Loading
Under pressure to convert, Zanzibar Christians concerned for future
Fr. Evarist Mushi, who was shot dead at the entrance of his church in Zanzibar in 2013. Credit: Aid to the Church in Need.
Fr. Evarist Mushi, who was shot dead at the entrance of his church in Zanzibar in 2013. Credit: Aid to the Church in Need.
Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Addthis

.- Members of the small Christian minority on the Tanzanian islands of Zanzibar are suffering intimidation and now fear that their children will be coerced to convert to Islam, one resident said.

“If we go to church on Sunday, we have to go through a crowd of people who often try to intimidate us,” a Catholic man speaking under the pseudonym Matthew Limo told the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need.

The houses around Limo’s church belong to Muslims.

“They often shout that we are fools to go to church or that our women are naked. In fact, the Muslim women are all covered from head to toe,” he said.

Limo said that he personally does not feel intimidated, though he noted that many of the harassers’ comments are “directed towards women and children.”

His parish has about 400 members, though only 200 regularly go to Mass. About 98 percent of the Zanzibar archipelago residents are Muslim.

Limo voiced concern about his children’s future.

“At home we try to encourage and to teach them a love for Christ and the Church. But we are insecure about what others do,” he said. “We often hear stories about Muslims trying to convert children. Sadly enough we need to tell our children to be careful in building friendships with Muslim children.”

A trend of violent attacks on churches and individual Christians began on the Zanzibar islands in December 2012.

Father Evarist Muchi, a 55-year-old Catholic priest, was shot to death when his car arrived at the entrance of St. Joseph’s Cathedral for Sunday Mass.  A Protestant minister has also been killed.

Father Ambrose Mkenda suffered serious injuries in another attack, Aid to the Church in Need reports.

The perpetrators have not been caught and many local Christians say local police have at times obstructed the investigation and distorted evidence.

Limo said the perpetrators are not outsiders but locals who have been “radicalized.” He said they have been trained by the Somalia-based terrorist group Al-Shabab. He said the organization is linked to the religious group Uamsho, which aims to establish an independent Islamic state in Zanzibar.

While Limo said he feels generally safe to leave home and to travel, he added that the atmosphere can become “explosive” in election years.

“On the street, people try to embarrass you or to make you angry. In periods like that I come home early and do not go out in the evening.”

The next election will take place in 2015.

Some anti-Christian violence has also taken place on the Tanzanian mainland. In May 2013 an attack on a newly opened Catholic parish killed three and injured 60. Two Tanzanians and four Saudi nationals were arrested for the attack.

In February 2014, Bishop Bernardin Mfumbusa of Tanzania’s north-central Diocese of Kondoa blamed the violence on the “infiltration of foreign Jihadis” and the return of native-born Muslims who had been radicalized abroad.

The bishop told Aid to the Church in Need that most Tanzanians of different religions live together well. He noted that Christian-Muslim tension in Zanzibar is “not new,” though he said the “vast majority” of people on Zanzibar would prefer to live in peace.

 

Tags: Religious freedom, Islam, Tanzania

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
The tombs of the early Christians
Missionaries of Africa, called "the White Fathers"
Italian youth give testimony after mission to Peru
Interview with Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See on the persecution of Christians
New book 'The Vatican unknown'
A Look at India from Rome
3D Church mapping
#PAUSEforPeace Initiative
Sep
22

Liturgical Calendar

September 22, 2014

Monday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Lk 8:16-18

Gospel
Date
09/22/14
09/21/14
09/20/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Prov 3: 27-34
Gospel:: Lk 8: 16-18

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »

Saint
Date
09/22/14

Homily of the Day

Lk 8:16-18

Homily
Date
09/22/14
09/21/14
09/20/14