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President Obama Fails to Acknowledge Christianity of Kenyan Students Martyred for Their Faith; Christian Leaders Respond

( [email protected] ) Apr 08, 2015 01:22 PM EDT
U.S. President Obama has come under fire for failing to acknowledge the Christianity of 147 Kenyan victims or the Islamic faith of their killers.
U.S. President Obama has said the United States will "stand hand-in-hand" with the people of Kenya against the "scourge of terrorism." Reuters

In response to Al-Shabaab massacre of nearly 150 Christians at a Kenyan university, U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement in which he failed to acknowledge the victim's Christianity or label the extremist group as having Islamic motivations.

Last Thursday, the Al-Quaeda affiliated extremist group Al-Shabaab raided the predominantly Christian campus of Garissa University College where they reportedly separated Muslims from the non-Muslims before mercilessly slaughtering 147 Christians.

While numerous world and religious leaders have acknowledged the students were slain because of their Christian faith, U.S. President Obama issued a written statement on Friday in which he noticeably neglected to mention any religious overtones to the attack.

"Michelle and I join the American people in expressing our horror and sadness at the reports coming out of Garissa, Kenya. Words cannot adequately condemn the terrorist atrocities that took place at Garissa University College, where innocent men and women were brazenly and brutally massacred," The president stated. "We join the world in mourning them, many of whom were students pursuing an education in the pursuit of a better life for themselves and their loved ones."

He added that the United States will "stand hand-in-hand" with the people of Kenya against the "scourge of terrorism."

A later statement from Secretary of State John Kerry also failed to mention the Christian faith of the victims or the Islamic faith of the perpetrators, only noting that "the attack once again reinforces the need for all countries and communities to unite in the effort to combat violent extremism."

Nina Shea, the director for Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, told the AFP that the Obama administration's refusal to label extremist groups and their martyred victims by religious affiliation is not only intentional, but hypocritical.

"In an attack in Syria over the past weekend, the administration had no problem expressing condolences for the Alawites and Ismailis who were murdered," Shea said. "This is in stark contrast to President Obama and the State Department's failure to mention that Christians were hunted down and executed in Kenya during the same period. This is a typical pattern for the administration. It could be that the administration has been told by its Muslim advisers that Muslims would be offended by criticism of the violently bigoted ideology of Al-Shabaab, an Islamist extremist group."

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins also lamented the fact that "when it comes to persecuted Christians, not only do we not have action, we rarely get words." Referencing Obama's speech at the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast on Tuesday in which he criticized "less than loving" Christians, Perkins noted, "it seems the President and his administration only bring up Christians when they want to bash them."

This is not the first time  the White House has neglected to acknowledge the Christian faith of today's martyrs. Following the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by Islamic extremists back in February, the President issued a response in which the victims were described as "innocents" and "victims," but no mention of their Christian faith was present.

"We offer our condolences to the families of the victims and our support to the Egyptian government and people as they grieve for their fellow citizens," the White House wrote. "ISIL's barbarity knows no bounds. It is unconstrained by faith, sect, or ethnicity."

At the time, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani criticized the Obama administration's unwillingness to identify the nature of the terrorist attack and pointed out that ISIS left "no ambiguity" about why the murders were carried out.

The White House's avoidance in connecting terror attacks with Islamic extremism goes all the way back to 2009 when the Fort Hood shootings were labeled as "workplace violence," he explained. He later added that the President's choice of words is not helpful to moderate Muslims.

"It doesn't set up the fact that the religion has an interpretation that is incorrect, that is horrible and brutal, that needs to be changed. It doesn't challenge that. Islam needs to be challenged to change internally like the Protestant Reformation, like various forms of Judaism," said Giuliani.