Several pastors there are suffering persecution that has led to unthinkable acts against their families. They are also caught up in legal battles and in dire need of prayer. Because the society is so small, we must mask the identities and some of the details in their stories:
Pastor A has had to relocate three times in search of a home and a place for his congregation to meet. Since 2016, his tiny nine-by-six foot wooden pole and canvas tent church structure has been destroyed five times. Once it was cut down with a chainsaw, once it was destroyed by a mob, once it was uprooted and twice it was burned to ashes. Despite reports to the police, he and his family have received no protection. On one occasion, a mob shouting “Allahu Akubar (Allah is greater)” threatened to kill him unless he left the area.chchu
For security purposes, he continues to move his family from place to place, which has cost him painfully. His 4-year-old daughter was raped in one place they rented; the man walks around freely. In another situation, Muslims tried to prevent the church from giving the deceased child of a church member a Christian burial. They covered the grave that had been dug. Eventually, the church buried the child secretly elsewhere. These circumstances are affecting the pastor’s ministry. His church members have kept away from worship services out of fear of attacks. Most church members are traumatized and wonder, What if the attack is worse the next time? But he and his family, together with three church elders, soldier on.
Pastor AM* has been accused of disregarding a court order “not to build” a church on land he legally acquired for building a church in 2007. Since 2004, Muslims destroyed their simple church structure (made mostly of palm leaves) twice. After many delays, he was able to acquire land and register it in his name in 2007. But a court has now barred them from building. The case has been dragging on since then and has cost him about $10,000 to date. The case is now in the court of appeals, and they are awaiting the next court date.
“Although he has all the legal documents of ownership of the land, justice is delayed because of his faith,” a local source said. Meanwhile, AM’s 10-year-old son endures terrible victimization in the community and at school. On one occasion, men accosted him. They urinated in a bottle, forced him to drink some of it and poured the rest over him. In school, Muslim classmates locked the boy up in the toilet for hours; teachers did nothing. The boy struggles academically under the bullying for his faith in Christ.
Pastor D* started a ministry in 2006 and had intentions to build a school on a quiet and isolated piece of land. In 2013, Muslims sought deregistration of his land and court battles barring him from building soon started. The same year, at Christmas, four affiliated churches in separate locations were burnt down. The government did nothing. In 2017, government officials closed the school and church. D took the matter to court and won the case at the end of 2017. He immediately built permanent structures, but in 2018, he was accused of not paying 19 workers who helped with the construction. These are all fake claims–none of the men worked with him in the construction. Shortly after, he was arrested in front of his congregation and family while preaching, accused of conducting church in a school and charged with constructing a “different building” from what was agreed. His whole family and congregation were traumatized at the sight of their shepherd being taken in. The case is ongoing with legal costs.
Pastor Y has been falsely accused of raping a little girl whom he caught throwing rocks at the church. He won the case in 2014, but as he left the court he was rearrested because the accusers appealed the ruling. The appeal dragged on for four years, totally exhausting the pastor and his family. During a hearing at the end of August, he was finally acquitted–but not before nearly destroying his family financially.
Pastor Z’s local church’s building was destroyed to pave way for the construction of a university. “They had been on that piece of land since 1983 and were the legal owners of the land. This was a well-organized arrangement to eliminate them and thwart this family of God and its influence,” local sources say. “They were not given alternative land; neither were they compensated for the damages.” The case is in court.
- Pray with the families of these five church leaders. Ask God to comfort and strengthen them as they endure these heinous acts.
- Pray for protection of these young children as they face violence and ridicule for their faith. Ask God to use this persecution to transform them into the next generation of church leaders who will bear His cross and advance His Kingdom.
- Pray with these leaders for courage and refreshment of their souls. Pray that they will have the grace to be true shepherds that lovingly and patiently minister to their family and flock despite the challenges they face.
- Pray with believers for courage to stand firm in the face of persecution.
- Pray for favor in the court cases and compensation for damages for all the cases, including legal fees incurred.
- Pray for the Zanzibar government to take action to protect the church against persecution and for officials to come to Christ.
Open Doors partners with local churches in Zanzibar to help train church leaders through leadership development and Bible training. We also work with churches to provide legal awaremess, trauma healing and children’s ministries and economic empowerment.
representative image used for security reasons