In the early hours of 20 January, a church building in Mashewa, in the Muheza district of Tanga Region, was set on fire at around 2.00 a.m. Recent years have witnessed growing tension in this Muslim-majority coastal area of Tanzania and the pastor of the church had been threatened repeatedly for some time.
Some weeks earlier, also in the Tanga Region, a young woman from a Muslim background who had become a Christian, was beaten and badly burned by her parents after choosing to marry a Christian man. The attack came immediately after her baptism on Sunday 2 November in Zirai, Muheza district. Last year, Imamu Sudi Bin Umar of the Ansar Suna mosque in Al Masijid Tawaqal had urged all Muslim parents to punish children who chose to marry Christians.
In a separate incident, on Mafia island, which forms part of the Muslim-majority Pwani (Coast) Region, a pastor who had converted from a Muslim background was summoned by the local area leader and ordered to stop church worship gatherings. The church, in Kisota Gamboni, has been closed since November last year. According to research by Tanzanian Christians, this is one of at least 14 similar incidents on Mafia since 2009.
As a matter of policy, the government of Tanzania does not permit details of religious affiliation to be taken in its national census. While the Zanzibar archipelago is around 98% Muslim, the overall population of Tanzania is approximately 60% Christian and 36% Muslim. Most of the Muslim communities on the mainland are concentrated in the coastal areas, especially near Dar es Salaam.