On Tuesday 25 October, twelve Christians were killed in the town of Mandera, in north-east Kenya, when al-Shabaab militants attacked a guesthouse with guns and grenades. Our contact told Barnabas Fund, “We the Christian community in the region are living in fear of attack. The security forces appear to be unable to protect us from these targeted attacks, two in a month.” Earlier in October al-Shabaab murdered six Christians in Mandera in an attack on a residential compound.
Al-Shabaab, which rose to prominence in 2006 in Somalia, is fighting to establish a fully Islamic state in Somalia and neighbouring regions with significant ethnic Somali populations, such as north-east Kenya. The group refuse to recognise the authority of Somalia’s transitional government, which was established in the country in 2004 after years of ethnic violence. Since 2011, Kenyan African Union troops have been deployed in Somalia with the aim of supporting the government’s administration and reducing the threat posed by al-Shabaab. In response, the group has engaged in terror attacks in Kenya, including the infamous assault on Garissa University in April 2015, in which they singled out believers for execution and killed 148 people.
Kenya remains a majority Christian country, with Muslims comprising around 20% of the population. However, sympathy for Islamic extremism is on the rise. In an interview with Barnabas Fund in February, a Kenyan church leader explained, “Relationships between Christians and Muslims had not been that bad [until the rise in militant Islam], but … Many who had peaceful relations with others are now being considered as not true Muslims. So, wanting to be stronger Muslims, many have been building hostility towards the other, non-Islamic, communities.” The situation has been further exacerbated by the Kenyan government’s attempts to root out support for al-Shabaab, which have on occasions indiscriminately targeted Muslim ethnic-Somalis.
Islamic State has encouraged attacks by Islamists in East Africa. The most recent issue of the group’s Rumiyah magazine included an article championing previous attacks by Islamists in Kenya, as well as a statement of support for al-Shabaab: “may Allah hasten the conquest of Kenya for the Soldiers of the Khilafah [Caliphate] in Somalia.”
Our contact in north-east Kenya concludes, “The fear among Christians here is now visible and can be easily felt. Please pray for us!”
Here is one example of someone fearing for his life…
Our brother in Kenya fears for his life
Pastor ‘Jeremiah’ has put his life on the line to serve the Somali church in Kenya. He’s long faced threats – but now his life is in real danger.
Please pray that God will protect Jeremiah, a courageous brother in Christ who leads one of the Somali cell churches that our Kenyan partner supports.
Pastor Jeremiah reports that Islamist extremists have made new attempts to kill him and his family – and have increased the bounty on his head.
One of the groups targeting him is Al-Shabaab, a Somali-based group responsible for much of the recent violence against Christians on Kenyan soil. In the past, Jeremiah has shared testimonies about his faith on the radio and internet.
In recent years, his family have had to move house regularly, to avoid detection. With each move, they lose friendships, ministry contacts and rental deposits. Their current accommodation is ‘less than ideal’.
Pastor Jeremiah says he finds it hard to rest and is greatly concerned for his family.
- Please lift Jeremiah and his family to God and ask Him to bless and protect them, so they find refuge and rest in Him (Psalm 91:4).
- Pray for wisdom and discernment for Jeremiah: he wants to serve God and does not want to spend the rest of his life on the run.
- Ask God to meet the family’s financial needs: his older daughter is in secondary school and the family are struggling to pay her fees.
- Pray that God will strengthen the faith of people in the fellowship Jeremiah leads – and of Somali Christians in Kenya more generally. Pray that they will put their trust in God and receive His peace, amid mounting persecution.