Christians in Tanzania have come under intense persecution after legislation was passed to allow Islamic courts in the country’s judiciary.
According to reports from advocacy organisation Barnabas Fund, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda promised to review the government’s decision after Christian MPs in the country expressed strong opposition. However, despite his promise to review, churches and pastors have been attacked. The bill proposed the introduction of Kadhi courts across mainland Tanzania, to deal with family matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and family rights among the country’s Muslim population.
However, Christian MPs refused, saying that the country’s secular state and secular constitution stated that religious affairs are a personal matter and the government must not run, establish or enforce any religious law. After the opposition, the referendum on the constitution, which had been slated for 30 April, was postponed. Following this, Muslim President Jakaya Kikwete said the government would not set up Kadhi courts, but would allow Muslims to set these up themselves.
In a statement to Barnabas Fund, one Christian leader said that Kadhi court rulings would have to be enforced by state bodies and could not be appealed or referred to the High Court. In reality, there would be little difference between the government setting up Kadhi courts and the government allowing Muslims to set them up.
Resulting tensions between Christians and Muslims have already led to an alleged 13 attacks in six different places, including an attempted gun assault on a church on Easter Sunday. In the north-western town of Bukoba, Bishop Ediger reported that seven churches had been set on fire, one pastor killed, and a youth minister seriously injured.
According to Barnabas Fund, while Kadhi courts have been in force since 1964 on the semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago, which is approximately 98 per cent Muslim, the new bill attempts to introduce them across the mainland, which is approximately 60 per cent Christian.