Kenya (MNN) — Amid obvious increased security, Kenya’s Garissa University has re-opened nine months after Somali militants al-Shabaab attacked the school.
Classes officially began today with some 145 privately-sponsored students registered for classes. Nine of the new students are from outside Northeastern region.
Open Doors USA president and CEO David Curry says while it’s great news, the reality is, “they’re going to try a ‘new start,’ where they’re hopefully going to be protecting the students in a new way.
“Their challenge is that it still remains a very dangerous situation.”
Garissa University was closed after a terror attack on April 2 last year. It was considered the deadliest in Kenya since the bombing in 1998 by Al Qaeda. “They separated the students out, Muslims and Christians, and then executed 148 Christian students.” Curry says.
The gunmen targeted an early morning prayer meeting. Of 29 students there, just seven survived. A student who escaped the attack said he could hear the militants opening doors, asking students if they were Muslim or Christian and immediately shooting those who replied that they were Christian.
Although four gunmen were killed in the rescue effort, trial began last week for five men accused of 162 counts of terrorism including conspiracy.
#GarissaMassacre: not an isolated incident
Attacks on Christians have continued near the Somalia-Kenya border since Kenya began air strikes and deployed troops to deter al-Shabaab militants, an extremist Muslim group. The name “al-Shabaab” means “The Youth” in Arabic.
The group rules according to a strict interpretation of Islamic laws, similar to those imposed in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. This form of Islam is so extreme that even Sufi Muslims have been driven underground. It also creates an extremely hostile area for anyone else, adds Curry. “We worry about churches there. We worry about pastors there. There’s been a lot of attacks on churches. But, we’re happy to see the university is re-opening. We just know that there needs to be strong security for the students there.”
Plus,”There are 13 churches there in Garissa, and we can tell you they’re under a lot of pressure every day, but it is good news that they’re not giving up”, he says.
Standing with Kenyan Christians
Open Doors continues to support these brave Christians in northeastern Kenya, too. “This group, in particular, so close to Somalia, so under attack from al-Shabaab, these Christians there need a lot of prayer and support. They need training. They need resources.” Open Doors is responding with Bible distributions, theological leadership training courses, discipleship training, family ministry seminars, cross-cultural seminars and socio-economic projects.
You can make a difference to church leaders like these. Globally, over 100 million Christians are being persecuted for their faith. With 125 million U.S. Christians claiming to regularly attend church, Open Doors asks, “What would the world look like if each of these Americans stood with those who were persecuted?”
The knowledge that they haven’t been forgotten goes a long way for Kenyan Christians. Even nine months after the attacks in Garissa, there’s still a need for both the physical and psychological healing of survivors. Curry says, “I was talking with the pastor who leads the pastoral fraternity there in Garissa. He said, ‘Just be in prayer for us. We want to keep striving. We want to stand strong for Jesus.’” Prayer is one of the simplest ways to love, one of the greatest gifts, and equally, one the most necessary actions in God’s economy.