Five days after the terror attack on a university in Garissa, Kenya, the African Alliance of YMCAs, like the rest of the world, is still in shock and mourning. Over 140 youth dead and another 79 wounded. The timing of the attack itself is chilling; coming at a time when Christians the world over were commemorating Christ’s sacrifice and rebirth. It goes without saying that hundreds of youth from the Garissa University were preparing to join family and friends in commemorating this important day in the Christian Calendar.
That the terrorists chose to separate Christians from Muslim students and massacred the Christians is even more chilling and sends a senseless message. The interrogation, judgement and senseless execution of over 140 youth on account of their Christian faith! The fear those youth must have faced in acknowledging their belief and faith and yet being executed during such a sacred time of year, leaves us deeply disturbed.
We mourn their loss. We are shocked at such a vile and dispassionate display of the lack of respect and reverence for human life, all human life. We feel the anger and the flare of outrage that Kenyans must be feeling at this time of deep loss.
Besides loss of life; the intention of the Al- Shabaab militia in perpetrating this heinous crime appears to be to draw a wedge of religious disconcertment. It is easy to think of these attacks as a prelude to a growing religious conflict that Christians will loose unless they stand against Al-Shabaab and their likes. This would be playing to the whims of these senseless militants and giving them easy victory. Kenya has seen a steady stream of violence perpetrated by Muslim extremist groups in the name of Islam. It is natural for humans in desperate and painful moments like these to seek to apportion blame and to express outrage at an entire group and demonise them for the acts of a few. Yet, it is this very impulse that misleads and undermines the core values and lessons of true faith and religion. Muslims are not responsible for what happened in Kenya, terrorists are; people filled with so much anger and hate that they are incapable of internalising and appreciating the fundamental peace that religion (all religions) offers.
The Africa Alliance of YMCAs is deeply hurt and disturbed by the killings in Kenya. We feel the loss of the over 140 youth whose future potential and contribution to our world is now lost. We share the anguish their families and friends feel. We also feel the deep loss and misguided guilt of the Muslim students who must have witnessed their own friends killed before them. They too are traumatised, their lives forever stained, as are Muslims throughout the world who continue to be horrified by the acts of the extremist branches of their faith.
In the coming days, we urge all of Africa’s youth, Christians and Muslims and other religions alike to pray and in so doing, remember that religious faith upholds the sanctity of life, forgiveness and compassion. We urge all youth to not give into the pain and rage they feel for the injustices perpetrated by misguided radicalised people. We urge all youth instead, to join hands with others who struggle and to uphold peace. Peace cannot be won through violence. Unity through shared grief and struggle is that path we must now walk and we urge all youth, from all faiths, to walk that path together; we say, Give Peace a Chance!
General Secretary AAYMCA