A leading member of Kenya’s Inter-Religious Council has welcomed as an unprecedented gesture an offer by Muslim leaders to protect Christians following last Sunday attacks.
Mustafa Ali said the recent church attacks were aimed at creating deep rifts between Muslims and Christians in Kenya.
“The Muslim leaderships in the country, particularly in northeastern Kenya, are saying that they are offering Muslims themselves to guard the churches, particularly on Sundays, as Christians go to the churches and pray,” said Ali.
“This is unprecedented in the Christian-Muslim relationship in the country… the relationships are generally very good, other than a few instances where Christians and Muslims have disagreed on [few things], but have not really fought each other, as we are witnessing in places like Nigeria,” he added.
Kenyan police say gunmen attacked two churches in the eastern town of Garissa Sunday killing 17 people and wounding 40. They said the attackers threw grenades and opened fire on worshippers.
The deadliest attack took place at the African Inland Church, where at least 10 people were killed, including two police officers. The second attack took place at a Catholic church. Although there has been no claim of responsibility, police have blamed previous attacks on sympathizers of the Somalia-based Islamic militant group al-Shabab.
Ali said the attacks create tension between Christian and Muslim communities.
“For al-Shabab to kill so many Christians, it creates a very difficult situation for the inter-faith relations between Muslims and Christians. And, Muslims increasingly fear that these kinds of attacks are going to lead to reprisals, the kind that we have seen in Nigeria.”
Prime Minister Raila Odinga condemned the attacks saying they were designed to spark conflict between Muslims and Christians.
Muslim clergymen in Garissa also condemned the attacks and have called for a stronger relationship with their Christian counterparts.
Ali said the Inter-Religious Council supports the gesture by the Muslim leadership to bolster unity and cooperation with Christians following Sunday’s church attacks.
“We support this step taken by the Muslim leadership in Kenya… What al-Shabab wants to do is to create disaffection between Muslims and Christians,” said Ali. “Kenyan Muslims are saying that we should not get into such a stage where Christians are targeting Muslims or Muslims are targeting Christians.”