Kenya (MNN) — A longstanding effort to replace a church with a mosque in Kenya's northern town of Garissa culminated in an attack by 50 Muslim youths this month that left the worship building in ruins.
Compass Direct reports the gang stormed the building of Redeemed Gospel Church and pelted the congregation with stones, sending many Christians fleeing while others became embroiled in fistfights. Ten Christians received hospital treatment for minor injuries and were released.
Jonathan Racho with International Christian Concern says anti-Christian violence is growing in Northern Kenya. "It's a part of Kenya where Muslims make up the majority, so there is a growing hostility against Christians in these parts, and this is partly because of the growth and influence of Islam elements inside Somalia."
Most of the people there are ethnic Somalis.
Tensions between Christians and the Muslim-majority population in the semi-desert town of 20,000 people began simmering after Muslims built a mosque next to the church in June 2007. Purchasing its land on Nov. 1, 1999, the church had begun worshipping there by early 2001, eventually growing to 400 members.
Church leaders complained to the district commissioner in June 2007 that the new mosque was built too close to the church — only three meters separate the two structures — and that it was blocking the church entryway.
The government is striving to avert further incidents by preventing the Christians from returning to the ruined structure, according to a Provincial Police official identified only as Chelimo. With tensions expected to rise during the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, he said police were taking precautionary measures to ensure that the congregation never returned to their property.
"To allow this would be suicidal," Chelimo told Compass. "We have deployed five security guards every day to make sure that the members of the church will not enter its structure."
Racho says Christians are turning to authorities, but "no one in the administration is protecting them. The Christians are not being protected. The people who attacked them are free on the streets. They are not in prison. This is really disappointing."
Christians are concerned the more violence is coming, says Racho. "The Muslims in Garrisa are openly saying that they are going to destroy other churches, too. So there is no reason why they won't implement what they are saying."
International Christian Concern is asking you to contact the Kenyan Embassy and ask them to protect Christians in Northern Kenya.
Here's the Kenya Embassy Contact Information:
Embassy of Kenya
2249 R Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Telephone: (202) 387-6101