Sifa FM's name is clearly visible on the sign outside the marketing office that was burned in the attacks.
The deadly attack by militants in the Kenyan town of Mpeketoni also destroyed an office of TWR’s national partner but didn’t harm staff members in the area.
Many of the 49 people who died Sunday night, June 15, 2014, were believed to be listeners of TWR (also known as Trans World Radio) Kenya’s broadcasts, according to the manager of Sifa FM, the name of the ministry’s station on nearby Lamu island. Mpeketoni sits on the mainland about 30 kilometers, or less than 20 miles, from the island.
A second wave of attacks occurred the following night in the same area, various news outlets reported, resulting in the deaths of at least 10 more people and the abduction of several women.
“Our station is on the island, but we have a small office in Mpeketoni donated by one of our listeners,” said Bernice Gatere, director of TWR Kenya. “It is this office which was burnt down along with the entire building. … The staff in Lamu are all safe but very shaken. The station manager visited the Mpeketoni area earlier today to assess the damage to the small office there.”
The manager of Lamu-based Sifa FM, which was not damaged and remains on the air, visited Maporomoko on Tuesday to console bereaved residents grieving after the second wave of attacks and to encourage the many listeners of the station's broadcasts in the area. The population of the area is predominantly Christian, according to Gatere.
Al-Shabab militants from northeastern neighbor Somalia claimed responsibility for the attack, but Kenya's president disputed that claim. Last year, al-Shabab attacked a mall in the capital, Nairobi, killing 67. TWR Kenya’s main office, which was not affected by either attack, is in Nairobi.
With the nation undergoing a surge in violence, TWR Kenya has produced a number of broadcasts that have called for peace and reconciliation and that have included messages about healing and coping amid traumatic circumstances. More of these will be developed as resources are available, Gatere said.
The problems in Kenya unfold against a backdrop of disturbing violence throughout this part of the continent, said Emmanuel Mbennah, TWR international director for Africa.
“The situation is very concerning in the East Africa subregion,” Dr. Mbennah said Monday (June 16, 2014). “The day before the attack in Kenya, there was another one in neighboring Tanzania in which one person was killed and several injured – some seriously. There is growing persecution of Christians in the subregion. Pray that God protects those laboring to preach the Gospel, the only hope for transformation.”
In Kenya’s hour of crisis, Gatere welcomed the prayers of TWR staff and supporters around the world and suggested several specific points to place before the Lord.
- The security of our small team in Lamu and the wisdom our ministry leaders need going forward.
- The families, many of which are believers, bereaved because of this attack.
- Healing and restoration for those who are traumatized and those whose businesses were destroyed.
- The capacity to produce specialized programs to address the current needs on the ground.
Gatere said Christian and Muslim leaders met Wednesday to discuss possible peace initiatives. TWR Kenya will invite some of the leaders to give peace messages over the airwaves, she added.
The director also noted that listeners in the Mpeketoni area had organized an event in September 2012 to show their appreciation for Sifa FM. Some of the owners whose businesses were destroyed in the attacks paid the costs of that celebration, she said.