Those who think that destroying our church means we won’t pray, they are wrong … We have a big tree near the church and will continue meeting there for prayers, ”stated a pastor in Kagera, north-west Tanzania, after his congregation’s building was deliberately burnt down. Despite the fact that around 60% of Tanzania’s population are Christians, they are experiencing growing violence from the 36% who are Muslims. The attack on the church in Kagera was the thirteenth in that part of the country since 2013.
Muslims hold many key political posts and also in the judiciary and the business world. Increasing Islamisation is leading to attacks against Christians, with church leaders particularly targeted. Pressure from Muslims has led some local authorities to ban the keeping of pigs, which are considered unclean in Islam. Muslims have customarily carried out animal slaughter to ensure meat is halal, but the custom is now being enforced as if it were law, and Christians have been attacked for slaughtering their own animals and even arrested for selling pork, despite it not being illegal. Christian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have also been closed down for “interfering with other faiths”.
The Zanzibar archipelago is 98% Muslim and converts there are extremely vulnerable. Churches on the island of Pemba need 24-hour police protection and many believers have fled to mainland Tanzania. Kadhi (Islamic) courts have jurisdiction over family matters in Zanzibar, including marriage and inheritance, and the government is being lobbied to implement the process on the Tanzanian mainland, which would undermine the country’s secular judicial system.
President John Magufuli, a Christian who came to power in 2015, has shown that he is attempting to return Tanzania back to a secular state with equal freedoms for all religions. However, many of the President’s top aides are Muslims.
Give thanks that efforts to formally introduce khadi courts in mainland Tanzania have stalled. Pray that violence against Christians will diminish and that the families of those who have been attacked and killed in Islamic violence will be able to forgive the perpetrators. Pray for protection and strength for believers in Zanzibar, especially converts from Islam, who live in great danger.