RELIGION

Religious Tension High After Mosque Closures In Mombasa, Kenya

In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, armed police walk out of the Masjid Swafaa mosque after raiding it, in Mombasa,
In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, armed police walk out of the Masjid Swafaa mosque after raiding it, in Mombasa, Kenya. Methods used by Kenyan authorities to tackle extremism on the country's coast will increase support for radicals, a human rights official warned Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, after authorities raided and closed four mosques over the last week, in which the police said they recovered grenades and a gun but some muslims allege were planted in order to justify the mosques' closures. (AP Photo)

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) Christian and Muslim leaders fear more violence in the coastal city of Mombasa after the government indefinitely closed four mosques over suspected terror activities.

On Friday (Nov. 21), religious and political leaders united to urge the government to reopen the mosques. Muslim leaders accused the government of insensitivity, while Christian leaders feared being targeted in revenge attacks.

“We have always advised the government against adopting these counterproductive and draconian measures. It is unfortunate they ignored the Muslim leaders,” said Sheikh Abdulghafur El-Busaidy, the chairman of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims.

In the first such move in Kenya’s history, the government announced the mosques closed after police raids on Monday and Tuesday netted grenades, petrol bombs and ammunition. Recently, the mosques have been linked to Somali’s Islamist militants Al-Shabab. Black flags used by the militants were also seized, and more than 300 youths were arrested.

On Monday, Joshua Muteti, a local church pastor, died of a machete blow to the back of his head as gangs on revenge attacks rampaged on streets, beating and stabbing people. Three other people were also killed.

“There is a lot of fear,” said the Rev. Martin Wesonga of the Anglican Church in Mombasa. “People are not carrying Bibles openly. I am not wearing my clerical collar. I am anxious about this coming Sunday; armed gangs may pull Christians out of cars and buses and attack them.”

Recent unexplained killings of Christian and Muslim clergy by unknown gunmen is threatening to disrupt the fragile coexistence between the faiths in the region.

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