Political instability in Kenya, triggered by influences from the Muslim minority group al-Shabaab, is causing great concern over the future religious atmosphere in the Eastern Africa country, says Open Doors, a Christian persecution watchdog group. The organization is asking for prayer with less than one month to go before the country's general election.
"We are at a defining moment because these are the first elections under the new constitution with its many new structures and elective and nominative posts," explains the Open Doors coordinator for the region, who – as the case with most of the ministry's international field workers – remains anonymous for security reasons.
Al-Shabaab's success in pressuring the government to allow greater official influence for Islam is troubling, say Open Doors officials. Islamic family courts based on Sharia Law have been implemented in all counties – even in those with a low Muslim presence. It is feared that at least 10 of the counties with higher Muslim representation may push for the implementation of Sharia Law and may even be harboring ambitions to break away from the rest of the country, which is Christian dominated (83 percent).
"It was reported by Open Doors that 22 Christians were killed in incidents last year and over 100 seriously injured or maimed," said Open Doors USA spokesman Jerry Dykstra. "The persecution of believers in the Muslim parts of the country has increased. Please join Open Doors in praying for Kenya as it prepares for elections next month."
More than 1,200 people died in post-election violence in 2007. After the setup of a tribunal was blocked by politicians in Kenya, the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided to prosecute six politicians. Charges against two were dropped, while two of the remaining four are running in the elections – one for president and the other as his running mate. Some reports of violence have already surfaced this year. The election is scheduled for March 4.
Open Doors released the prayer requests below:
The New Constitution: The country voted in a new constitution and it is in the process of being implemented. There continues to be a backlash against Christians who opposed some clauses in the constitution. Pray that the Lord would guide the full implementation process and this harassment of Christians will stop.
The Presidency: Current president Mwai Kibaki has completed two terms and must now hand over leadership to a new elected president. Pray that the handover process will be smooth. Pray that God gives the new president wisdom.
The 42 Tribes: Kenya has a total of 42 recognized tribes that have been polarized against each other. Pray that God would protect Kenyans against political pressures to divide along these tribal lines, but instead rise higher to accept and celebrate one another.
The Challenge of Islam: Islamic influence is growing in the country and with it the levels of persecution towards Christians, especially in Muslim-dominated areas. Pray that the Christians in those areas would gain wisdom and strength to enable them to stand strong in the faith.
Refugees: The government decided to relocate all Somali refugees to the camps in readiness to repatriate them. Pray for Christian refugees. This decision directly affects them. They are worried and afraid for their safety. May the Lord bring solutions to their individual cases.
Open Doors Work in Kenya: Pray for the Open Doors team as it travels to difficult areas in the region to do research, conduct training and give comfort and encouragement to believers.
Open Doors says it will be closely watching the build-up and the outcome of the elections. This year, Kenya made its first appearance as an entire country on Open Doors' World Watch List (WWL). Previously only the north-eastern regions were included on the WWL. However, incidents of violence against Christians and churches and heightened insecurity in various areas in 2012 resulted in the entire country leaping into the No. 40 position on the list. Kenya is now labeled as one of the places where Christians experience moderate persecution.