Islamists Torch Churches in Tanzania

Friday, August 5, 2011

And if they can't burn it, Muslims simply stop further construction

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

ZANZIBAR ISLAND, TANZANIA (Worthy News)-- Islamists burned down a church on Zanzibar Island Saturday just three days after another church facility there was reduced to ashes.

"Away with the church: we do not want infidels to spoil our community, especially our children," Pastor Leonard Massasa said the Islamists shouted as they razed the church to the ground.

Massasa oversees Zanzibar's Evangelical Assemblies of God-Tanzania churches.

"Tomorrow is Sunday, and my members numbering 40 will not have any place to worship," said Pastor Paulo Magungu of the Fuoni EAGT church. "We have reported the case to the police station. I hope justice will be done."

In Kianga, about six miles from Zanzibar town, another church building was burned down Wednesday, according to Pastor George Frank Dunia of the Free Evangelical Pentecostal Church in Africa.

"I have 36 members, and it will be very difficult for them to congregate tomorrow," Dunia said Saturday. "The members are afraid, not knowing what other plans the Muslims are out to do. We request prayers at this trying moment."

Tanzania's Zanzibar archipelago is almost 100 percent Muslim.

On neighboring Pemba island, Muslims razed a Seventh-day Adventist Church in Konde in June.

"It was at 1 a.m. when I saw the church burning," said a neighbor who requested anonymity. "There have been issues that the Muslims have been raising about the existence of the church."

Although the Seventh-day Church owns enough property, it's been unable to erect a church because of hostility from neighboring Muslims.

"If we do not stop the growth of the churches here in Pemba, then soon we are going to lose our people to Christianity, especially the children," Sheikh Ibrahim Abdalla of Chake-Chake Mosque reportedly said.

Tanzania Assemblies of God Pastor Yohana Ari Mfundo said there was a series of attacks on Christians on Pemba island.

"It is even becoming extremely difficult for Christians to exercise their faith like praying, or singing in a Muslim-owned rental house," Mfundo said.

When Mfundo bought a half-acre of land for a church building near Chake-Chake town, local Muslims arranged for a road to be built through it, making the land fit only for residential use. Mfundo then bought another site, close to the town center; after making the necessary payments, Mfundo placed boundary markers on the site, only to be slapped with a court injunction against any further construction because the land was "waterlogged".

"It is not true that the area is waterlogged," Mfundo said, "but a calculated move to stop the church being set up in this location. We are here in Pemba because God wants us to be. But Muslims always point a finger at us, especially at my house, and we have been receiving several threats. But great is our God who is always ready to protect us."

Another church building on a hill about 20 meters from the site where Mfundo wanted to build is also facing government obstruction; a court continues to challenge the site of the Redeemed Gospel Church because it was originally intended to be a burial site, according to Pastor Yohana Shigalile.

Although the church agreed to paid 20 million Tanzania shillings to purchase the land, Shigalile said, local Muslims offered 50 million schillings, so the land will likely be sold for the construction of a mosque.

This is one example of how difficult it is to buy land for churches in Pemba, said Mfundo.