Police detectives investigate Pool of Sloam church at Kianga in Zanzibar yesterday after it was burned in circumstances that are yet to be established. (Photo: Staff Photographer)
Three days after a Roman Catholic Church priest Evarist Mushi was shot dead, The Pool of Siloam Church in Zanzibar was yesterday set on fire by people who are yet to be identified.
The Zanzibar Director Criminal Investigation, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Ilembo Yussuf said that three men invaded the church and stoned the security personnel before setting the structure on fire.
"The police have started investigations regarding the incident. There was serious damage to property but we are yet to make any arrest," said Commissioner Ilembo.
On the assurance that security especially in churches and mosques will be improved, the commissioner said: “We haven’t changed our plans; however, the criminals managed to carry out their evil plans because the church is situated far, about 27 kilometres from Zanzibar stone town.”
Ilembo urged the public to inform the police immediately when they suspect anyone intending commit an offence as well as making use of community police to strengthen security in the Isles.
For his part, the church's security guard Mussa Jackson said that around 3:00 am he suddenly saw three men who threw stones at him.
"I ran and took refuge in one of the houses…after sometime I just saw a blaze…I decided to report the matter to church leadership and then the police who reached at the scene in an hour when everything was in ashes,” he lamented.
He said that this was a second invasion and that in 2011 at least 80 people pulled down the building and disappeared without being arrested.
Commenting on the incident, the church’s senior pastor Saidi Penuel said at least 100 members of the church will be affected after all the hairs being burnt; however, church service will continue as usual.
“At least a 100 members will be affected as all chairs were burnt…this is the second incident as the first one happened in 2011 …this is happening after we started the reconstruction…one time Kianga mosque leaders questioned the legitimacy of the church being built here,” he said.
When reached for comment, Imam of the mosque Sheikh Mgilima Hassan said his mosque leadership has no quarrel with the church and that they are shocked and upset by the tragedy.
Meanwhile the police force has established a network that will help in identifying groups using religions as umbrellas in killing and terrorising the country’s religious leaders.
The network will work closely not only with Christian leaders but even the Muslims in conjunction with their followers in trying to see how they can deal with such crimes.
The Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police Commander Sulemain Kova noted that the network will include all religional groups: “This will help us in exchanging information on possible threats.”
According to Kova, his force had a meeting with different religious leaders on Monday so as to share ideas and start cooperating on the established network.
He added: “We will strengthen our forces especially in the Dar es Salaam special zone as well as in other regions within the country by making sure that we deal with the culprits, he said.
Kova identified those behind the killing or causing religious chaos in the country as ‘a group’ of small people who are being supported by some individuals so as to be successful in their goals.
He insisted that his force will not have mercy on such groups which use religion as an ‘umbrella’ in executing deeds which seek to destory the country’s peace and tranquility.
Meanwhile Father Evarist Mushi who was killed by unknown people on Sunday will be buried today in Kitope area in Zanzibar.
The funeral mass will start at 10.00 am and be led by the Archbishop of Dar es Salaam archdiocese, Polycarp Cardinal Pengo who will be assisted by Bishop Agustino Shayo of Zanzibar and several priests.