Kenya Westgate attack: Inter-faith prayers for victims

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Kenya's top Christian, Hindu and Muslim clerics have led a multi-faith prayer service for the 67 victims of the Westgate shopping centre attack.


Uhuru Kenyatta told the gathering that religion had been used to try and divide Kenyans but faith had instead united them.


There were plans to set up a commission of inquiry into the attack by Somalia's al-Shabab Islamist militants, he said.

 

Kenyan forces would remain in Somalia until order was restored, he said.


On Monday, Kenyan MPs called for camps for Somali refugees in the country to close in the wake of the siege.


Al-Shabab, a Somali Islamist group, said its militants stormed the mall on 21 September in retaliation for Kenya's military involvement in Somalia.


Kenya is host to the largest refugee camp in the world, Dadaab - home to about half a million people - near the Somali border, while it is believed that more than 30,000 Somali refugees live in Nairobi alone.


'United in prayer'


The prayers were hosted by Kenya's Inter-Religious Council with clerics from different faiths, who sat together on a stage facing the congregation, calling for national unity, reconciliation and healing.

 

During the service in the capital, Nairobi, Bishop Gerry Kibarabara asked the congregation to stand, shake hands and say "peace".


The prayers were broadcast live on all national television stations, with private broadcaster NTV labelling the transmission "United in Prayer" along with the hashtag We Are One, which some Kenyans have been using on social media in response to the attack.

 

Adan Wachu, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Kenyan Muslims, said: "Islam is not terrorism and terrorism is not Islam. Islam is peace."


Another religious leader said faith had been "misused" and the clerics on the Inter-Religious Council would fight such "misconceptions".

 

President Kenyatta praised them for organising the prayers, which showed that "tolerance and mutual understanding are the cement holding" Kenyans together.

 

Faith "is one thing in 100 different languages, that's why faith unites us", he said.


A woman breaks down during a special inter-religious prayer service for the people killed and injured in the recent at Westgate shopping mall in the capital Nairobi on Tuesday

 

Kenyans of all faiths attended the service, proclaiming their unity against the militants who struck Westgate mall.



Workers from Nakumatt supermarket within the Westgate shopping mall attend a special inter-religious prayer service for colleagues and the people killed and injured in the recent attack in the capital Nairobi on Tuesday


Those attending included workers from the Nakumatt supermarket, where some of the attackers barricaded themselves.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (left), First Lady Margaret (centre) and Deputy President William Ruto attend a special inter-religious prayer service for the people killed and injured in the recent Westgate shopping mall attack in the capital Nairobi on Tuesday
The service - attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta (left), First Lady Margaret and Deputy President William Ruto - offered moments of levity as well as sorrow.
Forensics investigators work next to the collapsed upper car park at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday
Much of the shopping centre was reduced to rubble as authorities fought to regain control. Dozens of people remain missing.


A woman takes a picture of candles outside the Westgate Mall on Sunday in Nairobi

"We are one people, we are one nation," one of the clerics at the service on Tuesday said.



He ended the service by saying that if al-Shabab fighters thought the Westgate attack would make Kenya withdraw its troops from Somalia, they were mistaken.


 

"Let me remind them that… for over 20 years as Somalis fought Somalis, all Kenya did was to offer refuge to citizens who fled," he said, mentioning Dadaab.

 


 

"We went there to help them bring order in their own nation and will stay there until [we do], we will not be intimidated."

 

Applause

 


There were lighter moments during the long service - one cleric gave thanks to Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku for giving information "whether true or false".



Source: bbc.co.uk (Oct. 1, 2013)

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