Tension remained high in Kenya’s port city of Mombasa following the Oct 4 riots that broke out in protest of the murder of a prominent Muslim cleric the day before. The violent outbreak left four dead, about eight injured and the Majengo Salvation Army Church razed. The events in Mombasa come in the midst of high religious tension in the East African nation following the four-day siege on the Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi.
On Thursday, Oct 3, unknown gunmen sprayed bullets into the vehicle in which Ibrahim “Rogo” Omar and four others were driving home after evening prayers at Musa mosque. The cleric and three of his passengers died. Though the motive for the murder is unknown Omar reportedly had links with al-Shabaab.
Omar was widely believed to have taken over for controversial cleric Aboud Rogo whose death under similar circumstances in August of last year led to several days of violence in Mombasa. The Salvation Army church along with four other churches suffered extensive damage in last year’s violence.
“When they burned the church building last year, we incurred damages of over 1.5 million Kenya Shillings (approximately $17,500 US). This time the damage is worse,” said Major Emmanuel Mutepe, Head of Majengo Salvation Army Church.
Some victims of the Oct 4 riots in Mombasa told local media from their hospital beds that they were singled out on religious grounds. One victim receiving treatment at the hospital, told local media, “I was running away from the chaos when I met a group of the rioters. They demanded to know if I was Muslim or a Christian, but stabbed me as I tried to defend myself.”
Rev. Lawrence Dena, in reaction to the riots and the razing of the church, made a statement on behalf of a joint forum of Mombasa pastors, saying, “The church has noted with concern the continued targeting of its members, and we are putting the government and Muslim leaders to task. We are asking the government and Muslim leaders to explain why Christians are being attacked as witnessed both in the Westgate and Majengo.”
“We wonder what connection the [Muslim Clerics’] killings have with the church or with church facilities so that every time an incident like this happens, churches are torched and vandalized,” said church leaders of the Kenya National Congress of Pentecostal Churches and Ministries in a media release following the destruction of the Majengo Salvation Army Church.
Mombasa Deputy Governor, Ms. Hazel Katana, criticized police for laxness in responding to threats of impending violence. “This particular church, the Majengo Salvation Army, has been attacked before and one would imagine that the police would have taken extra care and run here to guard this area,” she told media.
Father, we pray against the recent violence that has engulfed Kenya in. We pray Your wisdom to take root in the government as they seek more efficient ways of dealing with the violence. We pray for Majengo Salvation Army Church and others in the area, that You would grant godly wisdom and discernment as they seek to respond with grace to this crisis. Protect them from fear and unforgiveness as well as from further attack. May the brightness of Christ’s gospel light the way of salvation for many to follow, that in the land of Kenya a multitude might gather in worship of the one true and living God. In the name of Jesus, our shield and rampart, Amen.