Tanzania arrests Christians for frying fish during Ramadan

Tanzanian authorities arrested three Christians for frying fish in their kitchen during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, charity group Christian Solidarity Worldwide has just learned.

(REUTERS / Erik de Castro.)A meal of rice mixed with noodles, dried fried fish and egg is seen in Bolata's home in a squatter colony in Quezon City, Manila. July 23, 2013.

On June 16, Emmanuel Yohana and his wife Katherine Emmanuel were arrested at their house in Zanzibar along with another woman named Khadija while they were frying fish. They were told that they had broken the law by cooking food during the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan, according to CSW.

In addition, the three Christians were reportedly subjected to verbal abuse from a police officer who told them that they "will know how to fast" on that day. They were only released from police custody after three days because of the local church leaders' intervention.

In light of the incident, CSW chief executive Mervyn Thomas denounced the arrests as unwarranted, as he pointed out that the Christians cooked food on private property. He insisted that non-Muslims in Tanzania are not obligated to fast during the month of Ramadan.

"Moreover, their arrests are in violation of provisions within Tanzania's constitution that recognise the right to freedom of religion or belief and prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion," Thomas added.

CSW also brought up other acts of discrimination against Christians, which include the prohibiting of church constructions. Thomas called on the government of Zanzibar to put a stop to unlawful discrimination. He also urged them to stop preventing Christians from constructing places of worship.

Meanwhile in Mkumba last month, Bishop James Almasi of the diocese of Masasi spoke to Christian and Muslim villagers who gathered to participate in All Mothers and Children Count, a project which focuses on the health of mothers and newborns. He shared to the Anglican Journal that three-quarters of the people who attend Sunday services in his home village are Muslims.

Bishop Amasi described the Christian-Muslim relations in Masasi as "very good,' saying life in Africa is of communal nature. However, people also acknowledged that there was tension between some members of the two religious communities in Tanzania. There are some Muslims who reportedly doubt the motive of the health projects, thinking that they are coming to the village with the aim to later convert them and build a church there.