Terrorist Attacks in Kenya
Saturday September 21, several masked gunmen attacked a mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Kenya Red Cross recently confirmed 68 people dead and an estimated 175 wounded. The attackers took control of the mall and 50 to 200 hostages were forced into hiding. (Fox News, Kenya’s Military says ‘most’ hostages freed…, 9.22.13)
The Somali militant group called Harakat al-Shabaab has openly claimed responsibility for the attacks via Twitter. The al-Queda-linked group claimed that the attack was retaliation for Kenya sending military forces into Somalia in 2011 and forcing al-Shabaab members off their territorial land. This militant group is known for violently imposing their version of Islam in Somalia, including beheading civilians and burying teenage girls in sand and stoning them to death. (NY Times, Kenyans Move to End Siege of Mall in Nairobi, 9.22.13) Security forces in Kenya are not strong due to prior attacks, including an attack by al-Qaeda on the US Embassy in 1998, poverty and social inequality.
The militant group attacked in a two-pronged manner. Their attack was targeted specifically at non-Muslims; many witnesses claimed that the attackers asked all the Muslims to leave before they started to shoot. US forces had warned Westgate before that it was a target for terrorist attacks because of the Israeli café on the ground floor of the mall.
Special military forces were sent into the mall Saturday night, opening fire against the estimated 10 attackers. (CBS News, Kenya mall attack leaves at least 39 dead, 9.21.13) Kenyan forces claimed they have regained control over the mall, having isolated the attackers in one area, while additional forces rescued over 1,000 hostages inside the mall, many of whom were suffering from dehydration.
Kenya president Uhuru Kenyatta said that Kenya will survive this attack and will remain “as brave and invincible as the lions on our coat of arms.” (NY Times, Kenyans Move to End Siege of Mall in Nairobi, 9.22.13) Former Director of African Terrorism Rudy Atallah commented that this attack is probably just the beginning of many, as al-Shabaab just proved their capabilities as well as resources to plan an attack this size.
Pope Francis Comments on Abortion, Gay Rights and Contraception
Pope Francis recently remarked in a lengthy interview for La Civilta Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal, that the Church was too obsessed with abortion laws, gay rights and contraception. He commented that he wants a more inclusive Church, where people are able to feel welcomed and at home. He criticized the Church for focusing too much on small matters of doctrine and disregarding the bigger picture of life, including love and inclusion. (America Magazine, “A Big Heart Open to God,” 9/30/13).
When asked why he became a Jesuit, Francis answered that he was looking for a community to be a member of, which is part of the reason why he is residing in Casa Santa Marta. This is the type of mindset he is trying to instill into the Church, emphasizing that nearness and proximity with the people is needed. When asked about the Christians who are in situations that contradict Church doctrine, Francis said that if a homosexual has good will and is searching for God, he is not the one to judge. The Pope said, “[Church] must always consider the person.” (The New York Times, Pope Says Church Is “Obsessed” with Gays, Abortion and Birth Control, 9/19/13)
This type of a more liberal approach is different than the view of Pope Francis’ predecesors, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II. Both popes strove for a Church with tight holds on doctrine. Although Pope Francis did not indicate any type of change in doctrine, his words have altered the tone of the Church. Many liberal Catholics responded to his words with gratitude, as they have felt excluded for the past two papacies of Benedict and John Paul. (The New York Times, Pope Says Church Is “Obsessed” with Gays, Abortion and Birth Control, 9/19/13)
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Head of US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the Pope’s words were to steer the Church into modern times and to more effectively pass on the timeless teachings. (MSN News, Catholics react to Pope’s remarks on gays, abortion, 9/23/13)
—Shelia Hu, Guest Reporter