Christians and Muslims in the African nation of Tanzania united to call for a ban on an Islamic organization they likened to terrorist group Boko Haram.
UNDUGU, a non-governmental organization made up of Christians and Muslims, wants the Islamic separatist group Uamsho banned from the country, All Africa reported. Uamsho is a registered political party in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous island off Tanzania’s coast with its own parliament and president. Uamsho, which means “the awakening,” agitates for Zanzibar’s full autonomy, and Christians on the island blame Uamsho for increased persecution.
“The government should take measures to ban Uamsho because it may lead to religious conflicts,” UNDUGU chairman Hamad Rajabu told All Africa. “From what they advocate for, they are not different from al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and al-Qaeda.”
Uamsho wants to divide Christians and Muslims, Rajabu said. People of both religions coexisted peacefully in Tanzania for many years. World Watch Monitor lists the Tanzanian mainland as 62 percent Christian and 35 percent Muslim. It was once a model for inter-faith peace in Africa. By contrast, Zanzibar is 93 percent Muslim, according to WWM.
Although Tanzania and Zanzibar have been politically united for more than 40 years, relations are strained due to religious and cultural differences, said International Christian Concern’s William Stark.
Pointing to Boko Haram’s recent kidnapping of almost 300 Nigerian schoolgirls, Rajabu warned his country should be careful: “If we [aren’t] careful our nation will be like Nigeria and other nations where thousands of people are killing each other due to different religious views.”
Islamic radicalization in Zanzibar has led to violence and left Christians living in fear. In February 2013, Muslims extremists were suspected of beheading Pastor Mathayo Kachili and killing Father Evarist Mushi, a Catholic priest. Unidentified assailants threw acid on another Catholic priest in November 2013 as he was leaving an internet cafe.
In May 2012, a mob stormed and burned an Assemblies of God church near Stone Town. Dickson Kaganga, the bishop of that church, blamed Uamsho for the attack, according to The Independent. Uamsho’s leader, Farid Hall, was arrested for an illegal demonstration at the same time as the church was burned, The Independent reported. Riots followed.
The Independent also reported that “supportive” imams were preaching positively about Somalia’s “freedom fighters” of al-Shabaab, the radical Islamist group that assassinated two Somali legislators in April for the “invasion of Christians.”
Violence has also erupted in mainland Tanzania. In May 2013, World Watch Monitor reported terrorists threw a bomb into a crowd outside St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Arusha, killing three and injuring 60.
“If Uamsho is not banned and they succeed in the separation of Zanzibar from Tanzania, the future of Christianity in Zanzibar looks grim,” Stark said. “The comparison to Boko Haram and al-Qaeda may be extreme at present, but if things continue on their current course, we may see the situation devolve into that which is seen in northern Nigeria.”