NAIROBI (Sh.M.Network) — Security was tightened at various churches in Kenya as worshippers went to the places of worship the first Sunday since widespread chaos targeting Christians erupted in the coastal town of Mombasa.
The riots, sparked by the killing of Muslim cleric Aboud Rogo last Monday, saw protestors attack dozens of churches in what many feared could spark religious violence.
The rioters looted property from churches and set others ablaze in protests that threatened to ignite religious animosity in the East African nation.
Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga blamed the violence that lasted three days on Al-Qaida allies Al-Shabaab, whom Kenya and its partners, are fighting in Somalia.
While police managed to quell the violence in Mombasa, many Christians fear for their lives since protestors may spread their attacks.
Besides that, threats of terror attacks from Al-Shabaab still linger over the East African nation.
In the capital Nairobi, faithful in various popular churches worshipped under the watchful eyes of security officers.
The officers made up of private security guards and the police kept vigil as people worshipped, a scenario that has now become familiar to many Christians since terrorists began to target churches in the East African nation.
Worshippers went through several security checks with those carrying handbags and other luggage having to endure lengthy searches.
At Kayole Catholic Church in the east of the capital, faithful queued as several security officers frisked them with metal detectors.
“It is prudent that we delay the service but ensure that worshippers are safe.
“We cannot take chances with the safety of the faithful,” said a security officer as he frisked even children.
The officer noted that while they had intensified security since threats of attack started, last week’s events inMombasawas a reminder that churches are under threat.
“The riots in Mombasa pointed to the fact that Christian’s places of worship and faithful are not safe.
“Churches seemingly have become prime targets of protestors and terrorists,” he said.
And as security guards did their work, armed police officers watched from a distance scouting for trouble makers.
“It is said that we have to worship under tight security.
“Things have really changed in this country.
“The depressing thing is that the situation seems not be improving as time goes by,” said Silvanus Marete, a worshipper at the church.
Marete noted that churches have become main targets because criminals believe they can get crowds to hurt.
“Terrorists in their misguided missions know that churches are always full of people.
“So, if they attack them, they will inflict pain on many people, but this should not be the case,” he said.
He recounted that before the fresh attacks on churches inMombasalast week, security in most churches had been relaxed.
“Security officers were searching people using metal detectors but police officers had stopped manning churches,” he said.
According to Marete, threats of terror attack hanging over churches are making the places of worship insecure.
“People can no longer seek solace and guidance at places of worship because they have become insecure and top targets of criminals.
“It is unusual for people to worship under the watchful eyes of police.
“This is not what should happen at places of worship,” he said.
At the nearby Presbyterian Church of East Africa, administration police and other security guards kept vigil as people worshipped in the church.
Similarly, worshippers went through several security checks as they entered the church.
In the city center, churches also intensified security.
At the Jesus Celebration Centeralong Hailesellasie Avenue, security guards worked hard to search hundreds of worshippers, who flock the popular church.
The officers later on guard at the entrance of the church watching over worshippers. However, while security was intensified at places of worship, most faithful still did not feel secure.
“I was in the church singing and listening to the pastor but despite the security checks we had gone through, I still did not feel secure,” said Mercy Akoth, who went to Victory Prayer Center on the east of the Capital.
Akoth noted that recent attacks on churches have indicated that terrorists have changed tact.
“InMombasaand recently Garissa, the criminals threw grenades in churches.
“This is something that had never been seen before.
“A criminal can throw a grenade even when they are a distance from the church.
“In this case, frisking cannot help much,” she noted.
During their service, Akoth said their pastor, as tens of others acrossKenya, prayed for peace and called for religious tolerance.
He also warned them against attacking people of other faiths if Kenya is to remain stable.
“It is not proper to attack places of worship because they are sacred.
“Even in times of war, this is where people seek refuge, but now that criminals have made them their chief targets, they have become unsafe.
“Some worshippers have even stopped going to churches for fear of their lives,” she said.