Christians respond to Muslim offer of protection in Garissa, Kenya

By July 9, 2012

Kenya (MNN) — Garissa has long had a perilous
reputation in Kenya. A small outpost down near the Somalia border, the area has
been filled with dangerous people for over a decade.

Africa Director for Christian Aid Mission Rae Burnett notes that was
even before the Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab came into prominence.

Al-Shabaab is the Somalia-based cell
of al-Qaeda hunting down Christians in both Somalia and now, in Kenya. The
group has been getting bolder and more organized. Burnett explains, "There's been a huge, huge influx of Somalis
that have overrun the country, I mean even into Nairobi. They stick together,
and they are told by their government that now that there's so many of them
there, they really need to take over the country and establish Sharia."

It seems that the Kenyan town of
Garissa, right on the border with Somalia, was getting less and less friendly to
non-Muslims. "This
is a town, that when I hear the name, I know there's danger there," says
Burnett. She adds that in the 15 years she's been aware of the changing conditions there, Gospel inroads
have been made. "Missionaries have been putting churches there, trying to bring
people to Christ for years. They have now become a target of the Muslim

However, that didn't always sit well
with the local population. "When
doing any kind of evangelical work, the Muslims have sent their children to
stone them." An indigenous ministry
leader helped by Christian Aid told Burnett that the most recent attack was more evidence of the hostilities in the
region toward Christians. "He said
that plans to burn the churches were executed inside the mosque. Their thinking
is that this is just totally for the outside world to hear."

Seventeen people were killed July 1 in Garissa as terrorists threw grenades into two churches and opened fire. It appears to be an effort to deepen rifts
between Muslims and Christians in Kenya. These same people are also blamed for
attacks on secular entertainment venues as well as the kidnapping and murder of
aid workers.

with indigenous ministries (supported by Christian Aid Mission) indicates increasing
alarm among believers and disruption to Gospel work.

In the wake of
the latest incident, one leader wrote:

This is big blow to our ministry vision, and
our outreaches among the Muslims in the northern frontiers of Kenya. We are so
much concerned at the trend of constant attacks on the churches in Kenya by al
Shabaab terror group. I was planning another outreach in that area. So many of
them have never been reached with the Gospel.

We are praying and planning to evacuate the
wife and her children for some time till the situation improves. Please pray
for our security. Any help extended to this family will be appreciated as we
move in to assist.

Another sent this message:

Most of our churches in Northern Kenya have
closed down due to attacks by the al Shabaab terrorists. The most affected areas
are Wajir, Modogashe, Liboi, Garbatulla, Merti, Turbi, parts of Marsabit and
some parts of Isiolo where you have spent so much time with the Samburu
believers. Most Christians had to evacuate to safer areas. Missionaries and
pastors who have been serving there had to relocate.

Now, there's word that Muslim
leaders are offering to protect Christians following the attacks. But, says Burnett, Christians are
incredulous. "Even if Muslims did offer something like that, no one would
accept it because they would believe it to be a threat based on their
experience with them in the past, particularly in an area like that where
everyone (the Muslim community) is so close knit."

Burnett notes that Christian workers explained why they're so distrustful. "As
these churches were being attacked, the Garissa women…(I'm reading directly
here) 'after the attacks in Garissa, young men and women were celebrating in the

Additionally, reprisal violence could be the spark that sets the tinder
box aflame. "The nominal Christians are often the ones that cause so much
of the problem. Those who really know the Lord, they understand the risk, and
they're willing to bring people to Christ and to risk their lives for

Gospel work continues, but believers are going to have to tread
carefully. Burnett says prayer is the best
defense. "Everyone, as a believer, needs wisdom and protection. We're
always in such danger, whether we know it or not. These men and women and children
who are on the forefront of this violence really need to know the Lord's will
and that Christ will be seen."

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