Chaos in the aftermath of a church
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.