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Associated Press
Kenyan Army personnel keep watch as smoke billows over the Westgate Mall, in Nairobi on Monday.

Kenya siege reminder of a tenuous freedom

As an advocate of peace, mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation, I often struggle making sense when monstrous and cowardly acts claim innocent lives. Nairobi, the usually peaceful and hospitable capital city of Kenya with more than 5 million people, is in great shock after an attack that has claimed more than 60 lives. No one knows for sure who is responsible for the attack, even though claims have gone out that a gang of not more than 10 people who stormed the Westgate Shopping Mall, a leading complex visited by well-to-do locals and expatriates, supposedly belong to al-Shabaab. Somalia’s al Qaida-linked al-Shabaab rebels claimed responsibility through a Twitter message that said the violence was in reprisal for Kenya’s military involvement in Somalia. Sadly enough, the news from Kenya indicates that the attackers were religiously selective with those they targeted, making this senseless attack not only political but also religious.

It is because of such news that I get so concerned, especially when I look around the world at the global human suffering. We continue to see innocent people – particularly women and children – become refugees not by their wish but by the wishes of self-centered individuals whose sense of peace and reconciliation is worthless.

I have worked tirelessly contributing to the betterment of those who happen to be refugees from different countries dealing with postwar trauma, loss of identity, family, land and culture. I have heard, seen and experienced the pain they go through, their shuttered dreams and, more painfully, their desire to go back to their homeland and build their nation.

Kenya, a nation that is a hub for refugee hospitality not only from East Africa but also for the whole continent, has graciously opened its doors to refugees from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Congo, Sudan, Somalia and many more nations – simply in the name of love, peace and justice. Just like any other nation that accepts refugees, expectations are that the visitors be welcomed, helped and supported, and in return the visitor becomes a contributing member of the host country.

What has happened in Nairobi sends a conflicting message as to how the process of hospitality should be handled and processed.

Without accusing the refugees in Kenya because they might not even know who is behind all this mess, should the Somalia-Kenya relationship be scrutinized? Should Kenyan security be tightened in a manner that will also help new Kenyans better understand the responsibilities and accountability that come along with hospitality? Those attackers have chosen to use a means that targets innocent lives; it does not show any act of civility but rather is an act associated with regrets, grief and madness.

As the world watches, the world also learns something new. How long is it going to take before the acts of terror stop and innocent lives are respected?

Those of us in foreign lands know better that we are given a chance to live and enjoy the peace and freedom of our host countries all for free, but we also understand that not many nations around the globe have such opportunity to enjoy and thrive. Please keep Kenya in your thoughts and prayers. Pray for whoever is responsible for these violent acts and for the many families affected by this terror.

Saneta Maiko is executive director of Crime Victim Care of Allen County. A native of Kenya, he wrote this for The Journal Gazette.