Kenya (MNN) — Muslim rioters took to the streets of Mombasa, Kenya following the death of Sheikh Aboud Rogo. Unknown gunmen sprayed Rogo's van with bullets, immediately killing the controversial Islamic cleric. Jerry Dykstra with Open Doors USA said rioters focused their rage on two targets.
"Muslims in Mombasa put some of the blame on the government," Dykstra explains, "but also they attacked Christian churches and organizations."
Five Mombasa churches were attacked and severely damaged by rioters; a few worshippers were injured in the process. The National Council of Churches in Kenya (NCCK) offices were damaged as well.
"We have completely failed to understand the logic that made…demonstrators associate the heinous murder of Aboud Rogo with the churches," said Rev. Canon Peter Karanja, NCCK's General Secretary.
Dykstra said it's not unusual to see believers becoming the scapegoat.
"Christians are blamed for a lot of things," he stated.
Most attacks against Christians have been linked to al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based terrorist cell of al-Qaeda. Al-Shabaab has been growing at a steady rate along the border of Somalia and Kenya. Dykstra expressed concern about al-Shabaab's expansion.
"They've been increasing in power and influence on that border area."
As al-Shabaab's presence increases, it could become even harder for believers to share the Gospel in Kenya.
Al-Shabaab has expanded its hunt for Christians from Somalia to neighboring Kenya, and Rogo was an alleged al-Shabaab fundraiser and recruiter. Remember the July 1 attacks against believers in Garissa? Dykstra said Rogo supported them because he didn't want Muslims and Christians working together.
"He called that a really good happening, a good thing," noted Dykstra.
Within the last year, Christian aid workers have been killed and kidnapped. Two believers died at a Kenyan revival meeting when terrorists threw a grenade toward the podium. In July, gunmen attacked a Garissa church with grenades and then shot believers as they tried to escape. More than 60 were injured in this attack, and 18 believers died.
"The border area between Kenya and Somalia has become a dangerous place for the followers of Christ, as well as aid workers trying to help those caught in the chaos and poverty," said Carl Moeller, President/CEO of Open Doors. "As we have seen in the past, innocent believers are often targets of the extremists' rage.
"Please pray that the Christians there will stay strong in the faith and that rioting will come to an end."