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Sharon (Pennington) Bylsma | Reflecting on the aftermath of Kenya’s mall attack

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We have known the threat of terrorism here since we’ve moved to Africa.

We came in 1999, only a few years after the U.S. embassy bombing here. During our stay, Kenya has suffered various terrorist attacks on hotels and other tourist installations in Kenya, as well as on tourists at various resorts on the Kenyan coast.

There have been various grenade attacks on churches, and bus stations and public transport vehicles around Nairobi. There has been a U.S. State Department advisory for Kenya for as long as we’ve lived here, as far as I know, though Westerners and Europeans continue to travel here both for tourism and for mission work, either short or long term.

We try to remain vigilant around town, we regularly receive embassy warnings and updates, but until this recent episode have seldom felt unsafe.

The fact that this horrible event was able to take place here and destroy so many lives and so much property is tragic. Children being killed by terrorists, and parents being gunned down in public places is something that just is unnatural and should not happen. Unfortunately, terrorism is a present evil throughout much of the world today. But as horrific as the event of the Westgate seige has been, there have also been good things that have come from it.

Kenyans came together in a way they have not done for awhile during this episode. Even the government responses to it were for the most part unified. The Kenyan people, as you’ve no doubt heard or seen, lined up in long lines to donate blood for those who had been injured, even while the terrorists were continuing their assault at Westgate. Volunteers provided food for responders and media people as well as for family members still waiting word about their missing loved ones. Since the end of this unfortunate attack, Kenyan officials are now seeking to reassess their systems for handling such an event, what led up to it, and examining issues such as porous border crossings, etc. We know many wonderful Kenyan people and find them to be across-the-board resilient and strong and capable.

My hopes for the future? I hope that Kenya’s readiness for the possibility of these kinds of attacks will improve drastically through this reassessment time. I hope and pray that more people will realize the precious value of human life and the truth that every life is valuable and that God does not look upon us the way we often look upon each other.

I hope more people will realize that one day we will ALL, both the “good” and the “evil,” stand before God and give account for our lives and we need to be ready for that day because we never know when it may come. I hope that the unity demonstrated among Kenyans during this time will be retained and that Kenyans, Asians, Europeans and Americans will continue to help and cooperate one with another in this great land..

Kenya is a great nation, with great people and tremendous potential. Terrorism will likely continue because we live in a fallen world. My ultimate hope is for the return of Jesus, who will bring true justice and put a final end to all evil. Until that time, I believe that God is as present in the affairs of our lives in times like these as He has ever been, and that He is our only hope in this world.

Sharon (Pennington) Bylsma is a former Wenatchee resident. She and her husband have lived in Nairobi since 1999, coming to Kenya to do mission work. They now teach the Bible to young adults.