By Elizabeth Kendal
In Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 198, reference is made to the 11 February beheading of a Protestant pastor in Geita, in north-west Tanzania. This posting examines the context of that killing.
CONTEXT OF THE GEITA KILLING
The 11 February 2013 beheading in Geita, of Pastor Mathayo Kachili of the Tanzania Assemblies of God Church (TAG) has its source in a debate presently raging in Tanzania.
Apparently it is a "long-standing tradition" in Tanzania that Muslims have a monopoly on the meat industry.
Recently however, Christians in Geita district, Mwanza region -- on the southern shores of Lake Victoria -- have entered the butchery trade, causing outrage amongst Muslims.
Tensions escalated over several months until, in early February, the Minister of State in the President's Office responsible for social relations, planning coordination, Mr Stephen Wassira, travelled to Mwanza to meet with Christian and Muslim leaders in an effort to defuse tensions.
THE FOLLY OF APPEASEMENT
According to The Citizen (7 Feb), Mr Stephen Wassira categorically directed that the task of slaughtering animals for public consumption should be executed only by Muslims. He said that people of other faiths may slaughter animals if the meat is solely for family/private consumption – but certainly not for sale to, or consumption by, the general public.
Mr Wassira declared that, should non-Muslims want to go into the meat business, then the slaughtering must be done according to Islamic tenets and rituals. "In effect," writes Karl Lyimo of the Citizen, "the minister has barred non-Muslims from the meat business – unless and until they are ready, willing, able and glad to follow the Islamic rituals to the letter."
Lyimo continues: "Reportedly, religious leaders of the Christian faith were barred by the regional government from making a public statement on the matter for fear of agitating their followers against the 'Wassira Proclamation'. In the event, priests have called upon their followers to 'retaliate' by boycotting 'Muslim-oriented' butcheries – and are planning to seek judicial intervention via the courts system."
See: Does religion have a role in trade, politics?
By Karl Lyimo, The Citizen, 7 Feb 2013
On 11 February, Muslim fury over the Christian boycott of 'Muslim-oriented' butcheries along with the Christian leaders' threat to have the discrimination addressed through the courts erupted into a full-blown pogrom.
A spokesperson for the Geita Regional Police Commander's Office, Mr Denis Stephano, reports that a group of youths believed to be Muslims assaulted several Christians using sticks and machetes and attacked a butchery owner at Buseresere town. During the confrontations pastor Kachili was beheaded. Several others were injured, some critically, and were admitted to Buseresere hospital to receive treatment.
See: Tanzania: TAG Pastor Beheaded in Religious Skirmishes
By Meddy Mulisa, 12 February 2013
Butchers languishing under the boycott are pleading with Christian leaders to just stop rocking the boat! One butcher laments that people are now asking who has killed the meat! "This is a foolish question," he said. "Where is this country heading?" With Islam growing in confidence on account of decades of quiet radicalisation (see RLPB 182) and Christians feeling offended at the prospect being forced to eat halal meat while being discriminated against in the market place, Tanzania may well be heading for trouble.
See: Butchers in a bind as faith row over right to slaughter rages
Saturday, 16 February 2013
For more on the halal meat trade see:
RELIGIOUS PREFERENCE: SOURCE OF FRACAS BETWEEN CHRISTIANS AND GOVERNMENT IN TANZANIA
Posted by Daniel Mwankemwa on 7 February 2013
ISLAMIC INTOLERANCE TO BLAME?
According to Karl Lyimo (The Citizen, 7 Feb) the status quo, wherein the Muslims monopolised the meat trade, was generally accepted until recently when Islamic intolerance made it unacceptable.
"In the history of this country from the colonial days and up to a few months ago, how and by whom livestock was slaughtered had never been an earthshaking issue. Apparently, non-Muslims – including especially Christians – didn't really mind one way or another.
"That was until May last year when a pastor was detained by the authorities in Singida, central Tanzania, for 'following Christianity rituals and norms including those on meals'. This was at a funeral of one follower of the Pentecostal Evangelistic Fellowship of Africa (PEFA) at Kalakala Village in Kiomboi District on May 6, 2012!
"According to a Web-posting on May 16, 2012 by Daniel Mwankemwa, PEFA Pastor James Moses was accused of slaughtering animals for consumption at the funeral without following Muslim 'halal' rituals. In the event, he was arrested and remanded at the Nduguti Police Post following a formal complaint by 'Sheikh Hamza Thabit, a Muslim village leader'.
"Not only had the pastor informed the mourners that the funeral and associated events would follow Christian norms and tenets; the man had also prepared fish for mourners who were averse to eating 'non-halal' food. Some Muslims who attended the funeral refused to partake of the meals, 'claiming that the meat was slaughtered against Islamic Sharia.'
"Enter 'Wassira & C'’ at centre stage a little more than six months later, seeking to 'impose' religions rituals on all Tanzanians regardless! Clearly, not only does this fly in the face of the country's free market economy and liberalised trade. It also cuts across the Constitution which proclaims freedoms and rights regarding religious preferences and practices."
Lyimo concludes by warning that it is imperative that Tanzania remain secular. "Anything less than this," writes Lyimo, "and Tanzania will sooner than later be plunged into a 24-carat religious conflict. Mark my words!"
In an 18 February editorial The Citizen asks: 'Where have we gone wrong and why? Could it be we have taken our peace too much for granted that we abandoned the need for constant reminders that we need to safeguard it most jealously?'
After meeting with Muslim and Christian leaders in the Mwanza region on 16 February, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda told reporters: "Traditionally Muslims have been [the ones who slaughtered animals] in this country, but we have this conflict and I have formed a committee of religious leaders to look for a permanent solution. Therefore, [while] the committee will be working hard to get a permanent solution, Muslims will continue to do this job for us all."
See: Tanzania forms interfaith committee to review slaughtering rules
By Deodatus Balile in Dar es Salaam, 19 February 2013
AND THE STING IN THE TAIL . . .
Writing from Dar es Salaam, Deodatus Balile (above) reports that Geita Acting Regional Police Commander Paul Kasabago has confirmed that three people have been arrested in connection to the events of 11 February. They are Pastor Isaya Rutta, who slaughtered animals on church grounds, and two members of Rutta's church. The three Christians will be charged with "breaking health laws, inciting the public and causing the death of [Pastor Mathayo Kachili].
"Police have not yet arrested anyone suspected of perpetrating the actual violence against [Kachili]."
This case must be watched very closely.
Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
"Turn back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today"
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)