Tuesday, July 3, 2012

RLPB 166. Kenya: church bombings and al-Shabaab

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 166 | Wed 04 Jul 2012

By Elizabeth Kendal

Kenyan-assisted military operations to rout al-Shabaab in Somalia are being blessed with success. Gradually, order and security are being restored to large tracts of Somalia. Facing immense pressure, many al-Shabaab militants are shedding their uniforms, ditching their weapons and fleeing south into eastern Kenya where they disappear into the refugee population, sheltered by sympathetic Islamists who have fled war and famine. Just 80km west of the Somalia border and with as many as 500,000 Somali refugees, Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp has become a major security problem for Kenya.  Aid workers have been kidnapped and held hostage in Somalia, mines and grenades have been used to kill Kenyan soldiers, and several refugee leaders have been executed. Many aid organisations no longer let their foreign workers serve in Dadaab because it is simply too dangerous.

Kenya recently experienced its worst terror attack since the 28 November 2002 bombing of the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel in Mombasa when18 died. National police spokesman Eric Kiraithe declared that this most recent attack 'is the worst in terms of the numbers killed, the manner of execution, the anger behind it and the anguish it has aroused as well as the national impact it has had' (Reuters 2 July).

On Sunday 1 July seven militants launched simultaneous attacks on two churches in the eastern town of Garissa (about 90km south-west of Dadaab) at 10:15am. The congregations were at prayer when the militants threw grenades and started shooting. Five militants attacked the Africa Inland Church, killing 17 people (10 instantly) and wounding some 60, including many women and children. The church's two security guards were amongst the dead. The other two militants attacked the Catholic Church just 3km away, leaving three believers wounded.

As Al Jazeera notes (includes 2.24min film), Garissa serves as a military base for Kenyan troops fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia. Whilst the pro-Shabaab Twitter site Al-Kataib boasted of a 'successful operation in Garissa', al-Shabaab has not actually claimed responsibility. This leads many to believe that Dadaab-based al-Shabaab-sympathisers might be to blame, inspired by Boko Haram's attacks on churches in northern Nigeria.

On Monday 2 July Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told an audience in Garissa that al-Shabaab was acting 'in desperation . . . reacting to the progress made by our forces in Somalia'. He made it clear that Kenya would not be surrendering to terrorists and would continue the fight against al-Shabaab. PM Odinga's assessment is accurate, for al-Shabaab is indeed desperate. Their principal state sponsor, Eritrea, has run out of funds since the fall of Mubarak (Egypt) and Gaddafi (Libya), benefactors keen to help fund belligerence against Ethiopia. The al-Shabaab stronghold of Kismayo, the last major city al-Shabaab controls, is presently surrounded by Kenyan forces that aim to have control of the southern port city by August. As al-Shabaab's remnant transitions from a jihadist force into a terrorist network, war will diminish but terrorism will doubtless escalate and Kenya will be targeted.


* bring healing, comfort and peace to the grieving and traumatised survivors of the 1 July terror attacks in Garissa.

* be an impassable defence, protecting his threatened people, the churches of Kenya. 'As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.' (Psalm 125:2 ESV)

* lead and empower Somali and Kenyan forces to bring al-Shabaab jihad, repression and terror to a decisive end.

* redeem this suffering and use it to awaken Muslims to the deficiencies of Islam, so that the hearts of Somali and Kenyan Muslims might be made receptive to the Gospel.

* remove all terrorists from the Dadaab refugee camp and turn the hearts of their sympathisers (Proverbs 21:1), so that humanitarian aid and Gospel ministry can resume for the benefit of hundreds of thousands of desperately needy Somalis; may they soon be able to return to secure homes, with food in their stomachs and the gospel seed planted in their hearts.


On Sunday morning 1 July, seven militants launched simultaneous attacks on two churches in Garissa in Kenya's east. The congregations were at prayer when militants threw grenades and started shooting. Seventeen people died and some 60 were wounded in the main attack at the Africa Inland Church, while three believers were wounded at the nearby Catholic Church. Garissa serves as a military base for Kenyan troops fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia and is just 90km west of the Dadaab refugee camp, home to some 500,000 desperately needy Somali refugees. Infiltrated by Islamic militants fleeing military operations in Somalia, Dadaab has become a major security problem for Kenya. Please pray for believers in Kenya; also for God's intervention to end al-Shabaab and for the spread of the Gospel amongst Somali and Kenyan Muslims.