CAIRO – Showing no will to turn the other check, Christian pastors in Kenya’s coastal region have been criticized after asking for arms to protect themselves, as extremist attacks continue to threaten interfaith relations in the east African country.
“I don’t think arming Kenyan (clerics) will ensure security,” said the Rev. Peter Karanja, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, at a news conference in Limuru, near Nairobi, on Wednesday, Washington Post reported.
“However, the government should see this as writing on the wall. Kenyans are getting tired of the continuing insecurity,” Karanja said.
Rev. Karanja was commenting on the request of church official for arms to protect themselves.
“Our many churches are not under any protection. They do not have walls or gates,” Lambert Mbela, a pastor at Pastor Charles Mathole’s church, who was killed last October 20, was quoted by Washington Post.
“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.”
The violence intensified on October 20 and 21, when two evangelical church pastors were killed inside their churches.
Pastor Charles Mathole, 41, was killed October 20 inside his Vikwatani Redeemed Gospel Church.
The following day, East African Pentecostal Church pastor Ibrahim Kithaka was found dead in Kilifi, about 35 miles north of Mombasa.
The two attacks followed the death of killing of the popular Sheikh Ibrahim “Rogo” Omar and three others by unknown gunmen on October 4, in the same place that saw the murder of another prominent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Aboud Rogo.
Though the police deny responsibility, human rights groups believe the imams’ deaths were among several extrajudicial killings and abductions carried out by Kenyan security forces.
The unexpected request reflected a growing frustration with the rising insecurity, though others said the move contradicts traditional biblical teachings on nonviolence, or could put churches and congregations at more risk.
“What we do not agree with is that every pastor should be armed to ensure they are safe,” Rev. Karanja said.
The Kenyan pastor challenged the government to marshal enough personnel and resources to improve security in churches, offices and homes without having to arm clergy.
Interfaith initiatives in the coastal region have allowed different faiths to live in relative calm, but the attacks are threatening decades of peaceful coexistence, according to the Rev. Wilybard Lagho, vicar general of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa.
“I think we need to restrengthen interreligious dialogue,” said Lagho, calling the request for guns a shallow solution to a complex problem.
“The problem is in the minds, and we need to win them back.”
Some Muslim leaders, however, backed the pastors’ call for arms but said there should be a thorough vetting of who gets a gun.
“It is a good idea, but not all clerics should get the guns,” said Sheikh Juma Ngao, chairman of the Kenya Muslim National Advisory Council.
“Some are rogue clerics and may pose more danger to other religious leaders.”
There are nearly ten million Muslims in Kenya, which has a population of 36 million.
Muslims make up nearly 98 percent of the communities of the North Eastern Province.
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