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Tanzanian landscape -- Photo: Pixabay

On June 16th, three Christians were arrested in Zanzibar for cooking food in a private home during the Ramadan fast. Emmanuel Yohana, his wife Katherine, and a woman identified as Khadija, were arrested at the couple's home. Local police, led by the area district commissioner, forcefully and unlawfully entered the property where the two women were frying fish in the kitchen.

The three believers were informed that they had breached the law by cooking food during Ramadan. A police officer at the scene reportedly verbally abused them, before announcing, "Today you will know how to fast." Following interventions by local church leaders, the arrested group was released three days later.

While the majority of the population in Zanzibar follows Islam, the constitution of Tanzania declares the nation to be a secular state and protects freedom of religion or belief for all. Yet the discrimination experienced by the Christian minority is not confined to arrest for non-compliance with Islamic law or principles. Christians are also systematically prevented from building houses of worship, as local officials regularly impose additional legal processes designed to prevent construction.

Obtaining permission from the community surrounding a proposed church site is often required before construction can begin. However, due to the religious demographics, local communities generally deny these requests. Houses of worship are also attacked periodically. Although such incidents are regularly reported to the authorities, the police and local government rarely pursue criminal cases against perpetrators, even when they are identified.

Pray that the Lord will grant strength, protection and encouragement to His people in Zanzibar who are standing firm in their faith, despite the pressures placed upon them -- whether it be by opposing governing officials, the members of their communities, or even those in their own families. May these persecuted believers receive ongoing spiritual nourishment and fortification from the "Bread of Life" (John 6:35), who promises to sustain them in times of need. In fact, may this be the case for all of God's people in Tanzania who are readily standing true to their convictions, even when their human rights are threatened. In addition, please intercede on behalf of the country's political and governing leaders, that they would be mindful to uphold the constitution and, therefore, consider the rights of Christians residing in their communities.