Tanzania church members drown during river baptism

FILE: Church members baptized in a river
FILE: Church members baptized in a river

Tanzanian police have detained a pastor after two worshippers drowned during baptism in a river near Rombo in the north of the country.

The two victims were overwhelmed by the current of the River Ungwasi, a police spokesman has told the BBC.

It is not clear how the pastor and the other worshippers involved managed to survive, the BBC’s Odeo Sirari says.

They are members of a local church, Shalom, which is part of the charismatic Christian movement.

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Baptism in a river rather than in church is seen as a way of re-enacting the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan.

The ceremony is a symbol of washing away sin and the start of a new life.

The Kilimanjaro police commander Hamis Selemani confirmed the deaths saying the pastor and other church members have been detained for interrogation.

“We are holding the church pastor and other followers for interrogation. We are holding them for further investigation to understand how others died and some managed to escape,” he told local media.

The police advised that the depth of rivers should be ascertained first before river baptisms are performed to avoid any incident.

The religious ceremony is done in rivers mainly by charismatic churches in the country.

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