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Islamist separatists torch churches in violent riots in Zanzibar

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Islamist separatists torch churches in violent riots in Zanzibar

Country/Region: Tanzania, Africa

Supporters of a separatist Islamist movement attacked churches and other Christian property in violent riots in Zanzibar.

Stone_town_Skyline_4X3.jpg
The riots broke out in
the capital, Stone Town
CC BY-SA 2.0 / David Clay

Hundreds of members of the Association for Islamic Mobilisation and Propagation (UAMSHO) clashed with police during protests, which started in the capital, Stone Town, an historically important tourism centre, on Saturday 26 May, then spread to other areas over the ensuing days.

They torched a number of churches, including one in Mpendae and one in Tomondo; a Christian centre in Bububu was also set alight. An Assemblies of God church in Kariakoo was damaged and a senior church leader’s vehicle burned.

One minister whose church was attacked said rioters invaded the building, poured petrol over it and set it ablaze, reinforcing the fire with burning tyres.

The Islamists, who were armed with clubs, machetes and iron bars, also torched homes and bars, destroyed transport and communication systems, and blocked roads. 

Zanzibar Commissioner of Police, Mussa Ali, said:

The rioters were threatening people’s lives by torching churches and blocking roads… We couldn’t tolerate them as they were destroying government and people’s properties.

Despite police and witness statements to the contrary, UAMSHO has denied having any part in the violence. But on Monday 28 May, 30 members of the group arrested in connection with the riots appeared at court charged with illegal assembly and causing unrest.   

The Islamist group had launched the riots in protest against the arrest of senior members of its movement. UAMSHO is strongly opposed to the government and has called for a referendum on Zanzibar’s independence from mainland Tanzania.

Analysts say the Islamist group has been gaining support since Zanzibar’s main opposition Civic United Front party formed a government of national unity with the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous, predominantly Muslim archipelago.

Zitto Kabwe, mainland Tanzania opposition MP, said:

We should never allow a few disgruntled people to plunge us into chaos over religion so as to achieve their own political goals.

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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  • Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give You thanks on this Easter Day for the living hope that You have given us and all Your people through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). We pray that the prospect of an enduring inheritance and future salvation will encourage our persecuted brothers and sisters to persevere in their faith, whatever may happen to them. We pray that we too may be sustained by this hope in the sufferings that we experience for the sake of Christ. We ask that the joy and resurrection power of the Lord will give strength and peace to persecuted believers today and every day. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Give thanks for the Christ-like responses of Christian leaders in CAR to the crisis that threatens them and their churches. They have distanced themselves from the anti-balaka militias, saying that these should not be labelled as Christian and that they hold no mandate from the churches. The leaders have also condemned the violence in the country, whatever its origin, and have called on Christians to pursue forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Churches are hiding, defending and caring for thousands of Muslims endangered by the anti-balaka, and one of CAR’s most senior church leaders has invited the president of the country’s Islamic community to move into his church compound. Pray that this powerful witness to the grace and love of Christ will help to bring peace to the shattered country. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Apr 2014 00:00

  • On this Good Friday, give thanks to God for the death of Christ and for His gift of eternal life. Praise Him too for the example of those Christians who have persevered in their faith at the risk of their lives and who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. Pray that their martyrdom will inspire their suffering brothers and sisters in Christ to endure whatever hardships befall them and will convince their persecutors of the truth and power of the Gospel. Pray too that their bereaved families and churches will not grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by the violence that has engulfed their country. Attacks by Islamist Séléka militants and retaliation from “anti-balaka” militias has generated a huge humanitarian crisis in which around two million people, many of them Christians, are in need of emergency assistance. Give thanks for the work of Barnabas partners who have been providing food rations to hundreds of displaced believers in the capital, Bangui, and distributing food, medicines, clothing and seeds to thousands in various regions. Pray that the aid will reach those who need it most, and that the Lord will comfort the relatives and friends of the thousands who have been killed in the fighting. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

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