Washington, D.C. (August 7, 2012) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that an evangelical church was attacked by Islamic militants in central Kenya last month. The attack came only a week after gunmen hurled grenades at two churches in Garissa, eastern Kenya, killing 15 worshippers. Christians are concerned that Islamic extremism, linked to the Somalia militant group al-Shabab, is on the rise in Kenya.
On July 7, Evangelical Victory Church of Game-Loitiki, a village located 7 kilometers outside of Isiolo, Kenya, was raided by an armed mob that is believed to be sympathizers of the al Qaeda-linked Somali group al-Shabab.
“At three PM, the attackers armed with guns stormed the compound and immediately began pulling down one iron sheet after another,” Pastor Joseph Lokuruku told ICC. “I could not shout for help because the attackers could have gunned me down.”
A day before the incident, church leaders had reportedly warned police about a potential attack on their congregation. “On Friday, we met the District Commissioner of Isiolo to register our fears of a possible attack, but no action was taken,” said Boku Yayu, the church’s associate pastor. “One of our [church] members had heard people threatening the church, saying, ‘we do not want infidels in this area.’”
Following the attack, Pastor Lokuruku immediately reported the incident to the local police station, but the officer on duty was unable to carry out an investigation. Lokuruku estimates the cost of repairing the damaged church at 80,000 Kenya shillings (approximately 950 USD).
The destruction of the church in Game-Loitiki came only one week after al-Shabab militants hurled grenades into the African Inland Church of Garissa and opened fire on congregants, killing 17 people, including 15 worshippers. Grenades were also thrown at the local Catholic church.
Escalating violence targeting Kenyan churches has Christians concerned that Islamic extremism is on the rise in the East African country. “Pastors and Christians are very afraid,” said Imam Hussein, a Christian convert and an Ethiopian refugee who came to Kenya after fleeing persecution in his home town. “I know people, mainly Christian converts [from Islam], who had to leave their homes and their families because of pressures from these terrorists. It’s very dangerous. Although these militants are very few in Kenya, they are very fanatic, like al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Many Muslims are even against them and stand with the Christian community.”
ICC’s Regional Manager, Aidan Clay, said, “In Somalia, al-Shabab adheres to a strict interpretation of Sharia, amputating of the hands of thieves, stoning adulterous women, and brutally murdering, and even beheading, Christians. In fact, there are few places in the world, if any, where Christian persecution is more severe. Now, al-Shabab and its sympathizers are growing bolder, trying to infiltrate their radical Islamic ideology into the predominantly Christian country of Kenya by attacking churches and murdering worshippers. While the Kenyan government has taken steps to prevent terrorism in their country by sending troops into Somalia last October, more must to be done to protect the Christian community. Kenyan authorities must take every action possible to go after al-Shabab in their homeland and prevent militants from crossing the border or else all Kenyan citizens, not only Christians, will continue to be mercilessly slaughtered.”