Father Evarist Mushi was on his way to lead a service at the Betras Catholic Church in Mtoni — an area not far from Stone Town, a World Heritage Site — when assailants cornered and killed him. The incident echoes a similar attack in December, when attackers shot and seriously wounded another Catholic priest in the Tomondo area to the south of Stone Town.
Mushi’s death spurred condemnation from security officials on the island, who urged calm and vowed to apprehend the perpetrators.
“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,” said Said Mwema, the Tanzanian inspector general of police, according to the Tanzania Daily News.
Despite these assurances, the death of Father Mushi is sure to unsettle Zanzibar’s Christians, who are vastly outnumbered on the archipelago. Tanzania as a whole is 60 percent Christian and 36 percent Muslim. But in Zanzibar, more than 95 percent of residents follow Islam.
Religion is integral to Tanzanian society; a full 95 percent of both Christians and Muslims said that faith was a very important part of their lives, according to data from a comprehensive 2010 poll conducted by the The Pew Forum. Of Tanzania’s Muslims, 86 percent said the Quran should be taken literally; 78 percent of Christians said the same of the Bible.
A division between the country’s two largest religious groups is evident. Though the survey found that 95 percent of both groups said religiously motivated violence could not be justified, a majority of Muslims said they knew little or nothing about Christianity, just as the majority of Christians said they knew little or nothing about Islam.
FULL ARTICLE FROM INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES