The conditions of Fr. Anselmo unfortunately remain very serious, because the acid continues to penetrate beneath the surface layers of the skin", said Catholic Bishop Augustine Shao of Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous island region of Tanzania. He was referring to Rev. Anselmo Mwanga'mba, a Catholic priest who remains hospitalized following an attack by as yet unidentified persons on September 13. The assailants threw acid on the priest as he was leaving a well-known internet cafe on the island of Zanzibar.
"We are studying the possibility to transfer him abroad, perhaps in India, in a center that is specialized in treating these kinds of cases", said Mgr. Shao.
Fr. Anselmo is only the latest victim of a series of acid attacks that have occurred on the island in recent months. The other victims include two 18-year-old English girls who were teaching at an Anglican school this year, as well as a Fadhil Suleiman, Secretary of the Grand Mufti of Zanzibar. Islamist extremists have resorted to terrorist acts such as these in their efforts to make Zanzibar an independent Islamist state. Zanzibar joined the former colony, Tanganyika, one year before Tanzania declared its independence in 1963. Acid attacks are frequently used by Islamist militahts elsewhere in the Muslim world, especially against women.
"The issue of these violent attacks is complex", said Bishop Shao. "In the past year we have been recording serious violent incidents in Zanzibar. I remember for example that another priest, Fr. Ambrose Mkenda was seriously injured at Christmas last year and is still recovering, while in February Fr. Evarist Mushi was killed."
The bishop cited political tensions that have risen over the country's new Constitution and the Zanzibar independence movement. "There are also disagreements on the revision of the lists of voters for the 2015 elections". "With regards to the economic and social impact, among the island's inhabitants there prevails a feeling of being bypassed by workers from other areas of Tanzania and from foreign Countries, such as Kenya", said Bishop Shao .
"Finally there is the Islamic extremist propaganda on behalf of foreign-trained preachers who spread hatred against Christians. Several young islanders were sent to train abroad and import these ideas in Zanzibar, while violent preaching is divulged through the local media", said Bishop Shao. "In short, the causes of these violent acts are multiple. It is a complex situation but the question I cannot answer is that Christians and Catholics in particular are seen as a target."
In addition to the attacks on priests, four churches were vandalized and destroyed, most of them Catholic, concluded Bishop Shao.