Sierra Leone pastor arrested for ‘blasting’ Islam

The pastor who founded one of Sierra Leone’s largest churches has been arrested after recordings of a sermon he gave targeting Muslims appeared online.
Victor Ajisafe, head of Sanctuary Praise Church, called Islam a ‘violent religion of lies and deceit’ adding that Muslims were responsible for ‘every terrorist act in the history of the world’.
A video of the sermon published online sparked outrage and widespread condemnation by both Christians and Muslims in Sierra Leone, where the population is roughly 78 per cent Islamic.
All six branches of Ajisafe’s megachurch have been shut down pending further investigation with police guarding each site to prevent anyone entering or acting on alleged plots the buildings down.
Although Ajisafe was arrested on Tuesday is is yet to be charged and an initial press release from the social welfare ministry said Ajisafe was being held for his own protection, according to the Guardian.
However MB Kamara, head of the country’s criminal investigations team said he would held a charge was determined.
‘Everyone is very upset by his message,’he said. ‘We are a very religiously tolerant country and no one ever worries whether someone is Muslim or Christian. We all have lived peacefully for generations, and no one wants that disrupted.’
Although Sierra Leone does not have specific hate speech laws, incitement is illegal under common law and the attorney general, Joseph Kamara, is thought to make a decision on Thursday.
But Ibrahim Tommy, director of the civil society group Center for Accountability and the Rule of Law, said banning people from Ajisafe’s church may violate people’s right to free assembly.
‘It’s completely wrong what he said, and in some ways even criminal,’ he said said. ‘He should be held fully accountable, but I don’t think that the government should shut down a whole church and disband its congregation just because of one person. People have the right to worship where they please, and we’re venturing into dangerous territory by limiting that right, even temporarily.
‘Besides, who says just because some hateful comments were said that suddenly every Muslim in the country is going to jump for an opportunity to destroy the man? By assuming so, the government is just reinforcing that stupid narrative about Muslims the pastor put out in the first place.’

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