Bomb Outside Church in Tanzania – One of Worst “Terrorist” Incidents in Years

May 15, 2013 by Open Doors in General


Tanzania, once celebrated as a role model for peace in Africa, is no longer considered “safe” after an increase in inter-faith violence, with little evidence of perpetrators being brought to justice.

A May 5 blast outside St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Arusha, a town popular with tourists visiting the Serengeti national park and Mount Kilimanjaro, was the latest occurrence in a string of violent incidents. The newly-built church, on the outskirts of Arusha, was celebrating its inauguratory mass at the time of the attack, which left two dead and more than 60 injured.

Regina Longino Kurusei, 45, was killed on the spot and James Gabriel, 16, died on the way to the hospital. Home Affairs minister, Dr Nchimbi said a taskforce has been formed to ensure all culprits are arrested and brought to trial. The full range of defense and security agencies, including the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF), have been engaged in the investigation, he said.

Minister Nchimbi quickly identified 20-year-old motorcyclist Victor Ambrose as one of those being held in connection with the attack. Dr Nchimbi said Mr Ambrose is suspected of throwing a bomb into the crowd during the consecration of the new church building. Others originally arrested, including Sheikh Ponda, were released on May 8 and cleared of conspiracy, abduction, theft and incitement to violence. However, Mr Ponda was found guilty of forceful entry into a property and handed a suspended 12-month prison sentence.

Tension continues to build between the two major religious communities in Tanzania where Christians comprise 60% of the population and 36% are Muslim. Two recent incidents on Zanzibar Island, which is 97% Muslim, involved the burning of a church and the killing of a Catholic priest and an Assemblies of God minister. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that church leaders received text messages from a group called “Muslim Renewal” claiming responsibility for these murders, and adding that the killers were “trained in Somalia” and promising “disaster” during the Easter season.

The BBC reported in April that police used tear gas to disperse about 200 Christian rioters attempting to set fire to a mosque. Earlier in March, 52 followers of controversial Muslim cleric Sheikh Issa Ponda, head of Jumuiya yaw a Islamu (an Islamic group not recognized by the Tanzanian government), were jailed for a year for their part in October 2012 riots in Dar es Salaam, which were sparked by rumors that a 12-year-old boy at a Christian school had urinated on a copy of the Qur’an.

Tanzanian leaders have publically condemned this most recent attack. Sheikh Issa Bin Shaaban Simba, head of the Tanzania Muslim Council (Bakwata), said, “We condemn the attack, and we urge security organs to work hard to find the culprits. This is a sad situation for all Tanzanians.” Tanzanian president, President Jakaya Kikwete, said the bombing was “an act of terrorism,” one of the worst in recent years in Africa, and urged Christians to continue attending church services every Sunday. “If we don’t do so, we will have given victory to those who carried out the attack,” he said. President Kikwete also ensured the government “will provide security around all places of worship”.

Father, we pray Your comfort over those who have been injured and who have lost loved ones, especially the families of Regina Kurusei and James Gabriel. Heal those who have been injured, in body and spirit. Thank You for the prompt response of the Tanzanian government. We pray for security personnel as they work to bring about justice. Grant wisdom to church leaders as they look toward a peaceful resolution regarding the conflict. Protect the believers against anger and bitterness toward their Muslim neighbors. May Your peace and grace shine through them and be a strong testimony of Your presence in them. In the name of Jesus who strengthens us in times of trouble, Amen.

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