Nairobi, Kenya, Apr 13, 2015 / 09:48 am
In the wake of the recent massacre of 148 people – mainly Christians – at a university in the Kenyan city of Garissa, Cardinal John Njue, the Roman Catholic archbishop of the capital Nairobi, has called on all citizens for a spirit of unity.
Cardinal Njue read a declaration April 8 at Nairobi's Chiromo mortuary, where the bodies of the victims had been collected.
In his statement – a copy of which was obtained by international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need – the cardinal lamented "that many young Kenyans have been radicalized and incited to commit acts of terror against their fellow citizens."
He spoke in reference to media reports that five Kenyans were among the suspects arrested after the April 2 attack. They are said to have supplied the attackers with weapons. One of the four terrorists killed by the police has reportedly been identified as the son of a district chief in the north-east of Kenya.
"It is regrettable that some terrorists live among us and that we do not report them to the competent authorities," Cardinal Njue said.
"Religious leaders should stop stirring up hatred towards people who do not belong to their religion and faith," he added.
The cardinal, standing by remains of the victims, also called on the Kenyan government and security forces to urgently develop emergency strategies for schools and universities: "We must ask ourselves: How well prepared are we to deal with acts of terror?"
Bishop Joseph Alessandro, OFM Cap, coadjutor of the Diocese of Garissa, spoke of the great fear of local Christians and described the situation as "very tense."
However, he also told Aid to the Church in Need that there are good relations between local Catholic priests and Muslim clerics.
"On Holy Saturday the Chair of the Central Council of Muslims in Kenya came to us in a gesture of solidarity," the bishop said. Nation-wide, there are a number of joint Christian-Muslim initiatives.
Kenya's population of 45 million is 85 percent Christian, with just 10 percent being Muslim. However, the eastern part of Kenya – which borders Somalia and where Garissa is located – is virtually entirely Muslim. The region has proven to be a fertile recruiting ground for Somalia's Islamist al-Shabaab militia, which has masterminded a number of terror attacks targeting Christians in Kenya.