A Picture on a Wall
By Nathan Johnson
11/16/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The picture of Vincent Okerosi hangs on the wall as you enter his parents’ house. The whole family remembers him daily, 10 months after his sudden death. Vincent was killed on Friday, December 6, 2019, when a bus he was traveling in was flagged down by the Somali-based Islamic terrorists, Al-Shabaab, in Wajir, northeastern Kenya. The attackers were targeting non-locals, the majority of whom are of the Christian faith. Eleven of them were separated from the other Muslim passengers and shot dead. While speaking with International Christian Concern (ICC), Vincent’s father, Mr. Okerosi Nyakenye, vividly remembers the events leading to the death of his son at the age of 24.
He recalled, “He was a young man that loved serving people. As a trained teacher, he spent most of his life teaching and coaching young children in our community. Since he had not yet been employed by the government, he was teaching in the nearby primary school employed by the board. Apart from his teaching career, he was a Christian youth leader at our church. He supported us with the little money he was making.”
Due to the lack of open positions in Kenya, many teachers choose to travel to the northeastern region of the country to look for teaching jobs. This area is a predominantly Islamic region with the highest illiteracy rate in Kenya. Many of the Christians who have been killed in Garissa, Mandera, and Wajir are non-local teachers from other parts of the country. Vincent, like many other young professionals, was traveling to Mandera to look for greener pastures.
His father continued, “A time came when Vincent was invited by his friend to go to Mandera and do an interview for a teaching job. Since he had been unemployed for a long time, he decided to travel and sit for the interview. Before his journey, we prayed with him, for we knew the threat that he was putting himself in. But we did not know that anything would befall him soon before reaching his destination. They were ambushed on the way and he was among the 11 people that were killed that day at a place called Kotulo.”
His brother, Samuel, recalled the last conversation he had with Vincent: “When they left Nairobi aboard the Mediba bus, he called me and we talked for several minutes about the trip and his expectations. He was to call me the following day from Mandera. That evening, I saw a message on social media that shocked me. It said, ‘A bus belonging to Medina Bus Company, plying between Wajir and Mandera was attacked by a criminal gang at around 1730 hours this evening. The attack happened at Maadathe area, five km to Kotulo. Lives are believed to have been lost.’ I called his phone, but no one picked [up]. I knew the worst had happened.”
Vincent became a statistic of many brothers and sisters who have died in the ruthless hands of al-Shabaab terrorists. The terror group continues to be the highest source of persecution in Kenya. Ten months later, Vincent’s mother remains in deep sorrow for the loss of her son.
She shared, “Our hearts were wounded in a way that only God can mend them. He is slowly healing us, but this will take a long time. Every day, I wake up to his absence in his room and in the living room and my heart sinks deeper into sorrow. He was such a wonderful angel.”
Vincent’s family has been overwhelmed by the support they received from the ICC.
They expressed, “When we least expected, the ICC came all the way to our home, about 400km from Nairobi. They prayed and comforted us, and a few months after they gave us financial assistance.”
Due to groups like al-Shabaab, many Christian families have this same photo on their wall. A photo of a loved one who has given their life for their faith. It’s often all they have left of a brother or sister, son or daughter, father or mother. Earlier this year, two attacks left five Christians dead in Garissa and Mandera. Bus attacks have been commonplace in northeastern Kenya, where assailants separate and kill passengers along religious lines. In 2018, two Christian men were killed in Garissa in a similar manner for refusing to recite the Islamic creed. In 2015, 148 students from Garissa University were killed by gunmen who freed the Muslim students. In the same year, a Muslim teacher, Salah Farah, was shot for defending Christian passengers who were being separated for execution by the al-Qaeda linked militant group, al-Shabaab. In 2014, 28 teachers traveling to Nairobi for the Christmas holiday were killed after being forced to recite the Islamic statement of faith.