Faith Under Fire in Eastleigh, Kenya
William Stark, Regional Manager for Africa
International Christian Concern
There are some places in the world where being a Christian can be a life-threatening condition. In the most dangerous places, just being identified as a Christian can cause an individual to be assaulted, battered, and, in extreme cases, killed. Eastleigh is one of those dangerous places for Christians.
Located on the outskirts of Kenya's capital, Nairobi, Eastleigh is a Somali Muslim-dominated neighborhood nicknamed "little Mogadishu." Al-Shabaab, an Islamic terrorist network based in neighboring Somalia, is known to be active in this neighborhood and has bombed churches and murdered Christians living there. Those who are Christians in Eastleigh tend to keep their faith a secret under fear of death.
Beaten for Christ in Eastleigh
In spite of the dangers, there are some who are not only willing to follow Christ, but are also willing to proclaim the Gospel in Eastleigh. Pastor Peter and eight Christian men attending his fellowship of Muslim Background Believers ("MBBs") in Nairobi set out on March 26 to reach unreached Muslims living in Eastleigh. Unfortunately, one member of this group almost didn't make it back from their brief missionary journey.
Aamir, age 26, was attacked and beaten by a gang of enraged Muslims while sharing the Gospel in Eastleigh. "They beat me with their fists, kicked me while I was down and then one of them knifed me somewhere between my neck and head," Aamir said. "I do not know what happened from there."
Aadil, who was accompanying Aamir and witnessed the attack, said, "Aamir cried out so loud that the attackers [were startled and] took off, leaving him in a pool of blood." Aadil immediately called for emergency services as he tried to keep his friend alive. When emergency services didn't show up, Aadil and Pastor Peter carried Aamir to Gurunanak Hospital themselves where Aamir's wounds were treated.
Pastor Peter reported the incident to the police, but because Eastleigh is such a dangerous place, members of the police force and emergency services avoid going there. When the police finally investigated the scene of the attack, they found Aamir's Bible tattered on the ground. One of the police turned to Pastor Peter and asked, "Why preach Christianity in Eastleigh? It is very dangerous."
Due to the severity of his injuries, Aamir spent four days in the hospital. His body now tells a tale of suffering for Christ. "I was shocked to see the severity of injuries Aamir received," ICC's representative in Kenya said from Aamir's bedside.
Fellowship in Secret
Evangelists are not the only Christians under fire in Eastleigh. Muslim Background Believers are one of the most persecuted groups of Christians in the world. They are not only oppressed for their Christian identity, but also for their conversion away from Islam. According to Sharia law, Muslims who convert to religions other than Islam, including Christianity, are guilty of apostasy. In places where Sharia is strictly interpreted, the punishment for apostasy is death.
Due to al-Shabaab's fundamentalist Islamic beliefs, MBBs living in Eastleigh must worship in secret. In most cases, MBBs caught by al-Shabaab are executed, sometimes in public.
"We have to fellowship in secret," Pastor Peter said about his fellowship of MBBs. "We cannot sing or play instruments because of the threat of al-Shabaab."
Even though Pastor Peter's fellowship is very careful, sometimes members of the fellowship go missing and are never heard from again. "We lost one of our stronger believers," Pastor Peter explained. "She went missing on December 20. After searching for a month, we discovered that she was killed by Muslim radicals, [probably connected to al-Shabaab]; all because of her conversion to Christianity."
Under this level of persecution it would be easy for any Christian to doubt their faith, but that is the opposite of what is found in Pastor Peter's MBB fellowship. "All of them are Muslim Background Believers so their conversion to Christianity will cause them a lot of hardship," Pastor Peter said. "[But] our fellowship has grown from 18 to 27 and all are strong in their faith."
Although Eastleigh is one of the most dangerous places to be a Christian in Kenya, the Christian message continues to reach the unreached. Life-threatening though it may be, evangelical efforts like Pastor Peter's may be the key to making a place like Eastleigh safe for Christians.
For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for Africa: RM-AfricaAsia@persecution.org
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