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By Troy Augustine and James Kake

Richard Mwanzia’s family remembers him as a loving father, a devoted follower of Christ, and a brave soldier who fought the single largest persecution threat to the Church in Kenya: al-Shabaab.

“[He was] one caring, loving and resilient person who could give up everything to provide and protect the family. We have grown knowing our dad was the best thing that ever happen[ed] to us,” Mwanzia’s daughter Zipporah declared at her father’s funeral on February 6.

Richard Mwania died the way that those closest to him remembered him: in service to his country, to his family, and to his God. He was killed on January 27 in Lamu County, Kenya when the security vehicle he was riding struck an al-Shabaab improvised explosive device (IED). Five other officers died in the explosion.

Al-Shabaab’s War on Christians

Mwanzia was a security officer stationed in Lamu County because of the ever-present threat of al-Shabaab in the region.

The radical Islamist terror group has self-consciously waged war on Christians in Kenya. Just four days after Mwanzia’s death, gunmen attacked Lamu county, murdering at least four Christians, beheading one of them, according to reports.

The Somalia-based terrorists became notorious in Kenya for attacks on Westgate Mall in September 2013, which killed 67 people, and on Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya where they murdered 148 people. In the latter attack, gunmen separated Christians from Muslims, slaughtering the believers and letting Muslims go free.

In June and July 2014, al-Shabaab took aim on Lamu County and Mpeketoni town, slaughtering dozens in a span of weeks. The region has suffered from constant insecurity ever since, while churches like the one that Mwanzia attended now stations armed Kenya Defense Force (KDF) guards to protect worship services.

The ongoing threat is what brought Mwanzia to Lamu where he was killed in the line of duty.

A Family’s Worst Nightmare

Mwanzia’s death brought his family’s worst fears into reality.

 “We had talked a few days prior to his killing and Richard told me he feared that when he leaves Mpeketoni security station for Mangai patrol he might not come back alive. His brother had dreamt about the death of Richard and we were praying for his safety, together asking him to resign. Richard said that he had to work for the sake of the family and that death is inevitable,” Alice, Richard’s mother, told International Christian Concern’s (ICC) Kenya staffer.

The family came face to face with their worst nightmare when Mwanzia’s brother Mulwa, discovered over the social media about the attack that killed Richard.

Mulwa was hesitant about disclosing the news to the family, until the Officer Commanding Police Division (OCPD) called him and informed him that Richard was among the six officers who had died.

The news spread like wildfire in the village and people started streaming to the family to comfort them.

Facing life without him, Mwanzia’s relatives couldn’t reconcile with the fact that they will never see him again. They became engulfed in grief.

“I was in a state of denial and seeing people gathering in my family was like watching a cinema. I could just see masses of people but I couldn’t recognize any,” Richard’s mother intimated. The loss was a big blow, not only to the family, but also the nation of Kenya.

“I was not able to eat for a week as we prepared for the burial of our brother. We were so close to him because he has always cared for us. He was my great friend,” Mulwa added

Richard’s pastor Ezekiel* told ICC, “The enemy had struck a very bold servant of Christ and a gallant soldier of the Kenyan Rapid Deployment Unit. We have since been praying for the family and meeting every day to plan about the funeral. We have lost a faithful and committed servant of God.”

Mwanzia’s tragedy represents just one of hundreds of Christian families suffering as countless Kenyans are forced to live with the memory of a murdered brother, sister, father, or son at the hands of al-Shabaab.

Saying Goodbye

Reality struck the family hard when the ambulance that carried Mwanzia’s body arrived from Lamu for the funeral.

Alice fainted at the sight, so stricken with grief that the service had to be delayed until she came to. As they remembered their fallen brother, the family’s grief was palpable.

One week after Mwanzia’s funeral, ICC visited his family in Machakos, Kenya in the spirit of Christian love, providing them with a food package to express our condolences and demonstrate unity in the Body of Christ.

While their pain remains still so raw, Mwanzia’s family trusts God through the tragedy. Alice and her family need your prayers

We don’t know, and we might never know, why our father was killed by the ruthless al-Shabaab, but God knows why bad things happen to good people. May His name be praised,” Mwanzia’s daughter Zipporah eulogized.

When asked what message she could tell the militants that killed her son, Alice responded: “May God forgive them, and they should also remember that they cannot live forever.”

ICC urges concerned Christians to pray our fallen brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution in Kenya and to “remember those who are suffering, because you are also in the Body (Hebrews 13:3, ESV).”

For interviews Please Contact Troy Augustine, Regional Manager for Africa: [email protected]

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address, ICC is a Washington DC-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church.  For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.