ACN Feature Story – Bitter memories of time of terror for the priests in Zanzibar

08.03.2019 in ACN, ACN Canada, ACN Feature, ACN International, ACN Interview, Africa, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Priests, TANZANIA, Tanzania, Violence against Christians, Zanzibar

Father Damas Mfoi: “There is no recovering from what’s happened, and since the assailants might still be active, we aren’t completely safe. But through all these problems, we continue our interfaith work.”

Father Damas Mfoi is a Catholic priest in the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania. Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim with a small Christian population. Since 2010, Father Mfoi has been a parish priest on the main island of Unguja. In 2012, the otherwise peaceful island community witnessed a series of violent attacks on religious leaders. A Muslim cleric was burned with acid in the fall of that year; a Catholic priest suffered gunshot wounds on Christmas Day 2012, and another was shot to death the following February. At the time, leaflets were distributed to incite violence, some of which bore the stamp of the radical Islamist group Uamsho. However, responsibility for the attacks has yet to be claimed or officially assigned. Father Mfoi tells Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) of the time of terror.

Interview by Anne Kidmose


“It was Christmas 2012, and we had planned to go for supper until we heard that Father Ambrose had been shot. Church leaders were in a state of shock, and we could no longer have our shared meal. We were frightened. We rushed to the hospital, but cautiously, as it was announced via leaflets that Church leaders would be killed, and that churches would be destroyed.


When we arrived, Father Ambrose was still bleeding, and he couldn’t talk. The following day, he was flown to Dar es Salaam for further treatment. After that, it was our faith that kept us here. People on the mainland called us home, but as Christians committed to the Gospel, we knew from the very beginning that ours was a mission of suffering, and that our lives might be threatened. There was no running away.


More leaflets were distributed, saying that Muslims should not allow the sale of alcohol, or the presence of churches. They were published anonymously, but today we know who they are. We didn’t know what would happen, though some said that they were just idle threats. But less than three months later, Father Evaristus Mushi was struck, and tragedy befell us.


It was a Sunday morning at 7:15 A.M.; I was saying Mass in a small church. A non-Catholic neighbour came running in; he shouted, “Father Damas, I have something to tell you!” He told me that Father Mushi was dead, the victim of a shooting. Some man shot him that morning, when he was parked in front of his church. I drove to the other churches to say Mass; now that Father Mushi was dead, I had to carry out the mission of Christ alone.


News of Father Mushi’s death rippled throughout the community, but that wasn’t the end of it. After we buried him and paid our last respects, a group of women came to our gates, crying. I told them, ‘Don’t cry now. Father Mushi is in heaven.’ One replied, ‘Father, she is not crying over Father Mushi. She is crying because of you.’ The assailants targeted me because I had built too many churches.


Father Damas Mfoi at the grave of Father Evaristus Mushi

The next morning, I escaped to the mainland, and a month later, I returned. I thought to myself, ‘There is no abandoning our mission. Jesus wouldn’t want to see us fail. There are Christians still here—why should their leaders run?’


Upon my return, I found that the police had set up a command post within my compound, and over the next two years, they patrolled the area because of the tension that lingered. The government took good care of us, but we knew, above all, that God protected us. When I was offered a bodyguard, I refused, believing that the work of Jesus did not require a machine gun; He promised his people that he would be with us until the end of time.


Six or seven months passed, and for a while, we thought that the worst was over, though security was still tight. But come September, a priest had acid splashed on him as he was leaving his regular café. He survived the attack but sustained major injuries.


There is no recovering from what’s happened, and since the assailants might still be active, we aren’t completely safe. But through all these problems, we continue our interfaith work. We talk to people in the community, and we tell them that we believe God created us all and gave us the freedom to believe in whatever way we were taught. Muslims are taught about Muhammad; Christians are taught about Jesus Christ. We should all do our best to respect that and avoid mixing politics with religion.”


In 2017, Aid to the Church in Need supported the Church in Tanzania with projects totaling more than 2,5 Million dollars.


On line: March 8, 2019


Project of the Week – in Tanzania

11.01.2017 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, MOTORIZATION, TANZANIA

Project of the Week in Tanzania

A sturdy vehicle for the parish of Namswea

The parish of Namswea lies in the far south of Tanzania, in the diocese of Mbinga. It is a large parish with over 11,300 faithful and 13 outstations lying anything up to 30 miles (50 km) from the parish centre. For many years the priests working in the parish were unable to visit the outlying communities because they had no vehicle to get them there. That meant that the people in these outstations had only the local lay catechists to minister to them pastorally and had little or no opportunity to get to Holy Mass or receive the Sacraments. Of course, they also had many material and medical needs which could not be met for lack of a suitable vehicle.

Many lives might have been saved if only transport to take them to a local hospital or clinic had been available.


Namswea Catholic Parish: Children receiving the Holy First Communion

But now, thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we have been able to provide 27,550 CAD for a sturdy off-road vehicle that can cope with the difficult driving conditions they face.

Father Odin Kapinga, the parish priest, is speechless with joy and gratitude. “There is nothing I can say except that I will pray for you all,” he writes.




To support projects similar to this one – please ‘click’ to donate!


Project of the Week: Self-sustaining poultry project in Tanzania

27.04.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Project of the Week, Religieuses, TANZANIA


 A self-sustaining poultry raising project for Sisters in Kisa


Self sustainable poultry project for the Sisters of Our Lady Queen of the Apostles of Mbeya - Kisa Convent: Sister with eggs from the poultry project

Self -sustainable poultry project for the Sisters of Our Lady Queen of the Apostles of Mbeya – Kisa Convent: Sister with eggs from the poultry project

The parish of Kisa in the diocese of Mbeya was established in 1927. It has around 3,500 Catholic faithful, who are ministered to by two priests, five religious Sisters of the local congregation of Our Lady Queen of Apostles, and 25 catechists.


In 2009 the parish opened a primary school, which is run by the Sisters. The sisters also give catechetical instruction, help the elderly and sick, instruct those preparing for baptism and help out in other schools in the area. At the same time they serve as sacristans in the parish church.


The parish has an additional 12 outstations, lying anywhere from 15 to 50 km (10 to 30 miles) away from the centre of the parish, causing the Sisters often to travel considerable distances. The parish budget is minimal and the ordinary faithful live from hand to mouth, so that there is no way the parish can fund both the living costs and the travel expenses of the Sisters.  To support themselves, they have been growing fruits and vegetables in their garden for sale locally. But despite their effort, it does not produce enough income to live on.


The Sisters came up with a creative idea! They would set up a chicken rearing project, they would sell the eggs, and the hens for meat.


Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to help with a contribution of $4,785 – the set-up cost of a henhouse and 200 hens. The project has been successful and now the Sisters are able to support themselves and no longer depend on outside help. Sister Felista wrote to us saying:


“I really want to thank ACN and your generous benefactors. May Almighty God pour out his heavenly graces upon you all. Our community promises to always pray for you and all your benefactors and to have Holy Mass celebrated for your mission and your well-being.”



donateTo donate to this or to a similar project – please do so on-line on our new secure donation page. If you would prefer to call us, or write to us – our contact information can be found here



Journey with ACN – Tanzania

20.02.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS, English, FORMATION, Journey with ACN, TANZANIA

JOURNEY WITH ACN is  our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.

 This week:   Tanzania

Seminarians train for the priesthood 

In the Archdiocese of Tabora, in central western Tanzania, there are 35 seminarians waiting for your support, for without it they cannot continue their studies, or one day be ordained to the priesthood.

Tabora is one of five archdioceses in Tanzania established in 1953 by the White Fathers, who had been working in this area since 1878. It has 23 parishes and 51 priests – a number too low for Father Kibobera Makona, the priest responsible for the vocations apostolate in the diocese. “Of the more than 2 million people living in the archdiocese, some 450,000 are Catholics. Muslims are a majority in this region.

The reason there are so few parishes, is because there is a shortage of priests. In fact, many parishes have actually had to be closed down already for this reason. We have so much to do and we need priests,” he emphasizes. Not surprisingly, he rejoices all the more at every candidate who feels called to the priesthood and is admitted to train for it. The 35 major seminarians currently training here need our help, since the cost of living have risen in Tanzania and the archdiocese cannot afford the full cost of their training – which in Tanzania lasts a total of nine years.

The candidates work in the archdiocese in their first year, followed by three years of philosophy, four years of theology and then a pastoral year, working in the parishes. Currently there are 13 seminarians in the philosophy years and 20 in the theology years, while two seminarians have completed their pastoral year and have now been ordained as deacons.


donateAid to the Church in Need has promised a contribution of $17,160 dollars to cover the expenses and studies of these seminarians for an entire year! During this time it is expected that 14 young men will be ordained to the priesthood. “While the diocese is seeking ways to fund the training of these future priests, we appeal to your generosity to help us for the support and formation of these seminarians,” writes Archbishop Paul Rusoka. We are convinced that with your help, they will indeed succeed!


Journey with ACN – Tanzania

21.10.2013 in ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Catholic Religious Brothers, CONSTRUCTION, TANZANIA

A house for the Claretian missionaries in Kimara

 ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

The congregation of the Claretian Fathers and Brothers was founded in 1849 by Saint Anthony Maria Claret. Today its members include 19 bishops, over 2,000 priests and 3,000 brothers in 63 different countries around the world. Since 2003 the Claretians have also been active in the Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. In fact, they now have a presence in eight different centres. They work in the schools, training and educating children; they provide basic medical support and work on behalf of the disadvantaged, especially those of the ethnic minorities. They support single mothers and encourage people to set up self-help groups. They seek to “see the world through the eyes of the poor,” and strive to alleviate suffering of both body and soul. One of the communities they serve is the parish of Our Lady in Kimara, approximately 290 km from the capital, where they run an extremely active parish composed of almost 11,000 Catholics.

Until now, the Claretians have been living in temporary accommodations which do not even include running water. By building a house for their community, Cardinal Pengo, the Archbishop of Dar es Salaam, hopes to make the life and work of these Claretian missionaries a little easier.

Cardinal Pengo has turned to ACN for help with this project and writes, “Your support will undoubtedly encourage the brothers to continue their missionary activities. The lack of a proper house in an area where diseases like malaria are widespread can frequently lead to the missionaries falling ill and being unable to carry out their demanding and extensive regularly planned work. The lack of suitable premises and clean drinking water leaves them living in unhealthy conditions. The catechetical sessions and courses have to be held inside the church itself. Nor do they have any possibility of accommodating even a single visitor. On top of this, their present accommodations do not offer the least degree of security, and this is a region where robberies and break-ins are on the increase. All this makes their life hard and very burdensome.”


Problems facing the faithful 

TANZANIE 1The Catholic faithful love their parish, and they love to participate in the Eucharist and pray and meet together. Their numbers are growing steadily. Every day there is a Holy Mass in Kimara, and three Masses a week in outlying stations.

Though many of the local people are poor peasant farmers who make their livelihood by selling what they produce, and the money is barely enough to live on, they are still willing to give a part of this modest income towards the cost of the home, as a way of  giving back to the Brothers in return – because the Claretians have become indispensable through their work of social and economic development – and of salvation.                                                                                                                                      

The young people of the parish intend to help with the construction and greatly appreciate the work the Brothers do. Many have grown-up with only one parent, and often children have had to work to support their families.  

Some live on the streets, and there are many problems that come with it. In the case of  girls, fertility is highly valued, and many of them have children very young without ever having been married. Another problem is the traditional dowry system. Because many families simply cannot afford the dowry and are expected to pay for their daughter’s wedding, many young couples simply live together unmarried. Traditional family structures are collapsing and early sexual contact, teen pregnancies, abortion and crime are very much commonplace. 

What the Claretians bring is a great blessing for the local people, and once they have a  house it  will enable them to devote all their time and energy to those in need of them.

ACN is planning to contribute $21,000 towards this construction project.


To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.