16 Mar 2009

Tanzania: Trouble as Strange 'Church' Moves Into Town

The Arusha Times - March 15, 2009

by Valentine Marc Nkwame

Arusha — A crumpled tiny room in a rental block in Levolosi may not attract much attention but the 'house' is alleged to be a church albeit a weird one.
"I am not running a church here, only prayer sessions and even those have been stopped after people who work for the devil interfered with our proceedings," refuted Andrea Silayo who is said to be the 'Church' pastor. We had visited his place last week.
It is an ordinary rental house occupied by other tenants but Silayo's room curved at the far most corner has been getting more than its fare share of visitors.
Even on that afternoon the room was fully packed with people; more than ten of them, most being women, young and old. "They have just popped in for a visit," explained Silayo, "... and this being lunch time, we have also invited others to share food with us!"
Ewarld Ngowi, a tour driver who lives in Moshi had just filed a case at the police accusing Silayo and his Kenyan wife of operating a bible-based cult which incorporates among other practices, whipping and burning its members especially those who look like they are being possessed by the devil.
According to Ngowi his two sons attending class three and four at Ngarenaro primary School were victims of the religious torture and have sustained serious injuries as the result.
"They were both initiated into the sect by their mother, Theresiah Inyasi last year and since then my boys have been undergoing painful ordeal including being torched by fire, whipped by cane and all sorts of torture aimed at purifying their souls," claimed Ngowi.
Acting Regional Police Commander Marco Kazumari who handled the case said the police were summoned by Ngarenaro primary Teachers after chaos erupted at the school when the boys' mother and her church members tried to stop the teachers from taking the badly injured children to hospital.
One of the boys allegedly collapsed at school while trying to climb stairs to class and when the teachers examined him they discovered serious wounds all over the body.
The School Headmaster Eliud Mainoya said the younger boy had swollen arm, badly mutilated skin and burn marks. "We sent his brother to call the parents but it happened that they were living with their divorced mother, instead of cooperating, the mother came and waged war against teachers.
Glory Samuel Lyimo is the class teacher who discovered the boy's mutilations after he collapsed, later she probed the elder brother who also turned out to be another victim of the exorcising rituals.
The chaos caused by the mother prompted the teachers to summon local ward leaders who then called the police and the entire matter became public. The boys were taken to hospital with the younger one being admitted after his condition proved serious.
The boys (name withheld) have been taken by their father and live with him in Moshi. Speaking to this paper the children said the church elders beat them as well as other children and used to worship during the night hours only.
Neighbors admit to have been hearing animated chants and shouts from Silayo's room but never bothered to interfere.
District Commissioner, Evance Balama admitted to have heard of the incident and even went to see for himself how the church operated. The DC ordered the place closed down for good. The church leaders were also arrested but released on bond.
Church leader Andrea Silayo refuted allegations of beating up his flock and argued that he never ran a cult but admitted to have a group of 'prayer people' congregating at his house-a single room affair- every evening.
"But after enemies of the 'lord' started hounding us we stopped even these daily prayer sessions," he maintained.
His wife was extremely angry; "You are going to get nothing from here," she screamed, we know what we are doing and only God can judge us if we try to defend ourselves it will be like fighting back and we do not combat in flesh and blood only spiritually!"
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