A Muslim in Kenya who put his faith in Christ last November has lost his wife and children, and now he fears for his life.
When his wife was hospitalized last October, Abdu Godana, 35, could not have guessed that the healing she received after an evangelist's prayer would lead to losing her, his 7-year-old son and his 5-year-old daughter.
On the Kenyan side of Moyale, a town that shares a border with Ethiopia, Godana's wife had received treatment for an unspecified illness for three weeks at Moyale District Hospital without any improvement when he took her home. Soon thereafter they received a visit from an evangelist with the Evangelical Christian Church of Africa (ECCA), who prayed for her.
His wife was not completely healed, but she was able to go about most of her daily activities, and a week later the couple invited the evangelist and two other church leaders to their home. The couple decided to become followers of Jesus after talking and giving thanks with the church leaders, and they began meeting at their home for Bible study and prayer, Godana said.
Early this year, Muslim neighbors reported to Godana's relatives and those of his wife that the couple had embraced the Christian faith.
Godana's in-laws began sending him threatening text messages: "You had a Muslim marriage, so it is against Islam to change your faith," one read. "If you continue in the Christian faith, we shall come and take our daughter."
In early February, Godana's in-laws took his wife, he said. His Muslim parents distanced themselves from him, not only because they believed he had disgraced the family by leaving Islam, but because in losing his wife he had lost the dowry for her that they had provided.
Two weeks later, his in-laws returned and took away his children, he said.
His own family members are now threatening him. "Your life is at stake if you still hold on to the Christian faith," one relative told him.
Godana has become depressed under a continuing barrage of text messages from his in-laws, including demands for payment for medical follow-up care, he said. One text read, "We have continued treating our daughter, and now we demand that you pay us the money that we have used for her treatment."
"I am spending sleepless nights from the pressure on me from my wife's family," he said. "I am also fearing for my life."
Church Buildings Razed in Ethiopia
Across the border in Siraro District of Ethiopia's Oromia Region, in East Shewa Zone about 150 miles south of Addis Ababa, Feb. 15 rioting by predominantly Muslim Oromo Arsi destroyed 14 church buildings, Christian leaders said.
More than 2,000 Christians have been left without worship venues after throngs of Oromo Arsi, protesting that the government was marginalizing them and that Christians were converting Muslims, burned 10 Kale Heywet Church (KHC, Word of Life) buildings and four others.
The KHC buildings burned belonged to congregations in Sabate with 110 members, Loke Kecha with 70 members, Kate with 90 members, Bilitu with 350 members, Siraro, Chaticha with 200 members, Subuka with the 420 members, Shashamane with 30 members, Kenva with 150 members and Torban-Anshwa with 50 members.
Also torched were the buildings of Sabate Catholic Church with 250 members, Sabate Full Gospel Church with 330 members, Loke Kecha Orthodox Church with 100 members and Bilitu Orthodox Church with 500 members, according to Christian leaders, who requested anonymity for security reasons.
"We have been worshipping outside and sitting on the bare ground bearing the hot sun," said a KHC leader. "We appeal to our brothers elsewhere to come and assist us. The attackers poured petrol and were chanting "Allahu Akbar [God is greater]" before setting the church building on fire."
A month before the attacks in predominantly Muslim Siraro District, anonymous leaflets warned churches to stop converting Muslims to Christianity, said another area church leader. As demonstrations were taking place in Siraro town on Feb. 15 with anti-government and anti-Christian chants, Muslims in several villages began burning the 14 church buildings throughout Siraro District, church leaders said.
A cemetery belonging to Sabate Catholic Church was also damaged.
Police have arrested several suspects.
Ethiopia's population is 60 percent Christian and 34 percent Muslim, according to Operation World. Kenya's population is nearly 83 percent Christian and 8 percent Muslim, although nominalism among the Christian population is considered widespread.