Five children among those killed as worshippers raced to get anointed by pastor
Reuters in Dar es Salaam
Sun 2 Feb 2020
A woman is consoled after her granddaughter died in the crush at a church service in Moshi, north Tanzania. Photograph: Filbert Rweyemamu/AFP via Getty Images
At least 20 people have been killed and more than a dozen injured in a crush during a church service at a stadium in northern Tanzania, a government official said.
Hundreds of people packed a stadium on Saturday evening in Moshi town, near the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, and were crushed as they rushed to get anointed with “blessed oil”.
The pastor was arrested later for his role in the incident as he sought to leave the country, officials said.
“Twenty people died and 16 others were injured in the incident,” the Moshi district commissioner, Kippi Warioba, said on Sunday. Five of those killed were children, he said. “The stampede occurred when the worshippers were rushing to get anointed with blessed oil.”
Pastor Boniface Mwamposa has been drawing huge crowds by promising prosperity and cure for disease to worshippers who walk on what he describes as “blessed oil” during his church services.
He was arrested on Sunday in Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, as he attempted to flee the country, the home affairs minister, George Simbachawene, said.
“Mwamposa tried to flee after this incident, but we arrested him in Dar es Salaam … he will be held accountable for causing this tragedy,” the minister said.
According to Simbachawene, the crush happened after the pastor instructed the worshippers, who numbered 10,000, to rush to one side of the stadium to get anointed.
Authorities fear the death toll could rise due to the size of the crowd and poor lighting when the crush occurred.
“The incident took place at night and there were many people, so there is a possibility that more casualties could emerge. We are still assessing the situation,” Warioba said.
There has been a recent increase in the number of “prosperity gospel” pastors in Tanzania, who promise to lift people out of poverty and perform what they call miracle cures.
Thousands of people in the nation of 55 million flock to Pentecostal churches, whose main source of income is the “tithe”, the 10% or so of income that worshippers are asked to contribute.