Christians in Garissa, Kenya want to go to church every week, but are scare to do so because of the potential of being attacked. On July 1, 2012, the African Inland Church of Garissa was attacked when gunmen tossed grenades into a church service and shot victims as they attempted to flee the explosions. Christians in Garissa are still traumatized by this event and struggle to feel safe in their places of worship. Anxiety has grown so intense that some families have moved out of Garissa. Will there be a church in Garissa at this time next year?
4/15/2013 Kenya (Mission Network News) – It has been just under a year since a shooting incident at the African Inland Church of Garissa church in Kenya left 17 people dead and scores of worshipers injured. Open Doors recently spoke to believers still living in Garissa where all non-Muslim citizens, non-Muslim businesses, Christians, several churches, and security agents were targeted by the Muslim extremists’ terror attack on July 1, 2012.
“I am fine now!” stated Lydia Ndavi when an Open Doors co-worker inquired how she is doing. “I sometimes experience pain that flashes across my leg that was wounded, but otherwise I am okay. I am still holding on to Jesus. However, to be honest, I missed some Sunday church services out of fear. You know, when I hear rumors of a possible attack, I get afraid and stay home that Sunday. I have not gone to church for the last two weeks.”
When asked if she still gets panic attacks at night, Lydia replied, “I’m sleeping well now and not waking up at the slightest sound like before. The only problem is the worry that keeps me from attending church service as much as I would like to.”
Holding on to Jesus, but feeling scared: this seems to summarize the disposition of the Christians who still find themselves in Garissa.
Caleb (not his real name) confirmed how the church in Garissa is struggling to carry on due to continued insecurity. Muslim fundamentalists are still targeting Christian businesses, security agents, churches, and lately individual pastors. He is referring to–among other things–the murder of Abdi Welli in February.
“There has been a mass exodus of non-Muslims and Christians from here in the last few months,” he said.” Most churches now see less than 50% of their congregants coming to services. People have left this area out of fear for their lives and for the safety of their families. Those are valid concerns, and we cannot blame them for making that decision.
“We who are left behind are doing okay. God has managed to calm our hearts, minds, and emotions despite the continuing insecurity. My faith remains strong and I praise God for that, even though it is not easy to live in a place like this–facing constant danger.”
Rev. Kaleli, Senior Pastor of the AIC Garissa church told Open Doors: “My wife, Anna, who was injured in the attack, is fine. She was discharged after 35 days in the hospital and successful surgery. She still suffers from pain, but overall she is doing fine.”
Initially the Kaleli family, Anna specifically, were determined to stay. They felt a departure would indicate defeat. However, since then the couple has come to realize that they needed to give their traumatized children, their wider family, and themselves a break.