Date: October 24, 2021
By ICC Field Staff
Zanzibar (International Christian Concern) – On September 11th, 2021, Pastor Mustafa Abubakar was detained at an immigration entry point in Zanzibar, while on his way to preach the Gospel. The officers at the seaport believed that due to the etymology of his name, it was unlikely that Abubakar was who he claimed to be.
“After I finished teaching a group of pastors, I crossed over to Zanzibar by sea to speak at several home gatherings and to a group of university Christian students,” Abubakar told ICC in a recent interview. “At the entry point, I was singled out by the immigration officers because they could not understand why my passport bore the name Mustafa Abubakar and pastor as my profession. They claimed that I wanted to get into Zanzibar for some dubious business.”
Mustafa Abubakar, born and raised in a Muslim family in the coastal region of Kenya, explained to the officers that he had come to Zanzibar to visit friends and help them preach the gospel to Christian groups. Still, they did not believe him.
“The officer holding my passport called his boss, and they pushed me inside a small detention room inside the port area. They interrogated me in turns, even calling other officers to ask me questions about my region and what I was coming to do. I insisted that I was a Christian pastor and I bear the name Mustafa Abubakar because that’s the name I was given by my father. They threatened me that if I do not tell them the truth, they will deny me entry and deport me back to Tanzania.”
Islam is the main religion in the Tanzanian semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, with 99 percent of the population practicing Muslims. In the recent past, Zanzibar has witnessed severe persecution in the form of churches being burned, pastors attacked and their homes destroyed, church compounds being grabbed by Muslim investors, and even young Christian girls raped and forced to convert to Islam.
“For close to two hours, they kept demanding for the reason why I was coming to Zanzibar until they decided to issue me a deportation form,” Pastor Abubakar continued. “They asked me to fill out the form and prepare to board the next ship to Dar Es Salaam. I did not oppose. I believe that we should not break doors to enter the mission field.”
However, a well-timed phone call changed the minds of the officers, and Pastor Abubakar was able to continue his journey.
“As I was filling the form, my host called me to find out why I was delaying. The officers told me to put the phone on loudspeaker or else they would confiscate it. I obliged. My host praised the Lord that I had arrived safely and told me to hurry up for the first group of believers was already gathered. That’s when the officers believed that I was telling them the truth.”
Still, Pastor Abubakar was given conditions for his release.
“They did not give up. They instructed me that I should not preach in large meetings or crusades for I will risk being arrested and charged. Since that was not my intention, we went on to meet the believers in small groups. Thankfully, I had a smooth passage at the port when exiting.”
HOW TO PRAY: Pray for protection for this pastor from the authorities. Pray for him to effectively spread the Gospel in Zanzibar. Pray for greater religious freedom for minorities in Tanzania.