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Tanzania threatens to shut down churches which mix religion and politics

FILE-In this file photo of Friday Oct.23, 2015, President John Pombe Magufu during a rally in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (AP Photo/Khalfan Said)

Tanzanian authorities say it is against their constitution for religious leaders to analyse or address political issues in the country as they also preach the gospel in Church.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Major General Project Rwegasira on Thursday warned clergy talking about political issues “could lead to cancellation of the registration of the concerned religious society,” the BBC reported.

“Religious leaders using their sermons to analyse political issues is contrary to the law,” he said.

This announcement came after a Born-again Church leader in the capital Dar es Salaam, Zachary Kakobe of the Full Gospel Bible Fellowship Church, used a Christmas sermon to criticize President Magufuli’s leadership, saying his government was closing democratic space.

The cleric, said the country was “turning into a one party state”.

Other clerics including the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, Dr. Fredrick Shoo said ‘Tanzanians were living in fear of the consequences of saying the wrong things’, according to Africa News.

Critics complain of growing intolerance towards dissent in Tanzania.

Some critics accuse President Magufuli, nicknamed “the Bulldozer”, of becoming increasingly authoritarian – a charge he strongly denies.

Several newspapers have been shut down and individuals have been prosecuted for allegedly insulting the president on social media, while last year Tanzanian police indefinitely suspended political protests and rallies, only permitting political campaigning during elections.

The constitution of Tanzania protects freedom of worship – although religious organisations must register for a licence with the country’s Home Affairs Ministry to operate legally.

Additional reporting by The BBC

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