09 April 2015, The Tablet

Soul-searching and mourning after Garissa massacre

Kenyan cardinal John Njue urged religious tolerance this week, as Christians countrywide flocked to churches to pray for peace and unity, in the wake of the Islamist attack at a university college in Garissa town.

Cardinal Njue said it was time for Christians to pray for those facing persecution because of their faith, after the Islamists killed in cold blood 148 people, mainly Christian students, sparing Muslims.

“I request all of us to bear with one another, irrespective of their religion,” Cardinal Njue said during the Easter Sunday service at the Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi.

The cardinal said corruption was fuelling terror attacks as officials looking for quick money took bribes and failed to take responsibility in their places of work.

“The fights against terrorism should begin with getting rid of corruption,” said Njue. Flags flew at half-mast in Kenya in observance of a three-day mourning period announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta. He promised that the terrorists would pay for the deaths of the students.

“We will not allow them (Al-Shabaab) to continue their lives as normal,” Kenyatta said in a national address.

In one of the most shocking and deadly attacks in Kenya’s history, the gunmen took the college’s 800 students hostage for 15 hours, before the security forces rescued more than 600 of them. The forces killed four attackers and arrested five others.

The Somalia-based militant group took responsibility for the attack. It has been implementing a radical form of Sharia in Somalia, but targeted Kenya, after the Kenya Defence Force launched attacks there in 2011. Analysts say the group has also established a strong network in Kenya where it continues to radicalise and recruit youth.

In Mombasa, Archbishop Martin Kivuva urged more public cooperation with the security forces, saying Al-Shabaab lived among the people. “They recruit from us. They are our children, brothers and friends,” Kivuva was quoted by the Daily Nation newspaper as saying.

The latest attack bore similarities to the Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi in September 2013, in which 63 innocent people were killed, including children. During the massacre Christians were slaughtered and Muslims freed.

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