Arsonists used gasoline as an accelerant to ensure that
seven churches in northwestern Tanzania were destroyed in attacks on Sept. 22
and Sept. 27. Muslim extremists have repeatedly threatened Christians in the
Bukoba district and want to “reduce” the number of churches in the area, says
Attackers set fire to three churches over two-hours on Sept.
22 in Kashfa village. Four mainline churches were also set alight just five
days later on Sunday, Sept. 27.
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One church was partially saved when a guard stationed
outside the 170-member Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) heard a petrol bomb
explode mid-morning. He was able to put out the fire before it could spread. However,
the church lost its entire stage as well as musical instruments.
Two other churches burned on the same night were completely
gutted. Pastor Vedasto Athanas of Living Water International Church stated that
his 70-member church lost everything, including musical instruments and all of
their chairs. The 35-member Evangelical Assemblies of God Tanzania church was
A VOM contact reported that this is the third arson attack
that LWI church has suffered. Attacks on the church occurred earlier this year
on April 4 and two years ago on Sept. 27, 2013. Both times, the church was
ready to replace their tin structure with a concrete building, but the fires
forced them to start over.
At least seven suspects in the Sept. 22 attacks are being
held by authorities in Tanzania, who stated that a reward would be offered to
anyone who gave information leading to the arrests of suspects.
Church leaders say that one possible motive behind the arson
attacks may be linked to tensions between Muslims and Christians in regards to
animal slaughter. Muslim extremists in the region believe that it is forbidden
for non-Muslims to slaughter animals, and have attempted to force Christians to
buy their meat only from Muslims. Being forced to pay for meat-slaughtering is
a burden on poor believers.
Another Christian leader suggests that local Muslim
authorities are attempting to reduce the spread of Christianity and church
growth. When churches have sought permission to build, they are often prevented
by authorities who state that the areas have been zoned as “residential areas.”
Posted: October 14, 2015