Kenya: Church Leaders Murdered
Kenya, October 23, 2013: Two pastors have been murdered in separate attacks in Kenya’s coastal region: one was shot dead in his church building; the other appeared to have been strangled.
The body of Charles Matole was found at Vikwantani Redeemed Gospel Church in Mombasa on the night of 19 October. He was slumped in a chair with a Bible on his lap; he had been shot in the head from behind.
Charles, who went by the nickname Patrick, had gone to the church building to pray and prepare for the following morning’s service. His wife, Claris, raised the alarm when he failed to return home.
The pastor had been receiving death threats by text message, but these had apparently been dismissed by police as hoaxes from prisoners. They started around a week before his murder, after he had led several evangelistic meetings in the city at which many people had become Christians. Police have arrested two people in connection with the incident.
Ebrahim Kidata of East African Pentecostal Church was killed the night after Charles’ murder. He was left in some bushes in Kilifi, around 30 miles north of Mombasa, having apparently been strangled. The pastor, in his mid-fifties, had been appointed just a few weeks earlier. He was said to have been planning to plant churches in the Vitengeni area.
The murders have heightened the threat to Christians in the area following the torching of the Salvation Army church building in Mombasa on 4 October. It was targeted by Muslims protesting against the assassination of hard-line cleric, Sheikh Ibrahim Ismail. The same building had also been set ablaze in August 2012 in Muslim riots over the killing of another extremist preacher that saw five churches attacked.
The Mombasa Church Forum, a group of influential Christian leaders, issued a statement condemning the “senseless killings” and called on the Kenyan government to protect their right to meet for worship, stressing their determination to continue their activities:
The Mombasa Church Forum categorically states that no attack on Christians will deter us from our way of worship and our freedom of religion. To the perpetrators of these heinous attacks, we hereby state that we will not be intimated and will continue to worship our Lord in our churches.
Christians are especially vulnerable in the coastal region, because many al-Shabaab militants have taken refuge there, having been driven out of Somalia by Kenyan-led African Union forces. The group has been connected with a number of attacks on churches and Christians in Kenya.
- barnabas team