By BosNewsLife Africa Service
DODOMA, TANZANIA (BosNewsLife)– Tanzanian authorities have detained six people, including four from Saudi Arabia, after an attack that killed two people and injured dozens during a mass at a church, officials said Monday, May 6. The Vatican’s ambassador escaped unharmed, BosNewsLife learned.
Jakaya Kikwete, the Tanzanian president, called Sunday’s blast, which happened in the northern town of Arusha, an “act of terrorism”. “This is an act of terrorism perpetrated by a cruel person or group who are enemies of the country,” Kikwete said in a statement on Monday.
One woman was among those who were killed in the blast outside Saint Joseph’s Roman Catholic church in Arusha, a town popular
with tourists visiting the Serengeti National Park and snowcapped Mount Kilimanjaro.
Eyewitnesses said the bomb was thrown from a motorcycle into the church. Officials reportedly said the driver of the motorcycle was also among those arrested.
The motive of attack was not known but Tanzania has in the recent past experienced sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims, according to church leaders and rights activists.
The Vatican’s ambassador, Archbishop Francisco Montecillo Padilla, said he was attending the official opening of the church when the explosion occurred. Padilla told Vatican Radio that he escaped unharmed.
“I would like to express my solidarity to the Archbishop of Arusha and to the whole Catholic community of Arusha, for the very sad event that happened,” he said.
The attack should not have happened “because it was a celebration of joy, of opening a new church, a new parish,” the diplomat added.
However, “My prayers go especially to the victims who have died and to those who are wounded – some of them very gravely,” he said. Up to 50 people were reportedly injured in the blast.
Archbishop Padilla said he would continue to pray for peace: “I pray that peace will always reign, that violence would not be the way to resolve tensions.” “This is my hope,” he said, “and I hope that I can also contribute to the continuance of peaceful coexistence in this country, which has always been there in the last many years.”
The attack has added to concerns among Christians in the country, where some have been forced to flee their homes amid Islamic violence.
Earlier this year, a Catholic priest was shot dead on his way to church in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, just days after a pastor was beheaded by suspected Muslim extremists on the mainland, officials and Christians said.
“Father Evarist Mushi was blocked by two young men at the entrance of the church” in Zanzibar City, the capital, where “one of the attackers shot him in the head,” said the island’s police spokesman Mohammed Mhina about the February 17 incident.
It was the second such attack on the Muslim-majority island of 1.2 million people in recent months. On Christmas Day, gunmen shot and seriously wounded a Catholic priest as he returned home from church.
On the mainland, in Tanzania’s Geita Region, Christians were mourning the violent death of a pastor of an Assemblies of God Church. Pastor Mathayo Kachili was reportedly beheaded Monday, February 11, by what witnesses called a mob of Muslim extremists and “radicals”.
Individual devoted Christians have also been targeted.
Among those hiding is 38-year-old Lukia Khalid, a mother of three and seven months pregnant, who was baptized on March 30. Her Muslim husband had already forced her out of their home in western Tanzania for becoming a Christian.
Jamila Khalid, 13, Mjibu Khalid, 6, and 3-year-old Madua Khalid followed their mother out the door and they are now supported by the evangelist who told them about Christ and a Christian group, Christians said.
Rights groups have warned of an increase of attacks on Christians linked to the spread of radical Islam across East Africa.
“Groups like al-Shabab and its sympathizers have shown that they are not afraid to attack and kill Christians in countries that are traditionally thought of as Christian,” said William Stark, regional manager for Africa of advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC).
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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