Why attack on church and mosque in Kibra should not be taken lightly

There’s a connection to a place of worship that’s unique to every congregant. It’s where a person finds God, makes friends, dedicates their children, meets a spouse, and finds a community to belong to. It’s not just a building but a place of meaningful memories and life-changing connections.

When we visited the PCEA Emmanuel church Kibera and Karanja Mosque on Tuesday, after Monday’s demonstrations, it looked like a scene out of a horror movie. Church windows, shuttered. Electronic devices that couldn’t be looted were destroyed. Pews were burnt. Musical instruments were reduced to ashes. The vestry felt like an oven; smoke was still coming out of the burnt Bibles and hymn books.

Broken bottles of communion wine were strewn on the ground. A van belonging to the church was reduced to a shell.

Whatever could have been carried was looted, and the rest was left for the fire to consume.

Interestingly, the top part of the Pulpit that has a cross wasn’t burned at all. It was placed at the base of the altar; carefully it seemed, as if to signify defiance to the forces of darkness.

As we inspected the damage, church mothers were coming in one by one, overwhelmed by emotion, wailing for their church as fellow Women Guild members embraced them, sharing the pain of a place that means so much to them.

We couldn’t visit the mosque because of the tension that developed on that side which led to the premature end of the press briefing and community engagement.

The question is; was it accidental? A random act of hooliganism happened to befall the church and mosque. Or was it targeted to fuel animosity between Christians and Muslims who have lived peacefully side by side for as long as they can remember? Or maybe it was a case of overzealous religious fanatics consumed by vengeance?

Interreligious council statement

During the press conference, as the church leaders spoke, comments were thrown around by the crowd. Comments that I can’t write in this piece but showed that tension was still high and the connotations of religious animosity were in the air.

PCEA Moderator Thegu Mutahi was quick to dispel any notions of religious animosity. He said, “This was not a religious conflict. This was hooliganism. Criminals are just criminals whether they are Christians or Muslims. The law should take its course.”

He admitted the pain the church leaders felt on Monday night when they learned of the attack. By morning the Lord had spoken that they should offer forgiveness and give thanks in the circumstances. He cited the example of Jesus, who being God, didn’t return evil for evil.

He called on politicians on both sides to take notice of what their grandstanding has resulted to.

Part of the statement by the Inter-religious Council read: “It is sad that the Kibra community is being dismembered along perceived religious and political differences that do not exist. Christians and Muslims have never been enemies. Our unity is always the strength upon which we have always faced challenges and tribulations in our long years of brotherly co-existence.”

Irungu Houghton, Amnesty International Executive Director said something powerful. He asked Muslims to cross the river and help rebuild the church and Christians to do likewise for the mosque. That would restore dignity and the right to worship in Kibra.

“Last night Luos lost their garages, Nubians lost their businesses, Kisiis were attacked, Kikuyus lost their kiosks and all people of God suffered. The question is how we allow ourselves to be manipulated by politicians and criminals,” he added.

Is there a deeper religious animosity issue in Kibra? Maybe not. Can this situation be exploited by politicians towards a certain goal? Absolutely Yes. And therein lies the issue, what might have started as a random event can escalate into something bigger. The cracks that have appeared can be chiseled into big holes if they are not sealed urgently.

Let’s continue to pray for our nation, for peace, for unity and wisdom to resolve the current situation.



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