Malawi Catholic church firebombed

Twenty people were injured in a deliberately set explosion during Mass at a church near the Malawi capital of Lilongwe.

Reuters reports that a man dressed as a choir member set off an explosion at the St Francis Church in a township outside of the capital Lilongwe, igniting a ferocious fire that injured at least 20 people.

Police spokesman Willie Mwaluka said the blast on Sunday appeared to have been deliberately set.

"We have dispatched our explosives experts to the scene to investigate whether indeed this was a bomb or simply petrol carried in a bag," Mr Mwaluka said.

"The motive by the suspect is unknown, because he is still at-large. He ran away during the stampede," he said.

Mr Mwaluka said the man arrived at the church carrying a bag and dressed as a choir member. Other choristers detected a strong smell of petrol but before they could raise the alarm the suspect lit a match and the bag exploded.

Malawi Home Affairs Minister Bob Khamisa condemned the incident and ordered police to thoroughly investigate the motive.

"Places of worship are sacred and should be the safest places for society. I want to assure Malawians that government will tighten security in all public places," Mr Khamisa said in a brief statement.

Relations between members of the different religions in Malawi have been largely harmonious.

Catholics make up around a fifth of Malawi's 10 million people. At least 70 percent of Malawians are Christians, while about 20 percent are Muslims. The remaining 10 percent are members of traditional sects.

Malawi Catholic church fire bombed during Mass (Reuters 17/7/06)
Malawi church petrol-bomb attack (BBC 17/7/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Malawi (Wikipedia)
Pastoral Letters of Catholic Church in Malawi
Catholic Relief Services, Malawi
Africa Appeal - Countries in crisis (Caritas Australia)

18 Jul 2006