Garrisa Massacre Survivor Pleads for Prayer for Suffering Students
By Fredrick Nzwili and World Watch Monitor
The chairman of Garissa University College’s Christian Union, who survived the April 2 al-Shabaab attack in which 148 students were killed, has pleaded for prayer for the physical and psychological healing of survivors.
“Please pray for us. Many saw sights too horrible to describe,” said 21-year-old Frederick Gitonga.
“Pray for me too. I need peace of mind, strength and wisdom. I am struggling with dreams that cause me to snap awake, and then I cannot get back to sleep. I find myself remembering the horror of that day. The sounds and smells come back clearly.”
Gitonga explained how he had been up late the night before the attack, praying for one of the students under his care, that he would be able to truly forgive a person who wronged him. The next morning, that student was dead, along with the other 21 Christian Union (CU) members who had attended early morning prayers.
Gitonga said the only reason he is still alive is because he had felt too tired after his late night to join in with prayers that morning. Instead, he decided to go back to sleep, only to wake to the sound of gunshots.
“My roommates ran out, leaving the door wide open,” he explained. “I felt a strong urge not to run, but to stay put. As I hid under the bed, I could hear the gunshots and screams of fellow students. I could hear them lying to women that they should come out since their religion does not allow them to kill women. When they did, they were all killed. I know of no single Muslim who lost his/her life. After some time things went quiet, but I did not move.”
The next thing Gitonga remembers is hearing two attackers enter the room.
“They sat on the beds, changed their rifle magazines and then shot at the walls to test them before going out to resume the killings. I stayed there for a long time – I do not know how long – but was eventually rescued by a Kenya Defense Force officer.
“I praise God that some survived, many in truly miraculous ways. However, we are deeply traumatized, broken and in need of much prayer. At the same time we are trying to help fellow students who seek comfort and support from us. I have not been to my home area since the incident because I felt I could not rest until my friends are laid to rest.
“This weekend I and two others students from the Fellowship of Christian University will travel to Bungoma, western Kenya, to lay our friends Edward, Evans, Emily and Tobias to rest. Then I will attend Sammy and Philomena’s burials in Kitui, before I finally go home to rest. It is much, but these were not just fellow students and fellow CU officials, they were also my close friends and prayer partners. I have to say goodbye.”
Al-Shabaab’s attacks inside Kenya have heightened since 2011, when the country sent its forces to war-torn Somalia to pursue the group. The militants responded by targeting churches, public transport and government buildings, such as police stations.
But as al-Shabaab escalates attacks on churches and Christians, church leaders have been growing more edgy, demanding more government action on security.
Kenya jumped from No. 43 to No. 19 on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of countries where persecution of Christians is the greatest. This increase was the most of any of the 50 countries.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575.