Malawi's minority Muslims riot against Christians
Angry about the deportation of five foreign nationals suspected of belonging to the al Qaeda terror network, Muslims in the African nation of Malawi rioted for two days, targeting Christians. Seven churches in two cities were damaged, as were the national offices of the aid agency Save the Children.
"They came chanting Islamic slogans," said Cedric Kamoto, pastor of the CCAP (Church of Central Africa—Presbyterian) church in the resort town of Mangochi. "They said we should get out of Mangochi because it's not meant for Christians. They accused us of bringing Americans in Malawi to disturb their interests." He fled the church as rioters attacked it for an hour, but he swore never to leave permanently or to change the church schedule.
"We do not have religious or political affiliation. I wonder why these people can not understand this," Save the Children official Storm Malcomac, an American, told the Malawi newspaper The Nation. "We have temporarily suspended work and our future in Mangochi will be known in two to three days time."
Justin Opuku, director of the national office, told the Associated Press that the office was targeted because the organization is based in the U.S.
The rioters also attacked a Roman Catholic priest in a pickup truck. Bernard Thungwa, a seminary professor who was in the truck with the priest, Lazarus Girevulo, said the Muslims pulled Girevulo from the car and began beating him before others came to the rescue. The truck, meanwhile, was set ablaze.
"I was just in time to sneak out of the vehicle, otherwise I would have been killed," Thungwa told The Nation.
Muslims constitute only 13 percent of Malawi's population, but Islam is growing there. President Bakili Muluzi is himself a Muslim, as he pointed out Saturday during a Roman Catholic ceremony consecrating a bishop. "I am also a Muslim, but I am civilized and I love peace," he said. "I will not allow anyone to cause religious strife in this country."
But some area Muslims say the violence will continue. "We will not stop at this," one told Reuters. "We want to show that Muluzi has failed us."
The five suspected Al Qaeda members handed over to the U.S. after much debate both within and outside the country were from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, and Sudan.
As of Saturday, 11 people had been arrested for the riots. Inspector General Joseph Aironi said the acted out of ignorance and don't know the serious threat of al Qaeda terrorism in Africa.
"They do not know what happened in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania," he told The Nation. "We will not tolerate any terrorist elements to use the country as a hiding place."
The good news? Malawi's churches reported record attendance yesterday in response to the violence.
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