“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
This is senseless. I am speechless. We are all shaken.
As many of you are acutely aware, for the past several days the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, has been under siege in what appears to be a very organized and intentional terrorist attack. Though the true motives behind this horrendous act are not yet fully known, here are some things I know:
Innocent lives were lost. And innocent lives should never be lost.
One’s race, religion, economic-status, age, gender, or political affiliation have never, will never, and should never be reason enough to rob an individual of his or her life.
Despite the obvious tension looming over Nairobi, Kenya’s largely diverse and culturally rich capital city, home to about 4 million people, life continues to move forward.
Kenyans are extremely resilient people.
If you have been following Kenyan Twitter accounts over the last two days, you will have seen this popular hashtag attached to many Westgate Mall tweets: #WeAreOne.
Carrying a complex history sewn together by the threads of colonization, suppression, tribal violence, political corruption, and economic difficulties, Kenyans have managed to continually strive toward unity: unity in the home, unity in the larger community, and unity as a nation.
Out of the dark events of the past hours, a bright light that is the Kenyan people’s commitment to human unity has been a shining reminder that We Are One.
Amidst the weekend’s tragedies, numerous beautiful stories have surfaced – sweet reminders of God’s kingdom on earth. The following is a brief recap from a Nairobi resident’s Twitter account:
Little children pushed other children out of harm’s way. Children pulled children to safety.
Kenyan police run into harm’s way for us with no helmet, no bullet proof vests and regular shoes.
A Muslim man wrote a short prayer on a piece of paper for a Christian man he was hiding with and helped him to memorize it in case the terrorists asked him to say something from the Quran.
Secretary General of the Red Cross put on a volunteers vest and went on site to work with his paramedics.
The Kenya Defense Forces went in there like superheroes.
No hospital turned a patient away.
Blood banks were full before they were empty again.
#KOT outrage on NY Times images made them pull those images off.
Heaven was filled with prayers and questions.
We will prevail.
“We are as brave and invincible as the lions on our coat of arms.” – President Uhuru Kenyatta.
As this sickening event continues to plague the media – as speculations make their way into many a conversation – I encourage all of us to use our words wisely. No matter who committed these atrocities, no matter what innocent victims have lost their lives, we are one. As difficult as it is to stomach, we are all God’s sons and daughters. Somali, Kenyan. Black, white. Rich, poor. Male, female. Old, young. Al-Shabaab, Kenyan Military.
In the aftermath of such events, it is common that previously existing stereotypes, labels, and divisions are only widened and strengthened.
I encourage you to pray for those who will fall into these stereotypes and categories. I urge you to remind them that they are loved and valued. I urge you to think and process before you speak.
I urge you to pray. Pray for the victims and the families of victims. Pray for Nairobi. Pray for Kenya’s government. Pray for the future of this beautiful nation.
Pray for the persecuted and, equally important, the persecutor.
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
In closing, here are some words from World Concern’s Kenya Country Director, Peter Macharia:
“Westgate is a lovely place and Kenya is a very beautiful country. With 68 confirmed dead and many more people still inside the building with 10-15 gunmen, my heart sinks. I sincerely congratulate our police and army for the rescue of the more than 1,000 people from the building and my condolences to those who have been left by their loved ones. As the president said, we will not be cowed. Kenya will rise again!
World Concern has accounted for its entire staff in Kenya and we are glad no one was injured or killed by this despicable and devilish terrorist act. We continue to pray for those who lost their loved ones and hope that those still being held hostage will survive. We also pray that this will never be witnessed again in our country. We also pray that Somalia will soon find peace. The Westgate attack gives a glimpse of what has become the norm in