By Sam Hodges*
United Methodist and Methodist leaders in East Africa are condemning the recent deadly terrorist attack at a shopping mall in Kenya and are asking United Methodist churches in the East Africa Episcopal Area to set aside time for prayer Sunday for survivors and others directly affected.
At least 67 people were killed, and others remain unaccounted for as authorities continue to search rubble from the collapse of part of Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
“We wish those who were injured quick recovery and may the Almighty God rest the souls of the departed in eternal peace and may God the creator enable us pull out of this very difficult situation of great loss,” said Bishop Daniel Wandabula, who leads the East Africa Episcopal Area, which includes Kenya.
Wandabula was in Nairobi, not far from the shopping mall, meeting with church leaders when the attacks began on Sept. 21. Leaders of the Nairobi District of the United Methodist Church were meeting in the Kayole area of the city.
The Rev. Carol Alois Ososo, Nairobi District superintendent, joined Wandabula in asking for prayers for survivors and for the families of the deceased.
Thomas Kemper, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, wrote in a letter to Wandabula: “The mission community of the United Methodist Church stands in solidarity with the United Methodists of Kenya in this time of pain and grief.”
In a Sept. 24 email to the Board of Global Ministries, Bishop Joseph Ntombura, presiding bishop of the Methodist Church in Kenya, wrote: “We are touched and greatly moved by your concern for our country. It has been tough but God is faithful. Many Kenyans lost loved ones and others are still recovering in hospital. “
Bishop Ntombura went on to say that “Kenyans came together and supported one another through prayers, blood donations, financial support and all ways possible to show solidarity. The Methodist Church in Kenya donated Kshs. 100,000.00 (about $1,150 U.S.) to the Red Cross Society who are involved in the rescue and treatment process.”
Kenyan United Methodists have been contributing financially and through blood donations to an emergency relief effort for victims, Wandabula said.
According to news accounts, an unknown number of attackers, wearing bulletproof vests and firing assault weapons, stormed into the upscale mall about 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 21. Kenyan security forces did not take full control of the mall until three days later.
The armed Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab took credit for the attack, claiming it was a response to Kenya’s 2011 military intervention against the group in Somalia.
“Nothing justifies the cruel contempt for human life shown by the attackers at Westgate,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The victims of this sickening attack and their relatives deserve justice. Those responsible for this horror should be swiftly caught and prosecuted.”
*Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas; contact him at (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.