Tense Calm Returns To Nairobi After Court Releases US And Kenyan Missionaries
12 November 2006
NAIROBI, KENYA (BosNewsLife)– As churches around the world prayed for the estimated 200 million persecuted Christians worldwide Sunday, November 12, a tense calm returned to the streets of Nairobi after four Christian missionaries, including two Americans, were acquitted on charges of distributing anti-Muslim literature in a slum of the capital.
US citizens Andrew Saucier, from Philadelphia and Paul Garcia, from Illinois , were charged along with Kenyans Michael Otanga and Patrick Ngei. The four were accused of handing out a pamphlet that questioned the legitimacy of Islam and using words that allegedly would injure the feelings of Muslims. They had faced faced three-year jail terms and fines if convicted
However Principal Magistrate Hellen Wasilwa said the prosecution did not provide enough evidence. “The missionaries came to preach and teach children the word of God. Out of the 4,000 pamphlets distributed, only 300 were claimed to be offending,” she said.
The pamphlets reportedly included the text “Prophet Mohammed is not a true prophet” and “Allah had no son.” Wasilwa said she was unconvinced that the distribution of the leaflets amounted to “incitement”, adding that Kenya enshrines freedom of speech and religion in its constitution.
” Kenya is a democratic country which guarantees freedom of worship and displaying of the pamphlets, in my view, does not amount to incitement to violence,” said Wasilwa following this week’s hearing in published remarks.
The four missionaries were arrested last month after the leaflets prompted infuriated Muslims to demonstrate October 17 outside the Calvary Baptist Church where the four work in Ngong, about 32 kilometers (20 miles) outside Nairobi.
Dozens of riot police stood guard around the Kenyan court house this week to avoid a repeat of the violence.
Muslims comprise about a third of Kenya ‘s 33 million people. The Muslim minority has been very vocal this year with demonstrations that also included rallies in February against the publication in Western media of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. More recently Muslims also demonstrated against alleged police harassment.
It was unclear whether the missionaries would be involved in Christian activities Sunday, November 12, when especially evangelicals around the world were expected to participate in the International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church .
Many African churches were expected to participate in the IDOP at a time when Christianity is spreading faster in Africa than any other continent, which has added to frustration among Muslim militants, church watchers claim.