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International – Tanzanian churches attacked

July 2016

In early May 2016, a church was burnt down in north west Tanzania, the third arson attack on a church in the area this year. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Since 2013, there have been over 13 such attacks on churches in the area and no one has yet been held accountable for them.

Although Christians and Muslims in Tanzania traditionally lived together in peace, in the past few years tensions have been high. In February 2013 a pastor was beheaded in north west Tanzania, following the opening of a non-Muslim butchery. Two months later, two Christians in the town of Tunduma were killed after a row over the slaughter of animals.

The following years witnessed further attacks, including two incidents in June 2015. A Christian man was killed for carrying a Bible, and in the same month, a Christian family was attacked while they prayed together at home. Two people were seriously injured in the attack.

Tanzania is 60 per cent Christian and 36 per cent Muslim. The attacks on Christians appear to be linked to two Islamist groups. The first, ‘Uamsho’, based on Zanzibar, seeks to create an Islamic state, with strict sharia enforcement. It has also been active on the mainland.

The second is a group calling itself ‘Muslim renewal’. It claims to have links to Somalia. Tanzania has been helping train the Somalian army in their fight against al-Shabaab militants.

According to Barnabas Fund, the attacks on Christians in recent years in Tanzania are a sign that jihadist violence in north east Africa is increasingly moving southwards.

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