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Kenyan pastors ask for guns amid violencecomment (0)

November 7, 2013

As attacks on Christians mount in Kenya’s coastal region, some evangelical pastors in the Mombasa area no longer may be willing to turn the other cheek. Worried about attacks against their churches and congregations, some pastors are asking for rifles to protect themselves from suspected Islamic extremists.

The violence intensified when two evangelical pastors were killed inside their churches. Charles Mathole, 41, was killed Oct. 20 as he prayed inside Vikwatani Redeemed Gospel Church. The next day, East African Pentecostal Church pastor Ibrahim Kithaka was found dead about 35 miles north of Mombasa.

Christian leaders blame the attacks on increased radicalization of Muslim youth. The attacks have occurred amid protests by Muslims that they were being targeted in Nairobi’s war against terrorism.

“Our many churches are not under any protection. They do not have walls or gates. The government should issue AK-47 rifles to every church so that we can stop them from being burnt, our property from being looted and our pastors and Christians from being killed,” said Lambert Mbela, a pastor at Vikwatani, during Mathole’s funeral.

Three weeks before the latest murders, Muslim youth torched a Salvation Army church in the Majengo area in Mombasa to protest the killing of the popular Sheikh Ibrahim “Rogo” Omar and three others by unknown gunmen Oct. 4.

Some church officials in Kenya say the request for arms reflects a growing frustration with the rising insecurity, but others say the move contradicts traditional biblical teachings on nonviolence or could put churches and congregations at more risk.

Nik Ripken, the world’s leading expert on the persecuted church in Muslim contexts, questioned the wisdom of Kenyan pastors arming themselves.

Ripken, who served with his family for years in Kenya, said he has “a deep love for Kenyans” and is “standing beside Kenyan believers in this time of challenge.” But he and his family are praying for “the very soul of Kenyan Christianity,” he said, and that involves a bigger question than self protection.

It’s about Jesus’ command to “love your enemies,” which is no longer an abstract word for Kenyan believers, Ripken said. “How does one love their enemies when they blow up your malls, churches, leaving blood on the ground and calluses in your heart?”

He asked for prayer for believers in Kenya as they struggle with the reality of “turning the other cheek.”

“The real issue is a deeper, spiritual response, whether we will love our enemies and lay down our lives that they might live,” Ripken said. “It is our job, as followers of Christ, to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us. It is my prayer that we stand with Kenyans and that we will not play into the hands of those espousing evil.”

Al Qaeda, he said, wants pastors to arm themselves and fight back, something that could incite tribal war.

Years ago, Ripken asked a group of Kenyan pastors if violence broke out in Kenya as it did in Rwanda during the genocide, what would happen?

“The reply from these pastors who were believers from three tribes was, as they looked at each other, ‘Baptists would kill Baptists,’” Ripken said, noting that the response hurt and shocked him. Tempting Kenyans to act on prejudice, he said, “is what Al Qaeda desires as they act as an unwitting tool of Satan.” 

“Are we asking ourselves the right question? One question could be should we arm ourselves with weapons against terrorism? Another question might be should we fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit, sharing the love of Jesus with those who have made themselves our enemies?” 

EDITOR’S NOTE — Name has been changed for security reasons.


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