi’s killing, UAMSHO had circulated leaflets mentioning their youth training in Somalia, and threatening attacks.
“Our youth who went for training in Somalia have assured us that before we celebrate the birth of Prophet Mohammed, there will be other ‘celebrations’ about these infidels, that will be a big funeral for them,” said one undated leaflet, in Swahili, that circulated before the attack on Mushi.
The leaflets praised attacks on churches, referring to them as “dens of nonbelievers.” They also claimed the group had support from within the Zanzibari government of President Mohamed Shein. Christians on the island also received text messages warning them to leave the country or face death.
“The problem is the group is mixing calls for autonomy with religion,” said the Rev. Cosmas Shayo, a Catholic priest on Zanzibar. “They issues threat to Christians. They have attacked churches and clergy. We become more afraid when they circulate threatening leaflets.”
Added another Zanzibar priest, the Rev. Thomas Assenga: “We fear anything can happen anytime. Things are not easy here.”
In September 2013, Rev. Amselmo Mwang’amba, an elderly Catholic priest, was seriously injured when assailants splashed him with an acid. Mwang’amba, who headed the Roman Catholic Congregation of Cheju in the central district of the Island, was attacked as he walked out of a cyber café he frequented….
Tanzania– Suspected Islamic extremists bombed three church buildings on Tanzania’s semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar in February, with one of the blasts injuring several Christians, sources said.
A bomb exploded near the door of the Evangelistic Assemblies of God Zanzibar (EAGZ) church building on Feb. 23 in Kijito Upele-Fuoni, outside Zanzibar City, just before the end of the service at about 1:15 p.m., according to area Christian leader Lucian Mgaywa.
The loud explosion shook the building on the island 16 miles (25 kilometers) off the coast of Tanzania, a church member said.
“Several people had minor injuries from broken pieces of bottles and metallic objects,” the member, who requested anonymity, told Morning Star News. “The extent of the injuries has not been established. The members were only complaining of pains and were advised to seek medical attention.”
Police from Fuoni began investigating, and officers from the mainland’s Dar es Salaam arrived and collected the broken metallic and glass pieces. Liquids in some of the bottles turned out to be highly acidic, Mgaywa said.
“The gloves that the policemen wore caught fire, but no one was hurt,” he said.
The next day, Feb. 24, at about 2 p.m., another bomb exploded at the entrance of Christ Church Cathedral, an Anglican church building in the historic city center known as Stone Town. Tourists often visit the site, but no one was near at the time of the explosion. Anglican officials said the bomb, detonated remotely, did no damage to the structure.
Police have arrested one person in connection with the bomb attack; his name was not released at press time.
In the Tomondo area about four kilometers away from Stone Town, a home-made bomb was thrown at the door of a Seventh-day Adventist church on Feb. 15 during a worship service at 11 a.m. Another such bomb landed at the doorway the next day at around noon. There were no reports of injuries.
A church leader reported the incidents at the Mazizini police station in Zanzibar City. Officers found pieces of broken bottles at the site.
“My church members are shaken and afraid that two bomb attacks have taken place,” said the church leader, whose name is withheld. “We need prayers.”
The head of the Zanzibar Pastors’ Fellowship, Fabian Obed, said he was very concerned about the bomb attacks.
“We urged the government to take serious measures at the series of bomb attacks targeting churches here in Zanzibar in the past few days, because worse things will follow soon if nothing is done swiftly,” Obed said.
In the tourist area of Malindi on the Zanzibar seashore, a bomb exploded near the Mercury Restaurant coast on Feb. 24, the same day the Anglican church building was bombed. The explosion, which hit at about 1 p.m. damaged the wall of the building but no injuries were reported.
The separatist group Uamsho or “Awakening,” the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation, has threatened Christians since 2012. An Islamist group fighting for full autonomy of the Zanzibar archipelago from Tanzania, Uamsho arose after Zanzibar’s primary opposition, the Civic United Front, formed a government with the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party in 2010.
On Sept. 13, 2013, suspected Muslim extremists threw acid on the face and chest of a Catholic priest, the Rev. Joseph Anselmo Mwangamba, as he stepped outside an Internet café on the outskirts of Zanzibar City.
Suspected Islamic extremists on Feb. 17, 2013 shot and killed the Rev. Evaristus Mushi, a 56-year-old Roman Catholic priest, in the Mtoni area outside Zanzibar City. On Dec. 25, 2012, suspected Islamic extremists shot the Rev. Ambrose Mkenda, a Roman Catholic priest, through his cheeks and in the shoulder as he arrived home in Tomondo. Members of Uamsho were suspected.
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.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that mobs have looted, burned or demolished at least 20 island church buildings. CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said use of a remote device in the Anglican church bombing suggested “new levels of sophistication and planning.”
“The government of Tanzania must undertake swift investigations in order to ensure that those responsible for these attacks are brought to justice,” he said in a press statement. “It is also vital for the Tanzanian government to uphold freedom of religion or belief for all its citizens, including the Christian minority in Zanzibar, in line with its international obligations under article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
A Christian youth leader has been murdered in Tanzania and two others seriously injured.
World Watch Monitor reports at about machete-wielding assailants attacked the men during an all-night worship service at Gilgal Christian Worship Center and started cutting them on different parts of their bodies. The incident occurred on Oct. 22 around 1:00am in an area known as Pasiansi in the Ilemela district of Mwanza province, near Lake Victoria..
The man killed was identified as Elias Lunyamila Meshack, a 35-year-old youth leader. The members of Gilgal Church described him as a good man and said his death has caused great sadness. The bishop of the church said the motive of the attack is unclear, but it was not a robbery.
“I don’t think this was robbery because the aim of robbers is to steal money and other items, yet nothing was stolen here,” Bishop Eliabu Sentozi reportedly said.
The incident comes as the latest in a string of attacks on churches and pastors across East Africa, with two pastors in Kenya killed on the same day. Christians in Tanzania have been victims of Muslim persecution over the past few years.
Several pastors and church members have been killed, while other believers have suffered acid attacks. Churches have been bombed or torched and properties have been destroyed.
VIDEO from April 2013
A Roman Catholic priest in Zanzibar has received treatment in hospital after attackers threw acid at him on a street in the island’s capital, police say.
Elderly priest Joseph Anselmo Mwagambwa was attacked as he was leaving an internet cafe in the island’s old town.
It follows a similar attack on two young British women there last month.
Tensions between the majority Muslim population and Christians have been on the increase in recent years, as well as on mainland Tanzania.
“He sustained burns in his face and shoulders. The acid burnt through his shirt,” Zanzibar police spokesman Mohamed Mhina told Reuters.
Tanzanian police say they are searching for witnesses to the attack which occurred in the old part of Zanzibar City, Stone Town, on Friday afternoon.
It is the latest in a series of assaults on religious figures in the country and the fifth acid attack since November, when a Muslim cleric was hospitalised with acid burns.
In a sign of further tension, a Catholic priest was shot dead in February.
The attack on the British girls in August occurred in the same part of Stone Town.
Zanzibar’s President Ali Mohammed Shein said the assault had “brought chaos and confusion to our country and outside”.
Zanzibari officials offered a £4,000 ($6,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspects.
A popular tourist destination, the acid attacks came as a shock to many residents of Zanzibar who say attacks on foreign travellers are rare.
Police say no suspects have been arrested over the attack on the priest.