Alas, poor Kenya, the victim of another terrorist attack, reported here by the BBC. Unidentified gunmen raided the Jesus Joy Church, a Pentecostal congregation, in Likoni, killing at least six people, and leaving numerous others wounded. The Guardian also carries a report with a chilling photograph.
Some years ago, when I lived in Kenya, I went to Likoni on holiday. It was in those days a charming and peaceful spot, just south of Mombasa Island, accessible by the back and forth shuttle of the Likoni Ferry. The house I stayed in belonged to a religious order, one of two that had houses in the district, and fronted Shelly Beach, a beautiful white sand tropical beach fringed with palm trees. Years previously one of my brothers had been to the same beach with his family on holiday, and the hotel they must have stayed in was a few yards up the coast, now an echoing an empty shell, for this was but a few years after the blowing up of the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel in 2002 which killed 13 people and injured 80. In the wake of that attack, and the attempt to shoot down an airliner on the same day, tourism had understandably dropped off. Hence the hotel on Shelly Beach was derelict when I visited.
The attacks on 2002 were the work of Al Qaeda; the present attack on the Jesus Joy Church is thought to be the work of Al-Shabaab, the same group who attacked the shopping mall in Westlands, Nairobi, in September last year. Their motive is supposed to be revenge for Kenyan intervention in the never-ending turmoil inside Somalia.
Somalia is a failed state, at least in part. The northern part is peaceful and stable, but not recognised by anyone; the southern part has not had a functioning government for decades. Moreover, most of northwest Kenya is in the hands of Somali bandits called shifta. It is these people who are responsible for most of the outrages that happen in that lawless part of the country. All this is well known, and there have been numerous initiatives to try and solve the Somali problem, but all have failed. In the meantime, the people of Kenya, who represent the softest of targets, pay the price.
We should keep the poor people of Kenya in our prayers. They are among the kindest, most generous and best people on this planet. I lived there for four years, and I never met a rude or a nasty Kenyan. May God be good to them, and may the international community wake up and do something about Somalia. Recognising Somaliland, the northern part of the country which actually functions, would be a start.
Meanwhile, people might like to know that Mombasa, of which Likoni is really a part, is a charming and pleasant place, rather rundown, deeply picturesque, and well worth a visit. It is historically a Muslim city, and was once ruled from Oman, and its old town contains some very old mosques, as well as a small sixteenth century Portuguese fort. There are also some interesting colonial buildings, built, believe it or not, in the style favoured by the British, namely neo-Tudor.
And there are some truly lovely churches, catering for the hugely swelled population of incomers. The Catholic cathedral is lovely, built by the Holy Ghost Fathers, in the Irish style, and the Anglican Cathedral, which is of earlier date, is built, like a lot of Anglican churches in the Indian sub-continent, to outwardly resemble a mosque. This cultural sensitivity has led to the most delightful piece of architecture. I remember being moved by its beauty when I visited some ten years ago . There are some pictures here.
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