Kenyan Christians Traveling for Christmas Fear al-Shabaab Bus Attacks

Christian and Muslim leaders have condemned the violence, which has turned deadly as neighboring Somalia broke diplomatic ties.

Christians traveling on buses for Christmas holiday close to the border with Somalia have recently become targets of the Somalian militant group, al-Shabaab.

According to Christians in the region, traveling has become a risky endeavor, as the militants have seized buses on remote roads. Locals in the mostly Muslim communities in the area have been accused of aiding the attacks, some of which have been fatal.

Kenyans are bracing for further attacks by al-Shabaab as the United States carries out plans to withdraw its troops from Somalia, which broke off diplomatic relations with Kenya on Tuesday, saying Kenya was meddling in its elections.

In response to the attacks, Christian and Muslim leaders have stepped up interfaith dialogue in hopes of reining in the bus attacks and other threats to the border region’s small Christian community.

“We continue to pray and talk. The interfaith dialogue has brought a great change in this region,” Nicholas Mutua, a Catholic priest in Garissa, told Religion News Service. “The buses are moving. All is fine, but we have to be on alert. The militants are very unpredictable.”

Al-Shabaab, the al-Qaida affiliate in East Africa, has posed a threat to regions along the border for almost a decade, staging attacks on security forces and government outposts in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, and Lamu counties. Improvised explosive devices have been used to strike security forces, police posts and telecommunication masts along roadways.

Many of the non-Muslims caught in the recent bus attacks have been teachers traveling to other parts of Kenya for Christmas celebrations. Some church leaders have also been killed in the attacks.

“The target is the Christians and for their faith,” …

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