A stampede involving church worshippers in Tanzania has killed at least 20 people after the enthusiastic crowd gathered to receive “holy oil”.
The outdoor religious service happened in the northern town of Moshi on Saturday evening at the Arise and Shine Ministry Tanzania.
A popular preacher, Boniface Mwamposa, whose congregation calls him “Apostle” led the prayer ceremony. Al-Jazeera reports that Mwamposa alleged that his holy oil could solve the problems of his congregants.
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Mwamposa then poured the oil on the ground and the people ruched to take a touch.
Peter Kilwelo, a witness, was quoted by AFP saying: “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!”
Apart from the dead, 16 people have also been reported injured. Meanwhile, the police have detained Mwamposa to help with investigations.
President John Magufuli has sent his condolences to the bereaved.
Tanzania has a majority Christian population with most people identifying with Pentecostal denominations. The country is also home to an exuberant tradition of “miracle-working” Christianity as well as the phenomenon of prosperity gospel.
Meanwhile, Paul Makonda, the administrative chief of Tanzania’s capital and anti-gay campaigner, has been banned from visiting the U.S as of last Friday “due to his involvement in gross violations of human rights, which include the flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.”
The ban extends to his immediate family members as well.
Tanzania has been on the radar of Human rights groups since 2015 when President John Magufuli came into office.
Opposition to gay rights has been rooted in Christian arguments and appeals to traditional moral sensibilities.