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Muslim Mob Storms Church; Forces Closure
By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
DAKAR, SENEGAL (ANS) -- A local Muslim politician at the head of a mob of young men stormed a church in Dakar on Sunday 23 May, insulting and assaulting Christian worshippers. The youths, armed with knives and stones, drove them out and occupied the building, the Barnabus Fund reports.
According to the Barnabus Fund report, the church, which has only recently opened, first encountered opposition from the local politician when it met with officials to receive formal approval before beginning to hold services.
The Barnabus Fund report says:"Having failed to prevent Christians from establishing the church, local conservative Muslims took the law into their own hands and decided to assault the church claiming that Christians were making too much noise during services and disturbing the local community."
It adds: "Despite the involvement of the police and local authorities, and a reconciliation meeting in which church leaders apologized for any noise they may have inadvertently made, the church building has still not been returned to the congregation."
The report says the incident is the latest in a series of several attacks upon Christians and their churches which have taken place in different parts of the country in recent years. Church leaders fear the incidents may be part of a concerted campaign to put pressure on Christians by Islamic extremist factions who want to make Senegal an exclusively Islamic country. Tensions were heightened for Christians and other non-Muslims in the country two years ago when the President announced that â€œSenegal will be 100% Muslim in three years.â€
The Barnabus Fund asks Christians to pray for wisdom and guidance for Church leaders as they continue to pursue this case through the correct legal channels, and seek to alert national leaders about the difficulties the Christian community is beginning to face in Senegal.
"Ask that the church building will be swiftly restored to the congregation. Pray for an end to tension and any hostility towards Christians. Pray (also) that Christians will be able to meet freely for worship throughout Senegal without fear of violence or intimidation."