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Visiting canon warns of violence in Tanzania

15 March 2013

A CHURCH leader warned this week of the spread of anti-Christian violence by Islamic extremists into the previously calm state of Tanzania, in East Africa.

Canon Paul Daltry, the Minister for Church and Community Engagement in the St Edmundsbury & Ipswich diocese, said that he found deep fears among Christians during a visit to their link diocese at Kagera, in the north-west of the country.

During his stay, a Pentecostal pastor was murdered in a machete attack by Islamic militants in Buseresere, about 100 miles away. "Churches have been torched all over the place, and other Christian leaders have been killed," he said.

"As far as the Christians are concerned, there is quite clearly a concerted plan to get rid of the Christian influence in Tanzania. And they feel that people at the top of the Tanzanian government who are Muslims are not taking an active part in trying to stop it."

Christians in Tanzania said that militants such as the Somali group al-Shabab, which has links with al-Qaeda, and the Taliban-inspired Boko Haram, are coming from other parts of Africa to incite disempowered youth. "There was one report of young men arming themselves with machetes and knives to attack Christians, but, thankfully, that was stopped," he said.

"The danger is another Nigeria. The country splits roughly 50-50 between Christians and Muslims. Tanzania has been marked since the time of Nyerere [Dr Julius Nyerere, the country's first President after independence in 1961] by the way that they managed to deal with intertribal issues, but, suddenly, Islam is on the rise, and violence is threatening the country.

"In the area where we were, there has been a very good working relationship between Muslims and Christians for a long time. That is all now under threat."

Canon Daltry intends to report his findings to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and other organisations. "I also plan to talk to my MP to press our government to encourage the Tanzanians . . . to assure the Christian community that they will protect law and order."

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