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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, April 6, 2015
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with Rolly Espina

Persecution of Christians

Rolly EspinaIt was Holy Thursday. As Christians all over the world celebrate the most important event in the Christian world, the Lent, Kenyans woke up to hear the gruesome massacre of mostly 148 Christian students at Garissa University in Kenya by Al-Shabaab, a SomalianIslamist militant group.

Clearly fueling a religious war, the militants, identified as allies of the Al Qaeda entered the premises and started shooting those they identified as Christians. How? They asked each student they rounded up to recite the Koran and if they couldn't they were shot in the head or beheaded.

Just listening to survivors tell how it happened was horrific and appalling and makes one think what has the world come to.

In Rome, Pope Francis condemned the massacre and through a messenger sent a message to the world not to ignore the growing persecution of Christians.

While the last thing we want is a senseless religious war, there is enough reason to condemn this latest attack against Christians and at a time when we are celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Kenya, unknown to many is 80 percent Christians similarly like our country. But while we have Muslim brothers who are working for peace and living in harmony with Christians, there is a growing movement of Islam militants all over the world whose misguided beliefs led them to murderous rage against those who do not subscribe to their faith.

It tears at you when you listen to one survivor, Cynthia Cheroitich who told CNN how she survived for 50 hours, way after the carnage was over, hiding inside a closet and drinking body lotion to hydrate herself. She refused to come out even after assurance from the police and it took the head of the university to lead her out of her hiding place and bring her to the hospital.

Elizabeth, 21, called her father, Fred Musinai just as the gunmen stormed the university hostel and asked him to tell her mother to pray very hard, saying the armed men were going from room to room shooting anyone they feel was Christian.

“We don't fear death; this will be a good Easter holiday for us,” the attackers were quoted as saying.

Hours later, one of the gunmen called Fred to tell him his daughter was dead and to tell their President that. Most of those who died were women as most of the victims were herded towards the ladies area of the hostel.

It was sad listening to the survivors including how one had to climb into the ceiling above her bunk bed and could not do anything to stop two of her roommates who were also hiding and who believed the gunmen as they called on those hiding to step forward if they don't want to die.

According to survivors, they were separated from each other, the gunmen weaning away the Muslim students, setting them free and killing the rest.

In a message during the Good Friday services the Preacher of the Pontifical Household, Raniero Cantalamessa said we could not afford to be “Pontius Pilate” and ignore this apparent persecution of Christians.

Although the Pope condemned the act, he asked for a “change of hearts” among the perpetrators. The Kenyan government also asked Muslims and all other religious to stay on guard and slammed those that helped the militants do their act. According to reports, five have already been captured including one university guard who allegedly helped the gunmen gain access to the grounds. Six of those who were killed were security forces that engaged the militants, four of which were also killed in a 12-hour siege.

CNN recalled about the other atrocities against Christians around the world including the 270 Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram more than a year ago or the more than half a million Christians who fled their homes in Syria and the recent beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by ISIS rebels last February, videos of which they posted online.

Apart from the families of the victims, the other growing concern now is the effects of the all-out-war against the militants by the Kenyan government and so far, 12 have already been reported killed. Worse, Kenyans and their officials are calling on the United Nations for the forced repatriation of almost 500,000 Somalian refugees that fled to Kenya.

And the terror does not end here. In a statement, the militant group warned that more Kenyan cities “will run red with blood.”

It's been a sad week for the whole world and all we could do now is pray that those who died, believing in the resurrection, are now in peace and have joined our Creator.*

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