Kenya's Top Church Leaders Declare After al-Shabaab's Garissa Attack: 'Systematic Profiling, Isolation and Massacre of Christians ... Must Stop'

(Photo: Reuters/Joseph Okanga)A university student reacts during a demonstration condemning the gunmen attack at Garissa University campus in the Kenyan coastal port city of Mombasa April 8, 2015. Kenya needs more help from its U.S. and European allies with intelligence and security measures to help prevent further massacres by Somali militants, Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed told Reuters. Last week's killing of 148 people at a university has piled pressure on President Uhuru Kenyatta to stop frequent gun and grenade assaults staged on Kenyan soil by the al Shabaab group, which is aligned to al Qaeda.
(Photo: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)Samuel Kimata (C) flanked by his mother Regina Nyambura and father Raphael Githakwa mourn as they carry the coffin containing the body of Angela Nyokabi, a student killed during an attack by gunmen at Garissa University, in Wanugu village, Gatundu near Kenya's capital Nairobi April 10, 2015. Days after Islamists killed 148 people at Garissa university, Kenya's president held out an olive branch to Muslims and urged them to join Nairobi in the struggle against militant Islam by informing on sympathizers.
(Photo: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)A Catholic nun lights a candle on top of the coffin containing the body of Angela Nyokabi, a student killed during an attack by gunmen at Garissa University, at Matunguru Parish in Gatindu, near the capital Nairobi April 10, 2015. Kenya needs more help from its U.S. and European allies with intelligence and security measures to help prevent further massacres by Somali militants, Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed told Reuters. Last week's killing of 148 people at a university has piled pressure on President Uhuru Kenyatta to stop frequent gun and grenade assaults staged on Kenyan soil by the al Shabaab group, which is aligned to al Qaeda.
(Photo: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)Mourners bury the coffin containing the body of Angela Nyokabi, a student killed during an attack by gunmen at Garissa University, in Wanugu village, Gatundu near Kenya's capital Nairobi April 10, 2015. Days after Islamists killed 148 people at Garissa university, Kenya's president held out an olive branch to Muslims and urged them to join Nairobi in the struggle against militant Islam by informing on sympathizers.
(Photo: Reuters/Stringer)The sons of Corporal Benard Kipkemoi Tonui, a Kenya Police from the elite Recce Company squad who was killed as he battled gunmen that attacked Garissa University, carry his picture during his funeral in the village of Cheleget in Bomet, April 11, 2015. Kenya has given the United Nations three months to remove a camp housing more than half a million Somali refugees, as part of a get-tough response to the killing of 148 people by Somali gunmen at a Kenyan university.
of

NAIROBI – Leaders of major Christian denominations and a church coalition in Kenya last week closed ranks in a show of unity, warning that they will no longer remain silent as members of their flock are being killed in a religious war.

John Cardinal Njue of the Catholic Church; Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of the Anglican Church; the Rev. Joseph Nthombura of the Methodist Church; the Rev. David Gathanju of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa; and the Rev. Rosemary Mbogo of the National Council of Churches of Kenya held a press conference where they issued a joint statement.

"Dear Christians, fellow Kenyans and people of goodwill, we the shepherds of the flock of Christ are pained to admit that this was another case of Kenyans targeted because of their religion," the statement said in response to the April 2 fatal attack by al-Shabaab on Christian students that left nearly 150 dead. "We regret to note that most of those killed were young Christians in a prayer session. The systematic profiling, isolation and massacre of Christians in different parts of Kenya must stop. While urging our Christians to be peace makers, we will not remain silent as they continue to be massacred."

The leaders of the four mainstream churches, after visiting the Chiromo Funeral Parlour in Nairobi where bodies of the slain students were being kept awaiting identification, further castigated the government for what they said was a lackluster response to the attack.

Al-Shabaab militants raided Garissa University College, located near the Kenya-Somalia border, in early April, initially taking students hostage. The radical Islamic jihadist group then started taunting the students for their Christian faith before killing them. At the end, some 148 people died, including students and security officers.

A senior Anglican cleric in Garissa, who asked not to be identified due to security reasons, said in an interview with CP on Thursday that it was a dilemma whether al-Shabaab is waging a political or religious war. He said the fact that al-Shabaab openly indicated its motive to be political cannot be ignored. "They maintain that if Kenya did not invade Somalia we would not have attacked and it's consistent with their request to president Uhuru Kenyatta. My position is this: they have used religious difference to achieve this goal. To win local support, they cashed in on the government excesses in dealing with terrorism as anti-Islam. They wanted to prove that they are anti- Christian in their act of killing Christians and letting Muslims go. One guard a Muslim who tried to challenge them at the gate was also shot dead."

The pastor also said: "In their political war they have taken with zeal the persecution of Christians to show that they were the true defenders of Islam against a Christian government oppressing Somali Muslims. Christians who died no doubt have died for their faith and because they belonged to Christ. They had no connection with the political acts of our government."

President Kenyatta on Thursday sent signed personal letters to the bereaved family members of the dead Garissa students, even as University Academic Staff Union officials claimed that the death toll is much higher. Through Secretary-General Muga K'olale, the dons claimed that about 160 students were still unaccounted for, sentiments also shared by the secretary general of the Moi University Students Organization, Mr. Titus Safari. Garissa University College was an affiliate college to Moi University.

Apart from the hazy casualty count, the Kenyan government has also come under severe criticism by the public and the media for what has been described as sluggish response. Although the attackers staged the raid early dawn, it was 9 hours later that the government sent in a detachment of special forces that finished the siege in under half an hour after killing and arresting some of the hostage takers.

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed was interviewed on CNN earlier last week where she defended the government response as "satisfactory."

However in a meeting with editors, the president's spokesperson, Mr. Manoah Esipisu, admitted that there could have been lapses.

"Did we do something wrong in Garissa? Yes, of course. It is always a learning curve. The only person with all cards is a terrorist. He knows where and when, what time. You react. In reacting, there are always time lapses. You have to react and plan," Esipisu was quoted to have said.

(Photo: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)Volunteers arrange pictures of students killed during an attack by gunmen at Garissa University, at the Chiromo Mortuary in the capital Nairobi April 9, 2015. Political pressure mounted on Kenya's president on Wednesday with scathing editorials and growing anger at a seven hour delay in the deployment of a special forces unit that eventually ended the bloody siege at Garissa University last week.
(Photo: Reuters/Noor Khamis)People look a board displaying the pictures of some of the students who were killed by gunmen at Garissa University College, as Kenyans continue to pay their respects at the "Freedom Corner" in Kenya's capital Nairobi April 9, 2015.
(Photo: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)Schoolmates mourn during the burial of Angela Nyokabi, a student killed during an attack by gunmen at Garissa University in Wanugu village, Gatundu near Kenya's capital, Nairobi, April 10, 2015. Days after Islamists killed 148 people at Garissa University, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta extended an olive branch to Muslims urging them to join Nairobi in the struggle against militant Islam by informing on sympathizers.
of