Open door for terrorism: Christian-Muslim tensions in Kenya

The killing of Muslim cleric Sheikh Aboud Rogo on August 27 in Kenya’s Coast Province triggered the worst interfaith violence yet witnessed in that country. Muslim youths immediately rioted in Mombasa, burning down and vandalizing churches even as religious leaders on both sides called for calm. Three security agents were killed and 11 others injured in the ensuing chaos when rioters hurled a grenade at a police truck. The sheikh’s killer remains unknown. His supporters have pointed a finger at the police, an accusation the police deny.

This was only one incident in a year that has witnessed rising religious conflict. On September 30 a boy was killed when a bomb was hurled at a church in the country’s capital of Nairobi. On July 1, two grenades were hurled at worshipers at two churches in Garissa, the capital of remote North Eastern Province, which borders lawless Somalia. A total of 17 people died, including two police officers who were guarding one of the churches. More than 50 worshipers were injured.

While Christians in Garissa had become accustomed to having Muslim youths throwing stones at church buildings, the recent attacks and the riots in Mombasa represent a major deterioration of relations.