On July 1 International Christian Concern reported that suspected members of the Islamic radical group, Al-Shabaab, attacked two Christian churches and killed 17 Christians in Harissa, Kenya. These attacks took place during Sunday morning worship services. The news is now global and viral.
Pastor Ibrahim Magunyi, of the East Africa Pentecostal Church, confirmed the incident to ICC and said, “Many people were injured and rushed to Garissa Provincial hospital.”
The Islamists killed two policemen guarding the African Inland Church before entering and throwing grenades among the worshippers and shooting people randomly. This apparently coordinated attack also prompted grenades to be thrown at the town’s Roman Catholic Church.
Al-Shabaab has infiltrated Kenya over recent months and placed the nation, and especially Kenya’s Christians, on terror alert. I wonder if we even begin to imagine what it would be like attending worship with fear and terror surrounding us when we gathered? I wonder who would consider “forsaking the assembling of ourselves” to be a serious option in order to save our lives?
But there is another side to this horror story. The news of July 4, reported by Peter Clottey from Africa, said:
A leading member of Kenya’s Inter-Religious Council has welcomed as an unprecedented gesture an offer by Muslim leaders to protect Christians following last Sunday attacks.
Mustafa Ali said the recent church attacks were aimed at creating deep rifts between Muslims and Christians in Kenya.
“The Muslim leaderships in the country, particularly in northeastern Kenya, are saying that they are offering Muslims themselves to guard the churches, particularly on Sundays, as Christians go to the churches and pray,” said Ali.
“This is unprecedented in the Christian-Muslim relationship in the country… the relationships are generally very good, other than a few instances where Christians and Muslims have disagreed on [few things], but have not really fought each other, as we are witnessing in places like Nigeria,” he added.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has openly condemned the attacks saying that they were designed to spark hostile conflict between Muslims and Christians. Muslim clergymen in Garissa have also condemned the attacks and openly called for a stronger relationship with their Christian counterparts.
Mustafa Ali said the Inter-Religious Council supports the gesture by the Muslim leadership to bolster unity and cooperation with Christians following Sunday’s church attacks. Ali added:
We support this step taken by the Muslim leadership in Kenya. . . . What al-Shabab wants to do is to create disaffection between Muslims and Christians. Kenyan Muslims are saying that we should not get into such a stage where Christians are targeting Muslims or Muslims are targeting Christians.
Will Christians and Muslims in Kenya respond as they did in Nigeria? Let us pray this will not happen. And let us all pray that we all, including Christians who write and teach in America, remain calm peace-keepers in the midst of the rising levels of hostility between radical Muslims and some fringe Christians who wish to retaliate in a way that the Savior never endorsed or modeled. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”
A Kenyan pastor who is a long time personal friend wrote the following to me on Thursday morning:
We in Kenya request that you pray for us knowing that no weapon against the Christian Church will prevail. The more persecution of God’s elect spreads the more the spread of the gospel to many people, including Muslims coming to know Christ as their personal Savior. We do not respond to war against us with carnal weapons but rather with the powerful weapon of prayer, evangelizing and teaching the Word of God. Those are very powerful weapons. Pray for us in Kenya and especially for me as I continue to do God’s work here in Kenya. Thank you for your prayer and support.