IND. CATH. NEWS REPORT: An elderly Catholic priest was attacked with acid in Zanzibar last Friday. The incident, which is the latest in a series of assaults on churches and religious leaders in the semi-autonomous archipelago, highlights a worrying deterioration in freedom of religion in Tanzania.
Father Anselm Mwang’amba was attacked as he left an internet cafe in the historic Stone Town area of the Zanzibar capital, and is currently hospitalised with severe burns to the face, neck and hands. According to a local report, while inside the cafe Fr Mwang’amba received a call from an unknown number and was doused with acid as he exited to answer his telephone.
The assault on Fr Mwang’amba is the fourth major attack on a Christian leader in Zanzibar since December 2012, when a Catholic priest was wounded by unknown gunmen. Muslim leaders have also been attacked. In November 2012 Fadhil Suleiman Soraga, Secretary of the Chief Mufti of Zanzibar, was shot by unknown assailants with a jet of acid.
Fr Evarist Mushi, while At Christmas a Catholic priest, Ambrose Mkenda was seriously wounded in an ambush and some churches were burned. In February 2013, the murder of a Protestant pastor was followed a week later by the killing of a Catholic priest. In August, two British 18 year olds who did volunteer work in a school, were killed in a similar attack.
In addition, at least 20 churches have been looted and either burnt or demolished, allegedly by supporters of the separatist religious movement Uamsho (Awakening).
Perpetrators of religious violence are never brought to trial even when identified or caught in the act, and police investigations are generally extended indefinitely.
In a comment to CSW on the attack on Fr Mwang’amba a local Christian who preferred to remain anonymous said: "We are asking the international community to intervene in this issue. Christians do not have any protection. In this environment we live in so much fear of what will happen to whom tomorrow."
Daniel Sinclair, Communications Director at CSW said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Fr Mwang’amba, who we wish a speedy recovery. These threats and attacks targeting church leaders and church buildings are in violation of the Tanzanian constitution, which provides for freedom of religion or belief. If left unchecked, religious violence will ultimately undermine national cohesion.
CSW calls upon the Tanzanian authorities to take decisive action to tackle rising extremism and prevent impunity from taking hold in any part of the country. It is vital that the Government of Zanzibar effectively addresses attacks on the local Christian community, offers protection to all who are under threat, adequately compensates churches that have been looted or demolished, and ensures that inciters and perpetrators of religion-related violence are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The President of Zanzibar, Ali Mohammed Shein has condemned the attack and promised he will do everything possible to stop what he called "a criminal network" responsible for the recent attacks with acid. "We cannot live in constant fear of individuals out of control that use acid as a weapon" Shein reiterated while visiting the priest in the hospital in Zanzibar where he was initially admitted.
The island's authorities have offered a reward of $ 6,000 to anyone who provides information to arrest the perpetrators of acts of this nature.
The Catholic Church has repeatedly denounced the climate of intimidation against Christians and propaganda of those who incite religious clashes.
SHARED FROM IND. CATH. NEWS