Originally published in Morning Star News
Christians at Vikwantani Redeemed Gospel Church in Mombasa, Kenya arrived for worship Sunday morning (Oct. 20) only to learn that their pastor had been shot to death in their building the night before.
Those attending the service began to weep as a church member described what he and others found when they went to the church building late the previous night: the body of pastor Charles Matole slumped in a plastic seat, a Bible in his hand, blood streaming from his head.
“His skull was badly damaged,” the church member told Morning Star News.
A neighbor, George Mwangi, told Morning Star News that he heard a very loud gunshot at around 11:30 p.m.
Matole, who went by the nickname of Patrick, had reportedly told his wife, Claris, that he was going to the church building for his customary time of prayer; when he failed to return on time, she called other church leaders and they found him shot in the head from behind. No items were stolen from the site.
The pastor had told her and others that he had received threatening text messages and that his life was in danger, said the church member, whose name is withheld for security reasons. The threats did not begin until the past week, after the pastor had led several revival meetings in Vikwantan-Mtopanga Estate, in the coastal city’s Kisauni area. Many people converted to the Christian faith during the meetings, sources said. Police had reportedly dismissed the texts as fraudulent messages from imprisoned criminals.
Sunday night (Oct. 20), another pastor was killed in Kilifi, 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Mombasa. Ebrahim Kidata of East African Pentecostal Church appeared to have been strangled and left in some bushes, authorities said. He had been riding his motorcycle, which was stolen.
The murders come on the heels of rioting in Mombasa by Muslims enraged at the killing of sheikh Ibrahim Omar and three others on a road near Mombasa (see Morning Star News, Oct. 7). A church leader in Mombasa said Muslims have accused churches of being “quiet” about the murders of Omar and his predecessor.
“Such statements have worried the church leaders in the coastal region of Kenya,” said the pastor, who requested anonymity.
During the riots earlier this month, Muslim youths from the Masjid Musa Mosque shouting “Allahu Akbar [God is Greater]” set fire to the Salvation Army Church building in the Majengo area on the outskirts of Mombasa. They accused police of killing the hard-line Islamist sheikh, and in the police response to the rampaging Muslim youths, including officers’ efforts to stop them from attacking a Pentecostal church in Mombasa, four people were reportedly killed and several others wounded.
Omar had been a student of sheikh Aboud Rogo, also mysteriously killed in his vehicle in August 2012, who had been accused of aiding in recruitment and funding for the Somalia-based Islamic extremist group Al Shabaab. At the Musa Mosque, some 200 meters from the Salvation Army Church building, Omar reportedly issued incendiary sermons against non-Muslims. According to Kenya’s National Intelligence Service, the imam had invited jihadists from Somalia to bomb targets in Nairobi and Mombasa in retaliation for the killing of Rogo.
The same Salvation Army Church building was set ablaze last year in response to the killing of Rogo.
The murder of two pastors over the weekend has caused much fear among churches and especially church leaders in the coastal region, where many Al Shabaab militants flushed out of Somalia by Kenyan-led African Union forces have taken refuge, said another pastor who requested anonymity.
Mombasa church leaders met on Monday (Oct. 21) to evaluate challenges before them.
“We condemned this heinous act and asked the security agencies to carry out prompt investigations concerning the killing of the pastor and to bring to book the killers,” said Stanley Prince Nyachae, Mombasa Churches Forum secretary. “As the church, we are appealing for reinforcement of security to prevent more killings of our church members.”