In Kenya, 'terrorists live among us'

"It is extremely depressing that many young Kenyans have been radicalized and incited to commit acts of terror against their fellow citizens."

By Antonia von Alten

NEW YORK—In the wake the massacre of 148 Christians at the university in in the Kenyan city of Garissa, Cardinal John Njue, the Roman Catholic archbishop of the capital Nairobi, has called on all citizens for a spirit of unity.

That was the heart of the declaration he delivered April 8 at Nairobi’s Chiromo mortuary were the bodies of the victims had been collected. In his statement—a copy of which was obtained by international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)—the cardinal said it is "extremely depressing that many young Kenyans have been radicalized and incited to commit acts of terror against their fellow citizens."

Cardinal John Njue at Nairobi's Chiromo mortuary

He spoke in reference to referred to media reports that five Kenyans were among the suspects arrested after the attack. They are said to have supplied the attackers with weapons. One of the four terrorists killed by the police has reportedly been identified as the son of a district chief in the north-east of Kenya. "It is regrettable that some terrorists live among us and that we do not report them to the competent authorities,” the prelate said.

The cardinal proclaimed: "Religious leaders should stop stirring up hatred towards people who do not belong to their religion and faith, and they should recognize instead that everyone believes in a higher being.”

Cardinal Njue, standing by remains of the victims, called on the Kenyan government and security forces to urgently develop emergency strategies for schools and universities: "We must ask ourselves: How well prepared are we to deal with acts of terror?" 

Bishop Joseph Alessandro, OFM Cap, coadjutor of the Diocese of Garissa, spoke of the great fear of local Christians and described the situation as “very tense.” However, he also told ACN that there are good relations between local Catholic priests and Muslim clerics. "On Holy Saturday the Chair of the Central Council of Muslims in Kenya came to us in a gesture of solidarity,” the bishop said. Nation-wide there are number of joint Christian-Muslim initiatives

Kenya’s population of 45 million is 85 percent Christian, with just 10 percent being Muslim. However, the eastern part of Kenya—which borders with Somalia and where Garissa is located is virtually entirely Muslim. The region has proven to be a fertile recruiting ground for Somalia’s Islamist al-Shabaab militia, which has masterminded a number of terror attacks targeting Christians in Kenya.

Last year, Aid to the Church in Need spent $1.1M in support of the work of the Catholic Church in Kenya, which is comprised of total of 20 dioceses. This financial aid went towards church construction projects, Mass stipends and other subsistence aid for priests and religious, as well as the training of pastoral workers and the acquisition of vehicles to facilitate pastoral work.

Photo courtesy of Waumni Communications-KCCB; Cardinal Njue at Nairobi’s Chiromo mortuary

 

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