One of the latest Christian massacres in Kenya is yet another horrifying reminder of the genocide happening in much of Africa. As many as 11 Christians were killed in a bus attack carried out by the Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab in Kenya’s border region with Somalia on December 6.
According to the World Watch Monitor, the massacre took place between the Katulo and Wagardud area in Wajir County. Gunmen divided the 56 passengers into “locals” and “non-locals”; the 11 non-locals were shot.
“The majority of the population in this region is Muslim. The non-locals had come from other parts of the country and they would definitely have been Christians,” Rev. Nicholas Mutua, a Roman Catholic priest in the town of Garissa, told World Watch Monitor.
Al-Shabaab took responsibility for the attack, as it has similar attacks before it. In November 2014, al-Shabaab terrorists singled out and killed 28 passengers, mainly Christian teachers, who could not recite the Islamic creed. In April 2015, in the Garissa University College attack, terrorists divided students into two groups, then singled out and shot Christians, leaving at least 147 dead.
Al-Shabaab, or “the Youth,” is al-Qaeda’s formal affiliate in East Africa. According to the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), “the Somali-based terror group seeks to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in the country that it hopes will ultimately expand to encompass the whole Horn of Africa.”
An Unexpected Persecution
The majority of Kenyans are Christians, with Islam the second-largest religion in the country. Yet when it comes to Christian persecution, Kenya ranks the fortieth-worst nation, according to the Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List. Somalia ranks third-worst country.
William Stark, regional manager of the International Christian Concern (ICC), told Providence attacks tend to be clustered near Kenya’s border with Somalia.
“This is because the radical groups perpetrating the attacks launch their operations out of Somalia and can hide within the Somali-majority populations living within this border region,” he said.
Stark said the Kenyan government is not itself a significant source of persecution for Christians, but that it could do more to provide security for Christians in the border region.
“Persecution of Christians living and working in the Kenya-Somalia border region needs to be given greater awareness,” he said. “Because Kenya is a Christian-majority nation, many people would find it hard to believe that Christian persecution exists there.”
Al-Shabaab has been terrorizing and murdering Christians near the Somalia-Kenya border for years.
In October 2018, al-Shabaab killed two Christian school teachers in an attack in Kenya’s Mandera County, near the Somali border. In July 2016, a church leader was killed returning home from facilitating training on pursuing peace between Christian and Muslims in Garissa and Mandera.
In August 2016, terrorists hacked to death three Kenyan Christians after they refused to recite the Islamic prayer of faith. A fourth Christian—the mentally challenged older brother of one of the three—was also killed, World Watch Monitor reported. In December 2014, al-Shabaab killed 36 Christian quarry workers in Mandera.
A Pressing Issue
The Christian persecution by Islamists in Africa and elsewhere is a human rights, demographic, and security issue.
It is a human rights issue because the ongoing persecution against Christians is causing tremendous suffering and loss of lives in much of the world. According to Open Doors, Christians in Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Mali, Ethiopia, Morocco, and the rest of Africa are brutally targeted by radical Muslims. Both those born Christians and Muslim converts to Christianity are being persecuted across Africa.
Christian persecution is also a demographic and cultural issue. Today Africa is home to more Christians than any other continent in the world. But this will change if the trend of persecution against African Christians continues. The massacres will eventually result in demographic shifts in Africa between Muslims and Christians like those in the Middle East. This will lead to major cultural changes. A Christian-less Middle East and Africa will mean the death of indigenous, advanced, and humanitarian civilizations and their replacement with an extremely violent, hostile, and anti-humanitarian ideology.
Last but not least, Christian persecution is a security issue. Islamism is a violent, supremacist, and expansionist ideology. The more lands jihadists take over, the more they desire to expand. Islamist terror attacks have been wreaking havoc in Africa for more than a decade. Before the recent rise of global jihad, Muslim governments oppressed Christians in North Africa and the Middle East for years. Today, Christians in these regions are targeted by a plethora of perpetrators.
The Continuation of an Old Conflict
Islamist imperialism is a historical reality. Muslim jihadist armies have targeted Europe since the inception of the religion in the seventh century. The Islamic invasion and occupation of the Iberian Peninsula by the Umayyad Caliphate in the eighth century is one noteworthy example. Ottoman jihadist attacks against Europe, including the siege of Vienna and the Ottoman capture of Constantinople (Istanbul) in the fifteenth century, are also significant examples of Islamic imperialism. Remember also the centuries-long Ottoman occupation of Christian nations such as Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Hungary, and Cyprus. During this era, Christians and Jews became “dhimmis” under Muslim rule, the second-class subjects of the Islamic empire that had to buy their lives by paying the high jizya tax.
As scholars Bat Ye’or and Andrew G. Bostom note, “For well over a millennium, across three continents—Asia, Africa, and Europe—non-Muslims have experienced jihad war ideology, and its ugly corollary institution, dhimmitude.”
If not defeated in the lands they mainly operate in today, jihadists will most likely increase their attacks in the West. According to the 2019 Global Terrorism Index of the Geneva Center for Security Policy, “Since 2001, the number of Salafi-jihadist groups has more than doubled, their membership has tripled, and they are present in more countries than ever before.”
Time to Take Action
Jihadist terrorism should be fought and defeated militarily. The ideological motivations behind jihad should also be exposed, and Western nations—particularly intelligence agencies and other governmental institutions—should learn about this existential threat targeting millions of lives worldwide.
To help protect suffering Christians, Western governments, and particularly the US government, should develop a policy of religious freedom that focuses on financially and diplomatically helping the victims of Christian persecution in the Middle East and Africa.
The Hungary Helps initiative devoted to helping Christians in the Middle East and Africa is an effective example. With its comparatively limited resources, Hungary has become a leading nation in extending its hand to suffering Christians.
“We have 245 million reasons to be here. This is how many people are persecuted daily because of their Christian belief,” said Tristan Azbej, Hungary’s state secretary for the aid to persecuted Christians, as he opened the International Conference on Christian Persecution in Budapest on November 26, 2019.
As Dede Laugesen, executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians, recently said in an interview, “The US must acknowledge that what is happening in Africa is genocidal, religious-based violence, enacted against Christians by Sharia supremacist extremist groups.”