Tanzania: Islamic Persecutors Target Christian Pastors

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For many years Christians in Tanzania have felt safe worshipping, given the country's Christian majorities.

Now, their security is quickly evaporating following a wave of persecution threatening churches and targeting pastors. Tanzanian churches are growing and witnessing a new unity, but Christians have paid a painful price.

Persecution of Pastors

Generosa Kachila told CBN News she burst into tears when her neighbor stormed in with the nightmarish news,"I shouted, my Jesus, my Jesus, why have you forsaken me?"

February 11, 2013, a Muslim mob brandishing machetes murdered Generosa's husband, Tanzania Assemblies of God Pastor Mathayo Kachila. The brutal attack occurred as the pastor walked to the home of a friend.

The motive? Anger grew after Christians began butchering and selling meat. The lucrative business traditionally belonged to Muslims, who prepare it in their religious way known as halal.

In his last few breaths, Pastor Mathayo identifed his killer. Ezekiel Meschach said the pastor told him it was a neighbor named Abdallah.

"I was not surprised because just before the attack I saw Abdallah leaving the mosque carrying a machete," Meschach explained. "He grew a long beard and often wore pants and a vest that resembled those worn by Taliban fighters."

Locals believe Abdallah fled to neighboring Burundi.

Witnesses On The Run

Victor Ligala is also on the run, but not for committing murder. Militant Muslims threatened to kill him because he videotaped the riot, capturing their images on camera. Ligala also visited the local morgue and shot exclusive photos and video of the deceased pastor's wounds. They are too graphic to show without blurring the images.

Ligala expressed frustration about his inability to help save the pastor's life:

"I was highly affected by seeing the pastor killed in that way because he was a fellow Christian and I didn't have any power to rescue his life, but only to watch events unfold. I have known him for a long time," he said.

Ligala is a teacher who is now without money because he is in hiding from those who are threatening to kill him. He said he does not regret shooting the video.

"I want the whole world to learn that has happened to our country, so nothing like this will happen again," he explained. 

Targeting Catholic Priests

It is not just Protestant pastors who are facing threats -- Catholics are also being targeted. Last Feb. 17, Father Evaristus Mushi was arriving at St. Theresa's church in Zanzibar to celebrate mass. He was gunned down about 10 yards away from the church entrance.

Sister Maria Gaspara said Father Mushi was a kind and loving man who possessed a good sense of humor.

She told CBN, "He was devoted to his work. He loved Jesus."

Some Tanzanian Christians say Father Mushi's murder proves that the goal of Islamic extremists is to target church leaders.

One pastor who knew Mathayo Kachila, Pastor Isaiah Ikiri, said he believes Islamic extremists have a long-term strategy for Tanzania.

"They plan to Islamize the whole of Tanzanian nation. Islamic leaders have urged Muslims to come together to attack, fight and kill bishops, priests and pastors," Ikiri said.

Anglican Bishop Michael Hafidh was among those targeted. He said many Zanzibarian Christians are afraid.

"We are sometimes standing strong," Bishop Hafidh said. "But you know we are human beings. Fear comes in sometimes.They don't know tomorrow what is going to happen for me or for another one. I tell my congregation don't be afraid, God is with us."

And Mathayo's widow Generosa believes God is with her and her 12 children. She trusts He will provide for them and she believes God has a greater purpose in Mathayo's death.

"I believe God knew Mathayo's destiny and no matter how he lived it was necessary that he go through this so that it would be a lesson to the remaining people, but also so the Lord can harvest into His kingdom," she said.

And while the recent deaths of these faithful pastors now leave even fewer laborers, Tanzanian Christians say they are ready to follow their example and reap a bountiful harvest.

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Gary Lane

Gary Lane

CBN News Sr. International Correspondent

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