In January 2013 our family traveled from our home in Kitwe, Zambia eastward through Tanzania to Dar e Salaam. From Dar we boarded a ferry and crossed over to the island of Zanzibar.
Zanzibar was made famous in modern history by the British who established an outpost on the Island. David Livingstone received is commission as a Consular for the British Government on this Island in 1852 (?) After his death at Chief Chitambo’s village in what is now Zamboia, Susi and Chuma carried Livingstone’s body by foot across Zambia, a portion of Malawi, through Tanzania and across to Zanzibar. From Zanzibar Livingstone’s body was carried by ship back to London – accompanied by his two faithful friends.
I was sadened in Zanzibar that though the British left structures in what is now the historic district of Stone Town, little of the influence of Christianity can be seen. Zanzibar was infamous as a slave trading port during this same period of time.
One local resident explained that 97% of Zanzibar’s population of 1 million people are Muslim, 2% Christian, and the balance Hindu or other sects. Zanzibar is home to over 2000 Islamic schools – many of these being funded by extremist groups in Saudi Arabia. School teachers are being sent to train in Sudan, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia. Children are required to attend the Islamic schools from age 4-7. At seven years of age they then go to government schools during the morning and after school are required to continue the study of the Koran in the Islamic schools.
Though officially a part of Tanzania, Zanzibar has its own government and run the island in a semi-autonomous way. Zanzibar has a few “Christian” churches these include Catholic, Anglican and Pentecostal congregations. There is an underlying level of Islamic resistance and persecution of “Christian” religions. According to the Financial Times “In the wake of the September 11 attacks and the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, in which two Zanzibar-born men were involved, the US is among those worried by the potential for Islamic militancy on the islands.”
Missionaries interested in settling in Zanzibar may well need to be creative in approaching this opportunity. For more information get in touch with the IBMGlobal office.