One Year After Garissa, Suffering Kenyan Christians Can Teach Us All A Lesson of Faith
By Troy Augustine and James Kake
Anastaciah Mikwa calls the last 365 days the worst year of her life. Today, she remains unable to walk, struggling to take even a single step.
Anastaciah is one of scores of Kenyan college students permanently scarred from the brutal April 2015 al-Shabaab attack of Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya. During the assault, militant Islamist gunmen stormed the campus, murdering 148 people, mostly Christians, as they moved door to door to separate Christians from Muslims and slaughter believers.
Today, despite the pain and physical trials, Anastaciah thanks God to be alive. She is the only survivor from her dorm room, while three of her roommates were killed, sustaining gunshot wounds to their heads.
“It’s by the grace of God that they missed my head, but they shot me below my waist several times until they made sure I was dead,” Anastaciah told International Christian Concern’s (ICC) Kenya staffer.
Anastaciah was flown to Nairobi for treatment, along with multitudes of other wounded students.
“I gained my consciousness in the hospital and I am thankful to God for sparing my life. A…big thank you to the doctors who were dedicated in treating me to be what I am today. I have undergone 28 surgeries. It’s by God’s mercy towards me to be alive today,” Anastaciah told ICC.
Yet, for Anastaciah, the road ahead is long, and it’s even longer for those who lost loved ones.
Persecution’s Ongoing Effects
One of the toughest aspects of persecution is healing from the trauma afterwards. Sometimes the emotional and spiritual pain
hurts worse and lingers longer than physical scars.
Anastaciah and dozens of other Christian students who survived the Garissa attack never desire to go back, instead opting to transfer to other Kenyan colleges, such as Moi University in central Kenya.
Leonard Rotich is one of those transfers. He says the attack’s effects remain ongoing one year later.
“I lost my closest friends in that attack and I never want to go back to Garissa University again,” he told ICC. “Many of those that died were the first in their family to go to university, only to return home in caskets. Most families are still traumatized,” he added.
Persecution hurts so many beyond the number of those who survive attacks like Garissa. Brothers, sisters, friends, parents, and pastors all scratch to find hope despite their own pain. They still battle the trauma that comes with worrying that day about their child’s safety, expecting the dreaded phone call that their son or daughter numbered among the 148.
“When we heard that Garissa University was attacked we were deeply saddened and we were waiting for any news about our daughter,” Anastaciah’s father Peter told ICC. “We received a phone call the same day in the evening from the Defense Forces Memorial Hospital in Nairobi and informed us that Anastaciah was already in the Intensive Care Unit. This relieved our hearts and we continued to pray for her. We knew she was in a critical condition and anything can happen. We got depressed,” he remembered.
Such devastating trials test the resolve of Christian faith for those of us who claim the promise that God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Lessons from the Persecuted
One year later, Anastaciah’s family presses on grasping to this hope. They held a thanksgiving ceremony on the anniversary of the attack to pray and fellowship with church family.
God’s Word says that He ordains trials, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7, ESV).”
The persecuted Church in Kenya teaches us what persevering faith looks like in the midst of hard trials. This is the clarion call for pastors ministering in Garissa to their flocks.
“God is always just and we should learn to appreciate his will, depend on him for strength, and thank Him for the gift of life because there is nothing that can compensate the lost lives of the students,” Pastor Daniel*, a Garissa-based church leader told ICC.
Pastor Daniel ministers to Christian students who are left coping with the memories of April 2. He also faithfully preaches the Gospel to the Muslim majority in Garissa, despite threats and opposition.
These examples show God’s power in sustaining His Church. If Jesus Himself represents the One most persecuted, he told his followers to expect nothing less.
“This one year has being my worst ever, my family has struggled to take care of me, and my friends have been on my side to strengthen me. Every time I hear a bang or blast I get shocked and sometimes fall down,” Anastaciah told ICC.
However, as Jesus, her sympathetic High Priest walks alongside his chosen daughter, He promises comfort for the journey ahead.
“I know with time I shall overcome this. My legs are getting better every day and now I can stand without the help of my crutches,” Anastaciah rejoiced.
*False name used for security