NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 1 – Religious and political differences were put aside on Tuesday as Muslims, Christians and Hindus held prayers in honour of the victims of last month’s terror attack.
Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga even shared a hug, despite being on opposing bitter sides of the political divide, to great applause.
“Canon (Peter) Karanja will give us credit that despite our competition we find time to hug each other and I don’t know whether church leaders would hug each other the way we do if they had to elect a leader from among them,” Ruto joked in his characteristic style.
The two even later held hands with President Uhuru Kenyatta as they left the inter-denominational prayers at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre on Tuesday morning.
Tears were also shed, not by Ruto this time round, but by Sheikh Muhamed Shebwana as he prayed that fear and hate should not take root in the hearts of Kenyans following the killing of 67 and injury of 240 others in the September 21 attack.
“Our people have been killed, our children have been killed, our women have been killed, had they no mercy?” Shebwana posed as he choked back sobs.
But despite the heavy theme, there was laughter; especially when Al-Hajji Adan Wachu said prayers for Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku.
“He (Lenku) stood with this nation during that trying time giving all types of news, whether false or true…it was for you to sieve it later on,” Wachu said to laughter.
But through the laughter and the tears the, “indomitable spirit of Kenyans,” – as President Kenyatta so aptly put it immediately following the terror attack – came through.
“What the terrorists meant for evil, He (God) has turned for good,” the Most Reverend Eliud Wabukala stated as he shared a pulpit with his Muslim brothers.
And when they took their turn, the Islamic religious leaders made it clear that they found the attack on unarmed women, children and men reprehensible, “We tell terrorists not in our name and not in the name of Islam,” Wachu denounced.
And once the individual prayers were said the words of the national prayer rang in the air, “Let one and all arise, with hearts both strong and true. Service be our earnest endeavour and our homeland of Kenya, heritage of splendour, firm may we stand to defend.”