In a world where violent conflict between Christians and Muslims has become a nearly daily occurrence, news of Muslims coming to the aid of Christians in distress is nothing less than refreshing and inspirational. Such was the case in mid-July when a group of Muslims in Kutulo, in northern Kenya, were informed that the Jihadist terror group al-Shabaab, based in neighboring Somalia, was planning an armed attack on Christian workers building a hospital in the area. The attack against the non-local Christian workers was scheduled for July 21, and when the local Muslims found out about it, they quickly informed the workers, and helped to evacuate them from the construction site.
As reported by International Christian Concern (ICC), an organization that monitors persecution against Christians around the world, the terrorists had planned to storm the construction site for the new government hospital and kill any Christians that were present. However, after hearing of the planned assault, some of the local Muslim population rushed to the site, and after making sure the Christians were safely evacuated, stayed at the site to confront the armed terrorists. The locals “were unable to prevent the gunmen from opening fire on the construction site,” reported ICC. “However, thanks to their bravery and quick action, more than 20 Christians were able to flee the site and escape without injuries.”
The report noted the area in and around Kutolo “has been a very dangerous place for Christians to live and work. There is a high concentration of Somalis and Muslims that live in Mandera, and most of the Christians who work there are from other parts of Kenya. This has made them easy targets for al-Shabaab, as they are easily identifiable.”
A representative from Open Doors, another persecution watchdog group, said that the area “feels more like Somalia than Kenya and usually is a very hostile place for Christians. Most of the believers who live here came here from other areas of the country for work and some for ministry. But they are treated like unwanted outsiders and face a lot of harassment and the continuous threat of targeted al-Shabaab attacks.”
Nathan Johnson, ICC’s regional representative for Africa, emphasized the “immense importance” of the decision by the local Muslims to protect the Christian workers. “First, it shows that those of different faiths can come together and protect each other,” he told the Christian Post. “You will find that, most often, those who are most able to defend people against extremist groups are those of the same faith as the extremist group. When locals know what is happening or receive warning when attacks like this are coming, it takes brave men like these to stop them.”
He added that it is important for groups like ICC to “laud the heroism” of individuals who put their own lives at risk to protect those of another faith. “If we want to be able to call out those who abuse power and persecute others, then we must also be able to applaud those who protect others as well,” Johnson said. “These men, at risk to their own lives, stopped an attack that would have left dozens dead or injured. It took true bravery to do this.”