Two pastors have been killed in the Kenyan port of Mombasa over the weekend.
Pastor Charles Mathole of the Mombasa Kisauni Redeemed Gospel Church (age unknown), was shot dead by unknown attackers at his church on Saturday evening as he prepared his Sunday sermon.
On Sunday, unknown attackers also killed Pastor Ibrahim Kithaka of Kilifi East Africa Pentecostal Church. His body was found in a thicket. Two boys accompanying him are missing. His motorcycle was found a few meters from his body.
The crimes took place as Kenyans marked one month since the Westgate Terror attack. A few days later, radical Sheikh Ibrahim Ismail was killed by unknown persons. Rioters protesting Sheikh Ibrahim’s killing torched the Majengo Salvation Army Church. Tension has remained high after this even as church leaders called on the government to assure their security.
OD Partners in the area said the atmosphere remained tense in the area following the murder of Sheikh Ibrahim and his three companions.
“Church leaders have all received threatening text messages in the past, but they have increased since the sheikh was killed,” said a local pastor we spoke to.
“The text messages from an unknown number say, ‘Be prepared, we are coming for you.’ We reported them to the police, but no arrests have been made.”
“Two weeks ago, there was a very bad and open air debate near where the radical leaders openly incited local youth against Christians. They also abused us very badly. We reported to the OCPD (Officer Commanding Police Division) who promised to disband the meeting, but did not,” reported another leader.
“We also hear [rumours] that [extremists] have targeted five specific churches for destruction. We do not know which churches those are but we have informed the police of this too.”
Mombasa Church Forum Pastors issued a statement on Monday protesting the killing of the two pastors and called on the government to intensify security.
“The Mombasa Church Forum categorically states that no attack on Christians or their church leaders will deter us from our way of worship and our freedom of religion. To the perpetrators of these heinous attacks, we hereby state that we will not be intimidated and will continue to worship our Lord in our churches,” said Bishop Wilfred Lai, Chairman of the Mombasa Church Forum.
Asked how the local churches and their leaders are coping with the situation, one partner said, “We are sad (about the deaths) but we remain strong. God is our refuge. No one can run away from death. I can only rest in the knowledge that God will protect me and my family.”
“The sad bit is that things like these affect church attendance and congregation numbers reduce. But they are also very suspicious of any new person that comes to church, and are not as welcoming as before. It is natural because they are afraid for their lives.”
“Pray with us for God’s protection. Pray also for the pastors’ encouragement as the stress and worry are enough reason to cause missionaries to run away from the area.”
“It is interesting that despite all that is happening, I have no fear! But if there is a time we church leaders and missionaries have to be tested, it is now. It is in this time of constantly wondering if you will be killed next that our calling is really tested. May God give all Christians here more strength and grace! We need it.”