The murder of three pastors by Islamic extremists has left many Christian in Tanzania wondering about their own security. Is Islamic extremism going to spread throughout Tanzania and with it Christian persecution? Much of the violence is located on and around the Island of Zanzibar. Zanzibar is currently lobbying for autonomy from Tanzania. It claims that its Islamic culture is distinct from the rest of the country and it needs to become independent. With this declaration, many extremist groups have taken to persecuting Christian to highlight the island’s Islamic identity.
2/26/2013 Tanzania (ChristianPost) – Three incident of violence against Christian ministers in Tanzania have left believers in the Eastern African nation concerned over the future of religious freedom. On Sunday, Feb. 17, gunmen shot and killed a Catholic priest on the island of Zanzibar. The gunman waited for Father Evaristus Mushi as he parked his car outside the St Joseph’s parish, surrounded the car and killed him while he was still in the vehicle. He was about to celebrate the first Sunday mass of Lent. The attackers fled on a motorcycle. Islanders knew Fr. Mushi as a philanthropist and advocate of interfaith dialogue. Police say they have arrested three suspects in connection with the murder, but their motive remains unknown.
On Feb. 2, on mainland Tanzania, an Assemblies of God minister, Pastor Mathayo Kachili, was hacked to death in the Geita region when he intervened in an altercation between villagers over the slaughter of an animal. According to sources, there was a group of Muslims who had demanded immediate closure of butcheries owned by Christians. As far as Open Doors could determine, the demand is based on a longstanding tradition, together with a local government directive, that gave Muslims the sole right to act as butchers. In this incident the church had a non-Muslim butcher prepare meat to be served at a funeral. When the Muslims heard about this, they went on a rampage against the church in which Pastor Kachili was killed.
On Dec. 26, Catholic priest Father Ambrose Mkenda sustained serious injuries when unknown gunmen shot at him. He says he was followed by two men on a motorcycle as he was returning to his parish in Tomondo after work. The attackers shot him as he left his car. He sustained two bullet wounds, one to the cheek and one to the back. The gunmen then ransacked the rectory. Fr Mkenda was rushed to a nearby hospital, but was later transferred to Dar es Salaam where he underwent surgery to extract the bullets.
Father Anthony Makunde, secretary general of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference, told a local newspaper, The Guardian, that the situation signalled a plot to destroy peace in the country.
The situations on Zanzibar and in the northwestern town of Geita remain tense.
Tanzania is ranked No. 24 on the Open Doors World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. The 2013 ranking was released in early January. Previously Tanzania was unranked. Islamic extremism is the main persecution dynamic for the country. Tanzania is a Christian majority country with a very substantial Muslim population. But Zanzibar is 97 percent Muslim.