Attacks on Christians are surging in Kenya, and analysts say Islamic radicals are putting a bull’s-eye on the community.
International Christian Concern’s Middle East specialist Aidan Clay says he recently visited a victim of a Somali mob attack in Kenya.
“When I saw him a month after the incident, he was still badly bruised, could hardly see out of his right eye which was black, and was missing teeth,” Clay said.
Clay said the attacks are getting more frequent and more intense.
“Recently, there has been a slight surge of violence targeting Christians inside Kenya, provoked mainly by Somali Muslims, some of whom are likely from the militant group al-Shabaab,” Clay said.
“It appears that the Islamist militants are not only targeting crowded areas and tourists, but also narrowed in on a Kenyan Christian community,” he said.
Recently, a Somali Christian man living in Kenya was beaten unconscious by Somali mobs inside Kenyan territory.
Christian news agency Compass Direct, which reports persecution of Christians, reported that a gang of seven Somali Muslims accused 23-year-old Ibrahim (his last name was withheld for security) of apostasy, then left him for dead. It happened only a few weeks after a similar attack on his brother.
Reports also say that Ibrahim was raised as a Christian, so the charge of apostasy has no legal grounds.
Clay said the attack victim he saw “was followed home by six Somali Muslims who had overheard the young man saying on the phone that he is Christian.”
“They beat him unconscious, nearly killing him, and dropped him off, bleeding and naked, outside a Presbyterian church in Nairobi. The guards outside the church took him to the hospital and his life was spared,” Clay said.
The attack that drew the attention of the Barnabas Fund’s Prayer Alert was a grenade attack in Garissa.
“One witness said that she heard the attackers say after the explosion, ‘It is just the beginning,’” the Barnabas Fund said. “Police said that the attack in the predominantly Muslim town could be religiously motivated and al-Shabaab sympathisers may have been responsible.”
Clay agreed that the Garissa attack is the likely work of al-Shabaab.
“On November 5, two people, including an 8-year-old girl, were killed in a grenade attack on the East African Pentecostal Church compound in Garissa in eastern Kenya. The attack was probably committed by al-Shabaab sympathizers,” Clay said.
“Though Garissa and much of eastern Kenya is predominantly Muslim, it’s rare to see deliberate attacks on churches. And, it appears that Christians are merely one of many groups being targeted in Kenya,” Clay said.
Human rights specialist Jonathan Racho said that the bombings are likely al-Shabaab’s retaliation against the Kenyan government.
“Kenya was forced to get involved in the conflict after some Westerners were kidnapped and taken into Somalia. It looks like Al-Shabaab is behind the bombings. Christians are among the targets of the attacks by the Islamists,” Racho said.
Clay agreed that some of the violence against Kenyans may be al-Shabaab’s response to the Kenyan government sending soldiers to Somalia to fight al-Shabaab.
“In mid-October, Kenya sent troops to fight al-Shabaab militants following the murder and kidnappings of tourists on Kenyan soil. Since that time, al-Shabaab has threatened to carry out terrorist attacks inside Kenya until Kenyan troops withdraw,” Clay said.
Racho said “the increasing activities of Islamists poses a threat to the rights of Christians to worship freely in Kenya.”
Clay said that he’s received travel alert messages from the U. S. Embassy in Nairobi.
“My wife and I have received several emergency alerts from the U.S. Embassy lately stating that we should avoid going to congregated or touristic areas,” Clay said.
“The most prevalent assaults in the past couple months have been grenade attacks on a bar and crowded bus station in Nairobi on October 24 and, of course, the attack on the church in Garissa,” Clay said.
Clay says the intensity of the attacks may be sending some Somali Christians into hiding.
“Another Somali family I spoke with has been in hiding for over a month. A former colleague from the Christian organization the man had worked with told his Muslim friends about the Christian’s work and posted the Christian’s photo in a neighborhood mosque,” Clay said.
“His wife told me that they would find him and kill him if he leaves the house. And, even more recently, on December 5, I heard that another young man was beaten severely here in Nairobi for being accused of being a Somali convert to Christianity,” Clay said.
Clay said most of the attacks are in the poor neighborhoods, but that doesn’t establish an economic connection.
“Most of these attacks originate in the poor Nairobi district of Eastleigh, which is a predominately immigrant community made up of Somalis and Ethiopians. Al-Shabaab and its sympathizers are known to be active in the community,” Clay said.
Clay indicated that Somali Christians are still safer in Kenya.
“Sadly, many Christians are attempting to flee Somalia as soon as they can. One Christian who recently arrived in Nairobi shared a threatening letter with ICC that he had received from al-Shabaab militants in Somalia,” Clay said.
“In the letter, he is called an ‘infidel’ and told that those ‘affected by the cancer of Christianity’ will fall under the ‘sword of Islam.’ Additionally, the letter warns of a major attack on those who are involved in ‘Christianizing’ the country and pinpoints the names of a couple organizations,” Clay said.
Kenya is no stranger to anti-Christian violence as more than 50 people were killed in the January 2008 fire bombing of an Assembly of God Church in Eldoret.
The fire bombing was part of post election violence following President Mwai Kbeki’s defeat of President Barack Obama’s Kenyan friend, Raila Odinga, in the race for the nation’s presidency.
WND previously reported Obama traveled to Kenya to campaign for Odinga.
Obama appeared with Odinga at campaign stops and gave speeches accusing the sitting Kenyan president of being corrupt and oppressive.
Odinga lost, despite attracting Muslim votes through a secret Memorandum of Understanding with Muslim Sheik Abdullah Abdi, the chief of the National Muslim Leaders Forum of Kenya.
In that memo, Odinga promised to rewrite the Kenyan constitution to install Shariah as law in “Muslim declared regions,” elevate Islam as “the only true religion” and give Islamic leaders “oversight” over other religions, establish Shariah courts and ban Christian proselytism.
After his loss, Odinga accused the incumbent president of rigging the vote and allegedly incited his supporters to riot. Over the next month, some 1,500 Kenyans were killed and more than 500,000 displaced – with most of the violence led by Muslims, who set churches ablaze and hacked Christians to death with machetes.