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Tanzania

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Chaos in the aftermath of a church
bombing in Arusha

Christians and Muslims in Tanzania have traditionally lived together in peace, and they continue to do so in many parts of the country. But the president has said that for the first time Tanzania is facing the prospect of civil strife and division on religious lines. The past two years have seen heightened tensions, sometimes centred on the issue of animal slaughter. Muslims have attacked Christians for slaughtering and selling meat that is not halal (that is, killed according to Islamic sharia).

Church leaders are particularly liable to suffer violence. In 2013, one leader was beheaded, another shot dead, and a youth leader hacked to death, and there were machete attacks on pastors in their homes. Acid was thrown at another leader in Zanzibar. Some pastors have had to flee because of the threat to their lives. There has also been an increase in the number of attacks on churches and their buildings; for example, five people were killed and around 60 wounded when a new church building in Arusha was bombed during its inaugural service in May 2013. (Responsibility for some of these attacks is still unclear.)

Christians make up over 50% of the population of Tanzania, and the government safeguards religious freedom. The conditions on the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar, however, are very different. Islamists on Zanzibar, which is 98% Muslim, are pressing for independence from mainland Tanzania and for sharia to be applied to all the islands’ legislation. Violent attacks by Islamists on Zanzibar are becoming more frequent as tensions heighten.

The role of sharia is also being debated on the mainland. Many key posts across the country in politics, the judiciary and the security services are held by Muslims, and one senior Christian leader has said that the country could be totally Islamised in five to ten years if the Church does not make a decisive response to the threat of Islamism.

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Daily prayer

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  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 11 hours ago

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Lift up to the Lord persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka, where at least 65 anti-Christian incidents took place during 2013, including repeat attacks on several believers and their property in October 2013. However, a Sri Lankan government minister from a Buddhist nationalist party denied the accounts, saying that they might be “made up”. The minister claimed that Sri Lankans are “one family … trying to live together after a long civil war”. Pray that the Sri Lankan government will recognise the danger that our brothers and sisters face from militant Buddhists and that the authorities will provide effective protection for vulnerable Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Condemned Christian mother Aasia Bibi’s final appeal hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow (14 April) having been deferred twice. She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 having been falsely accused of insulting Muhammad following an argument with Muslim co-workers. Aasia has been languishing in jail since the accusation was made in June 2009. Pray that her appeal will finally go ahead and that the judges will have the courage to acquit and release Aasia; there are concerns that they may give in to pressure from hardline Islamists who have been calling for her execution. Pray that Aasia, her husband and children will know the Lord’s peace as they await the verdict. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Indians have started going to the polls this week in a general election that is taking place in phases until 12 May. The ruling, secular Congress party is expected to be defeated by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This would be an ominous outcome for the country’s Christian minority. The BJP has given support to extremist groups that attack Christians; states under the party’s rule have generally experienced a rise in anti-Christian violence. It has introduced anti-conversion laws on a state level, and has pledged to introduce national legislation to curb "missionary" activity and end proselytising if elected nationally. Pray for wisdom for Indians as they vote and that the outcome will result in a just government that upholds the rights and freedoms of all citizens. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Apr 2014 00:00

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