A secret Christian in coastal Kenya escaped Muslim in-laws who last week sought to stab him and took his wife and children, less than two weeks after Islamic extremists further south torched two church buildings, sources said.
Former Muslim Hassan Ali said he narrowly escaped death when Muslim neighbors and in-laws armed with knives and a dagger known as a "Somali sword" on Nov. 11 knocked on his door in Witu, Lamu County at about 8 p.m.
"I thank God that I am alive," Ali said. "I know they were out to kill me. I am praying that my wife will not lose her faith in Christ."
He said area Muslims may have come for him after noting his lack of mosque attendance.
"I heard people talking outside my house and mentioning my name," he said. "Fear caught me up, and I went inside my inner room. Then they knocked at my door in an unusual manner, and my wife opened the door for them, and they immediately started asking of my whereabouts. I knew I was in trouble when they started questioning my wife about her faith. I then escaped through the window."
Ali, who said he later learned from his wife that those who arrived at his home were armed, traveled for two hours before reaching the house of a Christian family who provided accommodation for him.
"Ali arrived at my house restless," the head of the family said. "He was worried about the fate of his family in the hands of the Muslims who stormed his house."
Early the next morning (Nov. 12), the host, whose name is withheld for security purposes, called Ali's wife and found that her relatives had taken her and their two children, a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl, to her parents' home.
"The parents are telling Ali's wife that the children should start going to a madrassa, an Islamic elementary school," the host said. "Ali's wife is facing pressure from her parents to recant the Christian faith, and she is emotionally troubled."
Ali said it will be "very difficult" to return to his house or see his family again.
"What is worrying me at the moment is that communication between my wife and me has now been disconnected," he said. "I cannot reach her again. I know my wife and my two children, Hussein and Mariam, will be Islamized. This is making me to have sleepless nights."
After embracing Christianity 10 months ago, Ali's family had moved from their home village of Katsakakairu, about nine miles from predominantly Muslim Witu town, to an area near Witu where a few Christians live. Christians in Witu on several occasions had visited Ali's house for Bible Study and prayers, and Muslim neighbors discovered the meetings, Ali said.
Before the incident, a Muslim neighbor questioned Ali about whether he was a Christian because he had heard prayers using the name of Jesus in his house; he asked Ali why he was using the name Ali, which some Muslims believe can be used only by Muslims, if he was Christian.
The host said Ali is depressed at being separated from his family.
"He needs prayers at this difficult moment," he said.
Two Churches Torched
About 127 miles down the coast by air (167 miles by road), near coastal Kenya's Mombasa, suspected Islamic extremists set ablaze Faith Victory Church and Holistic Church on the outskirts of Tiribe town, sources said. Tiribe is about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Mombasa town.
Church leaders who said they had received threatening messages from radical Muslims told Morning Star News that the buildings were torched on Oct. 30 at about 2 a.m.
"Please stop converting our people to Christianity, and if not you will soon regret changing our people to Christianity," read one anonymous text message to Pastor Francis Mutuku of Faith Victory Church, which has a congregation of about 80.
Pastor Mutuku said his church lost their building along with the chairs and traditional musical instruments within.
"The total cost of the loss we incurred is amounting to 400,000 Kenya shillings [US$3,845]," he said. "We have rented a tent, but the heavy rains are affecting us. Inside, the tent is getting flooded, which is affecting our Sunday worship."
The Holistic Church, with a congregation of about 50 people, has been also been hard-hit by El Niño rains, said pastor Peter Nyawa. Five people were swept away by a heavy outpour in Narok, as were two people in Mombasa, and several places are flooded, he said.
"The church members have been worshipping in the cold under a tree," Pastor Nyawa said. "The El Niño rains have really affected us, keeping us from holding church services. Most of my members have left the church after we lost 300,000 Kenya shillings [US$2,883] from the inferno."
The church is thankful for police protection at its worship site in Tiribe, but the remnant congregation is suffering, he said.
"It is now getting cold for our children, and the place outside is getting flooded," Pastor Nyawa said. "We do appeal for support in rebuilding the church building, so that our members can have a safe place to worship."
Police have arrested two suspects from the predominantly Muslim, Digo ethnic people and are looking for several others.
Digo elders and an area chief recently approached Holistic Church leaders asking for forgiveness, the pastor said.
"We as a church are considering how to forgive them, as Jesus commanded us to forgive," Pastor Nyawa said.