22 February 2013

Tanzania: Church Workers Terrified After Priest's Murder, Bishop

Photo: Daily News
Insecurity threatening tourists in the islands (file photo)

Stone City — Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has directed the police force to use its full strength to conduct a speedy and thorough investigation into the murder of a Catholic Priest, Father Evaristus Mushi.

His directive to the Tanzanian Inspector General of Police, Said Mwema, came in the wake of the assassination of a Catholic priest in the Indian Ocean Island of Zanzibar.

Mr Mwema, blamed the February 17, shooting on fundamentalist whom he referred to as bad elements.

"We understand that these crimes are being propped up by some bad elements under the pretext of politics, religion or economic reasons, though no religion or political grouping supports violence in principle," reported Tanzania's Daily News.

The cold blood shooting has caused a lot of fear among the clergy on the island according to Bishop Augustine Shao.

"We are very afraid," Bishop Augustine Shao said.

The Bishop revealed that the clergy were warned of attacks before and after the February 17 murder of 56-year-old Father Mushi whose car was followed by two men on motorcycles who blocked his way, shot and killed him.

The bishop also revealed that they have given the Tanzanian Police a text message warning they received from a group claiming responsibility of the murder.

"We have given the warnings we have received to security authorities in Zanzibar," Bishop Shao said, noting that he was skeptical but hopeful that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

The group promised the Catholic clergy on the island more harm and terror calling them infidels.

"We thank our young men, trained in Somalia, for killing an infidel. Many more will die. We will burn homes and churches. We have not finished: at Easter, be prepared for disaster"; Signed "Muslim Renewal."

Bishop Shao said another diocesan priest, Father Ambrose Mkenda, was shot and seriously wounded on Christmas Day and is still in the hospital.

According to CNS, more than five churches on the island were set alight in arson attacks last year.

This type of attack "is new to the country, and we are looking for reasons," Bishop Shao said, noting that the perpetrators "could be criminals using the cover of religion."

Another possibility is that advocates for Zanzibar's secession from the mainland are "using attacks on the church for political gain," Bishop Shao said.

"They feel that no one is listening to them, and it could be that, through these attacks on the church, they want to draw the world's attention to their cause," he said.

While "Christians and Muslims have been living peacefully together in Zanzibar for more than 200 years," Muslim extremists "have infiltrated the island and are said to be bribing unemployed youth to carry out their work," the bishop said.

Tanzania is "a peaceful country and we walk as a nation," Bishop Shao said, noting that "the fact that we share a language -- Swahili -- has been a very uniting factor."

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