Six Christians were attacked, tortured and killed on Jan. 3 in Kenya’s border region with Somalia, according to International Christian Concern (ICC), a persecution watchdog group. It is the latest incident of Christian persecution in sub-Saharan Africa, where believers are increasingly targeted by terrorist and separatist groups.
“It is an ugly sight of people’s bodies lying dead and houses smoking with fire,” Pastor Stephen Sila said in the ICC report. “This is undeniably an awful terrorist attack.”
Kenyan authorities report that the Christians were killed in Lamu County. Witnesses described a horrific scene with one shot, at least one beheaded and four burned “beyond recognition.” The perpetrators were most likely members of the Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab, which has controlled large swaths of Somalia for years and is known to have carried out deadly terrorist attacks across the region.
“The residents have gathered and are asking why the security officers were not doing enough to protect the Christians from being attacked by the Somali militants,” Sila said. “There is a standoff now, but more police officers are arriving to pick the bodies and also evacuate those who need emergency medical attention.”
Though most Kenyan citizens identify as Christians, the country is ranked 49th on Open Doors World Watch List of the “50 countries where it’s most difficult to follow Jesus.”
According to Open Doors, “In Kenya, Christianity is the majority religion but that hasn’t stopped the spread of persecution. Particularly, Christians with a Muslim background in the northeast and coastal regions live under constant threat of attack—even from their closest relatives.”
The attack is just another in a series that have been perpetrated against Christians throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Other countries on the watch list include Somalia, Libya, Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Mali, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Mozambique and the small island nation of Comoros.
The most concerning is Nigeria, where the ongoing violence against Christians continues and is increasing. Under the administration of Donald Trump, the country was included on a list of those of “particular concern on religious freedom.” The Biden administration has scaled back its investigations into religious persecutions and removed Nigeria from the list.
In a letter, the Family Research Council and other concerned groups wrote to President Biden, “How can it be, less than a year after that significant designation, that Nigeria’s CPC designation has been dropped without a public explanation? The ongoing violence, killing and displacement against Christians and others have only increased.”
A local church leader in Lamu, West Africa, who was not identified, said, “The enemy is still roaming free within our region. We are saddened that six Christians have lost their lives and left their families, and the entire Body of Christ is hurting. We call upon the government to heighten its commitment to protecting the people of this great nation of Kenya.”
Above: Police investigate the scene of the terrorist attack against Christians in Kenya.
Photo: Chine Nouvelle/SIPA/Newscom