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In the wake of the “Arab Spring” across northern Africa, Islam has been on the rise throughout the continent, and with it, violent persecution against Christians.
Christians in Tanzania, for example, are on alert after an Assemblies of God pastor was killed while attempting to stop Muslim youth from killing two Christian meat cutters. Pastor Mathayo Kachili died on the scene from injuries sustained during the brutal beating by the Muslim teenagers.
International Christian Concern says that this attack set off a two-week string of violent anti-Christian attacks in Tanzania’s northwestern Geita region.
Only days after the pastor was killed, Muslim militants on the island of Zanzibar killed a Father Evarist Mushi, a Catholic priest.
International Christian Concern’s Africa analyst William Stark told WND in an interview that the priest’s murder links violence in Africa to terrorist activity throughout the region.
“After a Catholic priest was shot and killed, a text message was sent out tying the attackers to Somalia, thus proving the link of radicalization between Zanzibar and Somalia. It is likely that many of the attackers have been trained in Somalia by al-Shabaab, but that is pretty hard to prove,” Stark said.
Stark adds that the Muslims in Tanzania are radicalizing at a rapid rate.
“I would agree that the latest series of attacks is likely the beginning of a trend,” Stark said. “Radicalized Muslim youths are being used to commit terrible acts of violence in both Kenya and Tanzania.
“Much of this radicalization can be traced back to Somalia, which seems to be the epicenter of Christian persecution in East Africa,” he continued. “The persecution in Tanzania tends to focus around Zanzibar, an island off Tanzania’s eastern coast that is predominately Muslim.”
Stark further warns that Islamic violence is drawing fuel from nationalist fervor.
“The island has always been somewhat autonomous, but now that radical Islam is starting to take root, Muslims youths are turning to violence in order to separate Zanzibar from the rest of Tanzania,” Stark said. “Unfortunately for Christians, pastors and other Christians make an easy target.”
Earlier this month, the Christian advocacy and aid group Open Doors reported to Worthy News that in Eritrea – an African nation that borders Ethiopia and the Red Sea on the Horn of Africa – authorities arrested, detained and publicly beat 125 Christians.
“Open Doors understands that police arrested these church members from homes and workplaces during broaddaylight and then marched them through town to the police station while beating them,” the group said.
Reports say Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki denies wrongdoing, yet human rights groups estimate that Eritrea continues to imprison between 1,500 and 2,000 Christians.
Last week, a bomb attack in the mostly Christian Sabon Gari district of Kano, Nigeria, killed 25 and wounded 60 others.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but in a statement to the press, World Watch Monitor says the attack bears the marks of Islamic terror: “The manner of attack is, however, similar to previous ones by the Islamist Boko Haram group. Its scale prompted Christian, Muslim and political leaders to urge the federal government to take urgent measures to avert a major crisis.”
The attack comes at the same time a Nigerian Catholic priest lashed out against Boko Haram’s attacks that have destroyed 50 churches in his diocese.
In Libya, there are reports from earlier this month that four more Egyptian Christians have been detained for allegedly proselytizing. The arrests came only days after a report that an Egyptian Christian died in prison from wounds receiving while being tortured.
The four were allegedly arrested at a security checkpoint outside the Libyan city of Misrata.
In the East African nation of Sudan, meanwhile, Christians are fleeing in droves.
The Christian human rights group Barnabas Aid reported this past week that another 1,500 Christians have been safely airlifted from Khartoum to the recently formed nation of South Sudan.
The airlift is part of Barnabas Aid’s Exodus Project, which has taken over 3,500 Christians to safety.
In a statement for the press, International Director for Barnabas Fund President Patrick Sookhdeao says he’s pleased with the progress, but asks for help.
“It has been a great privilege for us to be able to help suffering Christians … begin a new life in a place where they can be free to practice their faith in peace and have opportunities to improve their circumstances,” Sookhdeo said. “There are thousands of others who need rescuing, so please do support our Exodus campaign and help us to change many more lives.”