Tanzania mourns victims of church stampede

Tanzania mourns victims of church stampede
Source: Tribune Online

At least 20 people have been killed and more than a dozen others were injured in a stampede which occurred during a church service at a stadium in a Tanzanian town called Moshi, on February 1.

Hundreds of worshippers attended the Saturday evening service which was led by popular preacher, Boniface Mwamposa.

The stampede occurred as the hundreds of worshippers rushed to get anointed with “blessed” oil. “Twenty people died and 16 others were injured in the incident,” Kippi Warioba, Moshi district commissioner told Reuters. Five of those killed were children.

Eyewitnesses have described the scene as ‘horrible.’ “People trampled on mercilessly, jostling each other with elbows. It was like the preacher had thrown bundles of dollars about … and there were all these deaths!” said Peter Kilewo, a witness at the scene, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has issued a statement, mourning the death of the victims. In the statement, he also addressed the deaths of 20 others who lost their lives due to recent floods in Tanzania’s southern town Lindi. “I’m very sorry for these deaths of these Tanzanians in the two events,” Magufuli said.

Who is Boniface Mwamposa?

The preacher at the service, Mwamposa, leads the Arise and Shine Ministry in Tanzania. Mwamposa had reportedly poured “holy oil” on the ground, which he claims is a miracle oil that can cure diseases, causing the crowd to lunge forward in order to come into contact with the oil.

He has been drawing huge crowds of worshippers with the promise of a cure for diseases and a means to gain material wealth.

Tanzanian police arrested Mwamposa after he fled to Dar es Salaam, a city located in the east of the country, for further questioning. Police are currently investigating churches that are practicing so-called ‘prosperity gospel.’

Prosperity theology

There has been an increase in the number of “prosperity teaching’ pastors in certain churches who claim to offer miracle cures for those suffering from poverty and disease. Such pastors derive an income from worshipper contributions, which is roughly 10% of congregants’ salaries.

Bishop Don Tumusiime, the regional overseer of the National Fellowship of Born Again Pentecostal Churches (NFBPC) in Ankole in neighboring Uganda, says Africans have long been blinded by such preachers.