For the last sixty years, the Salvation Army Church and her Muslim neighbors have enjoyed a peaceful co-existence with deep friendships and mutual trust developing between the faith communities. This trust, however, is being threatened as protests, violence and misguided attacks against Christians have been perpetrated by radical Muslims in revenge for the drive-by shooting death of Muslim cleric Ibrahim “Rogo” Omar as he left the Musa a Muslim place of worship More on October 3. Omar has been linked to al-Shabaab, the terrorist group responsible for September’s four-day siege on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. The October assault on the church came just over a year after the church suffered a similar attack.
Open Doors recently visited church leader, Salvation Army Major Nzioka, to offer fellowship and encouragement. As they gathered in the burned church, evidence of the attack surrounded them; fire-scorched walls, broken windows and charred scraps of furniture.
“My family and I were asleep,” Nzioka recalled, “but were disturbed at about 1 am by loud wailing and calls of ‘Allah Akubar!’ I immediately sensed danger. I woke my family and told them we must leave immediately.”
A Muslim neighbor stepped outside to offer assistance and quickly usher the family into her home. “She told us she had been trying to get my phone number to warn me because it was ‘going to be bad’ and we would be in grave danger,” he continued. “She gave us some refreshments as I tried getting police help … but they did not respond until the next day. By this time, the mob had vented their anger at the church. May the Lord God bless that kind lady for risking her own safety to give my family refuge.”
While lamenting this new wave of religious-inspired violence, Nzioka reflected that, “This church has been here since 1948, and we have not had problems with neighbors of Muslim faith. We have respected each other’s faith, families and property. They are the ones that saved our lives that night.”
During the visit with Open Doors, a Musa Mosque’s leader called on Major Nzioka. He apologized for and condemned the attack, emphasizing that the perpetrators were not from their neighborhood. “These are our good friends,” he said. “The church has done many good things in the community, and we will not allow misguided people to damage that friendship. A house of prayer is a sacred place!”
The Mombasa Salvation Army congregation, situated directly opposite the Mombasa Muslim Association Office and barely 200 meters from the Masjid Musa a Muslim place of worship More, has resolved to continue church services as usual despite the millions of Kenyan dollars’ worth of damage and the loss of their brand new audio equipment.
“These attacks, instead of discouraging or pushing Christians away from church,” exclaimed Major Nzioka, “are making us more prayerful and causing us to review our individual commitments to the Lord! Indeed as the Lord said, ALL things, good or bad, do work together for the good of His people.”
Major Nzioka shared a scripture close to his heart, Psalm 116:1-6. “I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome with trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: ‘O Lord, save me!’ The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.”
It’s been four months since the assault and the church continues to respond with care and commitment toward their Muslim neighbors, a testimony to their Christian faith and love.
“As a congregation, we did not curse them. No,” he said, “we pray for them, and continue praying that the Lord delivers them from the hatred that has saturated their hearts and blinded their minds; we pray that God delivers them from the path of destruction they are on.” Nzioka adds, “We are resolved to continue doing the Lord’s work in this area,” he said. “We will not give up!”
As you lift the Salvation Army Church before the throne of grace, consider writing them a letter of encouragement, letting them know you are praying for them in their commitment to continue showing love, forgiveness and resilience in the midst of these challenges. Please send your prayers to: [email protected].
Thank You, Father, for the testimony of the Salvation Army Church as they live out Your forgiveness and love in the midst of their tragic circumstances. Continue, Lord, to grant resilience and longsuffering, looking to You for the strength to continue serving You each day. Thank You for the love and concern they have received from their Muslim neighbors; we pray that You will bring many out of the darkness of Islam into a saving knowledge of Christ’s love. In the name of Jesus who has already won the victory, taking even the evil intent of men and turning it into good for Your church. Amen.