NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s Christian leaders expressed concern that attacks from an Islamist extremist group were targeting Christians, but also warned “all Kenyans to avoid statements that further incite and divide the country along religious lines.”
In a Dec. 10 statement, they also said the government must institute a more efficient and effective response to terrorist attacks if it hopes to restore public confidence in its security system and security agents, which is at an all-time low.
They called for a “deliberate, well-thought-out overhaul of the entire security apparatus in the country as opposed to piecemeal, cosmetic and reactionary changes.”
The statement was issued just eight days after Somali militants killed 36 non-Muslim quarry workers near the border with Somalia. The Christian leaders noted that 20 attacks this year resulted in the deaths of more than 200 Kenyans.
Earlier this year, Kenyan security officers invaded some mosques in the coastal city of Mombasa, where they flushed out some youth said to have been trained for terrorism attacks. Security officers were also reported to have unearthed some devices used in the training business.
In their statement, the church leaders alluded to this, while cautioning, “Some places of worship, whether Christian, Muslim or any other faith, must not be used to shield criminal activities.”
“We want to see a deliberate and concerted effort by our Muslim brothers and sisters toward preaching and promoting religious tolerance and stemming radicalization of the youth. They must move beyond merely condemning the spate of attacks targeting non-Muslims to initiating practical steps to the sympathizers of terror and helping us to build bridges between faiths and communities,” said the church leaders.
Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi, president of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, signed the statement, as did leaders of the Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and African Inland churches and the head of the National Council of Churches of Kenya.
While acknowledging the various challenges currently facing the country’s security organs, the church leaders said they found unacceptable the poor coordination among the national security intelligence service, the Kenya Police Service and others.
“A police force bogged down with bureaucratic and weak command structures and an intelligence service that has lost touch with the realities on the ground can never be trusted to secure Kenyans,” they said.
They also cautioned against the politicization of national security matters.
“It would be dangerous to politicize issues of national security. It is therefore sad that a number of politicians have been trying to reap political mileage from the death of innocent Kenyans,” they said.