By BosNewsLife Africa Service
DODOMA, TANZANIA (BosNewsLife)– Grieving family members observed their first Christmas in northern Tanzania without devoted Christian youth leader Elias Lunyamila Meshack, after he was hacked to death by suspected Islamic militants.
Meshack, 35, was killed on October 22 in what Christians called “a brutal machete attack” while leading an all-night worship service at Gilgal Christian Worship Center in the Ilemela district of Mwanza Region, near Lake Victoria.
Two other Christians were also attacked, but survived, according to church officials.
“I don’t think this was robbery because the aim of robbers is to steal money and other items, yet nothing was stolen here,” Bishop Eliabu Sentozi, the church leader, said in published remarks.
More than two months later, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
However Christian rights investigators said Islamic militants from the separatist group Uamsho, or ”the awakening”, have been linked to the violence. Uamsho wants the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar to become independent from the mainland, and militants demand that Christians leave the islands.
Meshack’s widow, Marry, reportedly said that the couple had been “receiving threats for more than six months.” Though they reported “the intimidation” to local police, “no action was taken”, she reportedly said.
Police officials did not immediately comment.
Besides Marry, the youth worker leaves behind the couple’s two children, nine-year-old Prosper and Prisca, who is nine months old, said Christians, who urged prayers for the family and a successful police investigation.
The murder resembled an attack against Pastor Mathayo Kachili, of the Assemblies of God church who was hacked to death on February 2 in Geita region, on the southern shores of Lake Victoria, whole trying to intervene in a dispute between villagers of the slaughter of an animal.
Several other attacks followed, including on September 2 when an elderly Catholic priest, was seriously injured in an acid attack by militant Muslims, after leaving an Internet cafe in Zanzibar’s historic Stone Town, Christians said.
On June 2, the pastor of the Evangelical Assemblies of God Church, Robert Ngai, was reportedly injured in a machete attack after a Muslim mob attacked his home in Tanzania’s northeastern Geita town. Another pastor in Geita, identified as Daudi Nzumbi, was also targeted two nights earlier, but assailants were scared off by barking dogs, Christians said.
Analysts and activists say that impoverished areas in Tanzania have proved fertile ground for recruitment of Islamic militants, who also operate in other parts of East Africa. Tanzania ranks 24th on the annual World Watch Monitor list of 50 countries with the “worst persecution” of Christians, according to its publisher advocacy group Open Doors.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).