By Troy Augustine, Sandra Elliot and James Kake
Several quarry workers from central Kenya knew they were choosing dangerous work traveling to Mandera, Kenya, for a lucrative job in a region teeming with Islamist al-Shabaab terrorists. However, they never thought that their identity as Christians would place a target on their backs.
“The loud blasts at the gate sent us into a panic. Fear and confusion engulfed, and we knew an attack had just been launched. We knew we would be the first people to be killed, because our cubicle was the first from the gate,” Christian survivor John Muriuki told International Christian Concern (ICC).
The clatter interrupted an otherwise normal night when Muriuki and his friends were fast asleep after another tiresome day of breaking stones in the Mandera quarries. On July 6, 2015, at 1:00 a.m., al-Shabaab militants attacked them by first blasting through the locked entrance to a dormitory before firing wildly inside the compound, looking to kill Christians.
“We were sharing a small room with Karumba and four other men. The four men managed to climb up in the ceiling before the assailants stepped at our door, which by that time was broken by the loud explosion. Karumba and I tried to dive under the bed, but, unfortunately, he was shot in the head and chest, and laid helplessly on the floor,” Muriuki narrated as sadness covered his face.
The assault resembled a similar attack in the same county in December 2014, when al-Shabaab slaughtered 36 quarry workers in their sleep in Koromey, about seven miles from Mandera.
The terror group has become notorious for consciously attacking Christians, as they claimed after the July attack. On April 2, 2015, they assaulted Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya, separating Muslims from followers of Christ, executing believers and murdering 148 people in total.
Prepared to Die
Muriuki thought his time had come to die in Mandera, far away from home where he went to toil for his family.
“We had no lights that night, but I saw three armed men at the door. Two of them proceeded to the next rooms. I stood and squeezed myself behind the door. The remaining assailant noticed my movement and tried to enter inside the room. He saw me behind the door and shot twice at me. One of the bullets shot at my right hand,” Muriuki told ICC.
“He once again shot at a very close range, and the bullet missed my chest by a whisker, breaking my other hand near the shoulder. He left in hurry because he thought I was already dead,” he added.
The shooting went on for about 30 minutes as people tried to escape or hide. In total, 14 people were killed, including the Muslim landlady who tried to plead with the gunmen to stop killing her tenants.
“After a while, the place went silent. I heard them reciting some Arabic words, ‘Alha mdu lillahi,’ as they left the compound,” Muriuki continued. “The silence went on for about five minutes, and then the police reservists arrived at the compound, followed by the administration police.”
Red Cross Kenya arrived at the scene of the attack with the police, and Muriuki was among the first to be evacuated alive and taken to a Mandera hospital.
Later in the evening, Muriuki and the other survivors were flown to Nairobi for treatment. Muriuki endured four surgeries in an attempt to save his hands, which had become mangled from the gunshot wounds.
Healing, But Never the Same
Muriuki has a wife and four children, yet he now lives with a disability that has left him unable to work. His permanent injuries have forced his wife to seek domestic employment to support the family, but she can barely raise enough money to feed them.
Persecution has changed life for all of them. Though Muriuki survived the al-Shabaab attack, his inability to work leaves the family struggling to thrive and wondering how they will afford to send their children to school.
Trials, But Forgiveness
Despite the ongoing trials, Muriuki has since forgiven the attackers who mangled his hands and murdered his close friends.
“I cannot [take] revenge to al-Shabaab for what they did to us. I have forgiven them, and, if I got an opportunity to speak with them, I would preach to them the good news of salvation, peace and respect for human life because life matters to God,” he said.
Persecution often changes the lives of victims forever, but what man intended for evil, God has accomplished for good. Muriuki stands in a long line of Christians who have suffered deeply for their faith, but the glory of the Gospel shines brightly when victims forgive their enemies as Jesus did His.