Three church pastors on Tanzania’s Mafia island were summoned to appear at the district level registration office last week, confirming Tanzanian Christians’ fears that government threats to close churches would be initiated at the unsung local rather than the national level. The country’s Minister of Home Affairs, Mathias Chikawe, announced that the government would begin to close down churches and Christian organisations which publicly oppose the new constitution as of 20 April.
Tanzanian Christian leader “Ally” told Barnabas that the three pastors were requested to show up at the district level registration office carrying a list of the members of their church leadership, a copy of their education level, their birth certificate, plus their church registration number and certificate. According to Ally, initiating church closures through district administration rather than nationally makes it difficult for Christian organisations to hear about government action and therefore unable to help local churches.
On 14 April, Tanzania’s Minister of Home Affairs announced that as of 20 April, the government would close down any churches and Christian organisations that do not comply with legal requirements. The move, according to Tanzanian Christian leader, Ally, was in response to government anger that Christian leaders have told Christians to oppose a bill to introduce Kadhi (Islamic) courts.
The bill, tabled for inclusion in the new constitution, proposes to implement Kadhi courts across mainland Tanzania to rule over family matters for the Muslim population. These courts already exist on the Muslim-majority Zanzibar archipelago.
Despite the fact that Tanzania’s government insists that these Kadhi courts would not be given public funding and could only make rulings for Muslims on specific family matters (such as marriage, divorce and inheritance), the bill states that all rulings made by Kadhi courts must be enforced by government bodies and cannot be appealed in the High Court.