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News / Thoughts

Alive because he slept in…

April 20, 2015

Earlier in April, Boko Haram militants attacked a university campus in Garissa, Northern Kenyan. Open Doors workers visited Garissa to encourage Christians and assess their needs. They spoke to Frederick Gitonga, the 21-year-old Chairman of the Christian Students’ Union, who survived the attack. He would normally have been at the prayer meeting where 22 students from the Christian Union were killed, but avoided the same fate after he found he was too tired to attend.

He had gone to bed after midnight the night before the attack because he was counselling another student who was struggling to forgive someone.

Fred woke up in time for the morning prayers, but decided to go back to sleep. He awoke to the sound of gunshots. “My roommates ran out, leaving the door wide open. I felt a strong urge not to run, but to stay put. As I hid under the bed, I could hear the gunshots and screams of fellow students. After some time things went quiet, but I did not move.”

Two attackers entered the room where Fred was hiding. “They sat on the beds, changed their rifle magazines, and then shot at the walls to test them before going out to resume the killings. I stayed there for long – I do not know how long – but was eventually rescued by a Kenya Defense Force officer.”

Leaders of the CU killed

Usually the prayer meeting would have up to 70 attendees, but for some reason numbers were lower that day. Still, sadly, all of the 22 people who had woke early to pray were killed.

Many of those who died were leaders of the Christian Union; the group was in the process of installing a new committee, and both old and new members of the committee were killed. “We had just elected new officials on February 15th and the handing over process was not yet over.”

The names of the committee members who died are: Catherine Mbithe, Edward Wafula, Evans Yamboko, Emily Namaemba, Tobias Simiyu, Faith Mutano, Philomena Kasyoka, Sammy Musau, Jane Kanario, Faith Kendi, Mildred Yondo, Duncan Mwiti, Joseph Kuria, Acquila Mulei, Milton Namai, Dorcas Kagweria. Please use these names to pray for their families.

“I praise God that some survived, many in truly miraculous ways. However, we are deeply traumatised, broken, and in need of much prayer. At the same time, we are trying to help fellow students who seek comfort and support from us,” Fred says.

“I have not been to my home area since the incident because I felt I could not rest until my friends are laid to rest. This weekend, I and two other Fellowship of Christian University Student officials will travel to Bungoma, Western Kenya, to lay our friends Edward, Evans, Emily, and Tobias to rest. Then I will attend Sammy and Philomena’s burials in Kitui before I finally go home. It is much, but these were not just fellow students and fellow Christian Union officials, they were also my close friends and prayer partners. I have to say goodbye.

Please pray for us

“Please pray for us. Pray for the surviving students to heal not just in body, but in mind too. Many saw sights too horrible to describe and those memories can harm if not attended to. I pray that they each get adequate psychological help.

“Pray also for the surviving committee members. We need God’s wisdom as all surviving Garissa University students are to relocate to Moi University’s main campus in Eldoret on May 20th. We pray for smooth integration and acceptance within the Christian Union and student body as a whole.

“Pray for me too. I need peace of mind, strength, and wisdom. I am struggling with dreams that cause me to snap awake and then I cannot get back to sleep. I find myself remembering the horror of that day. The sounds and smells came back clearly. I need God to help me forget. May He also help me to serve in this trying time and to know the way forward when we get to the new campus.”

Open Doors workers visited Garissa to encourage Christians there, as well as visiting Nairobi to do what they could to support family members searching for loved ones among the victims. We have met with a number of survivors to encourage them and show them the solidarity they so desperately need at this time.

Source: Open Doors

Prayer points

  • For healing in mind and body for survivors of the attack
  • For smooth integration of students from the Garissa campus into the Eldoret campus
  • For peace and strength for Fred and for an end to his nightmares
  • For God to use Open Doors staff and other organisations to support the Christian community effectively.

We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.