Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
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By Troy Augustine and James Kake

Two years following deadly mass terror attacks in coastal Kenya, Christians still live in fear.

“Grief and sadness cover our faces and hearts whenever we remember Mpeketoni attack that happened two years ago,” an Mpeketoni-area pastor told ICC’s Kenya staffer. “I have 3 families in the church that were affected and it has not been easy for them. They are yet to recover from trauma but we have been praying with them,” he added.

In June and July 2014, radical Islamist terrorists from the al Shabaab militant group targeted Christians in Lamu County, Hindi and Mpeketoni town, murdering scores.

Three assaults between June 15 and July 5 killed more than 70 people where gunmen targeted police stations, churches and market centers in populated Christian-majority villages.

Al Shabaab has developed a notorious reputation for targeting Christians. They have regularly ravaged eastern Kenya from Mandera in the far northeast, to Garissa, to Lamu County, consistently seeking to murder believers.

On April 2, 2015, they famously assaulted Garissa University, murdering 148 people, separating Christians from Muslims and executing followers of Christ while letting Muslims go free.

Remembering a Massacre

During the Lamu/Mpeketoni massacres, the first attack occurred around eight p.m. in Mpeketoni. At least 50 gunmen assaulted establishments and burned vehicles in the town that contains at least 10 churches. Fifty-three people died during the chaos.

Dyna Salim and Mahadi Swaleh was originally charged with the murder of 60 people in Mpeketoni town.

On July 5, gunmen sacked Malamande village in near Hindi town, killing 12 people either by hacking them or shooting them dead. The attackers also set a church, school and 15 houses on fire. Shebe Auni and Joseph Chege had been charged with crimes connected to the assault.

All four suspects have since been released due to lack of evidence in March 2016, an outcome the local Christian community finds preposterous.

“The acquittal is not what we expected,” a Malamande resident told ICC. “Everybody in Hindi and Mpeketoni town is shocked by the ruling and scared about the release of the four murderers,” he added.

Christians in Malamande and Mpeketoni continue to live under an active kidnapping threat and remain traumatized, wondering if al Shabaab will come again to burst through their doors, swift to shed blood.

Security Still Lacking in Mpeketoni Area

Hindi has still not yet received any security reinforcement, even after the Deputy President of Kenya promised to set up a police station in Malamande.

“I am planning to relocate to Malindi for the sake of security, my children’s education and set up another business there,” a villager told ICC. “I do not see hope in Hindi. Fear will kill us before the al Shabaab strike again,” he added.

The fear and insecurity has also exacerbated poverty in the Mpeketoni area.

“It’s a hard task to do manual jobs for buying food, paying for fees and buying clothes,” one resident told ICC. These represent the ongoing effects of a mass persecution event.

Villagers such as Scholastica are still coping with fear and trauma two years later.

“[It was] a brutal and inhuman act that left us wounded and emotionally incapacitated. The attack has brought about fear and poverty because the victims have not yet settled back to their homes,” she told ICC.

John Njoroge, a pastor in Hindi, described the attack as “one of the most devastating temptations to the church and the Christian Body in Hindi.”

“Our church came in to help the victims in small ways, but their needs were overwhelming,” he said. Njoroge also claimed that Malamande residents have spotted the acquitted men regularly and that this perpetuates their fear.

Casting Out Fear in Faith

As a shepherd of Christ’s flock, Pastor Njoroge urges his people to trust the Lord, even when they perceive the ongoing threat to overtake them.

“[Be] prayerful and peaceful because Jesus told us that we shall be persecuted. Early church martyrs went through harder things than us and they remained steadfast. We shall stand,” he proclaimed.

While persecution brings pain, fear and poverty, a pastor’s work calls him to tirelessly point His people to Christ who was most persecuted. An Mpeketoni pastor perseveres in preaching peace.

“We continue to condemn this heinous act and ask people from different religions to embrace each other and preach peace,” he said.

This is where Christians find hope, even through the most difficult of circumstances. Somehow, in God’s mystery he calls Christians to endure such suffering in bringing Him much glory when trusting in Him refines our faith.

These are the lessons even we in the West can learn two years later from the massacres in Mpektoni and Hindi.