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Religious tolerance festival in Zanzibar ends in priest's murder and church set on fire

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Sounds of Wisdom festival in Zanzibar, intended to foster understanding between the island's Christians and Muslims was apparently not successful this year. A Catholic priest has been murdered and church was set on fire during the festivities. The recent murder has prompted concern that religious tensions on the holiday island are increasing.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Catholic priests say they are living in fear after Father Evaristus Mushi was murdered on February 17, the final day of the music festival. Mushi was shot dead by two men on motorcycles on the last day of celebrations.
 
The Bishop of Zanzibar said members of the clergy are terrified of further attacks. Since the murder, a church has also been set on fire. Five churches were torched on the island last year.

"We are very afraid," Bishop Augustine Shao says. The occasion marked the fourth attack on Christian or Islamic clergy in the past four months.

Protestant pastor Mathew Kachira was killed on February 10 and Father Ambrose Mkenda was shot and wounded on Christmas Day. A Muslim cleric was injured in an acid attack in November.

Clergy have been sent threatening texts following Father Mushi's murder, the bishop says. Speaking to Catholic News, Shao says that the type of attack "is new to the country and we are looking for reasons," adding that the perpetrators could be using religion as a cover.

Zanzibar is classed as a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania. Some believe that terrorists, demanding independence from Tanzania are behind the murder. Priests and bishops in Tanzania have received texts praising the Somalia-trained men who murdered the priest and warned of further attacks at Easter.

Warnings have also been received that the killings would continue until Muslim leaders jailed after disturbances on the island last year were freed.

The killing occurred on the final day of the tenth Sounds of Wisdom festival or Sauti za Busara.

Festival Director Yusuf Mahmoud told the crowd that a major purpose of the event was "breaking down barriers between Muslims and Christians, black and white." according to The Guardian.

Three days later the Pool of Siloam Church was set on fire after three men stoned a security guard before setting the church alight. It was the second attack on the church in two years after 80 people pulled down the building in 2011.

The majority of islanders are Muslim, with Christians making up as little as five percent of the population.

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