by Bedah Mengo and Chrispinus Omar
NAIROBI, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- Songs, prayers and sermons against terrorism reverberated across Kenya as Christians gathered in churches the first Sunday since the siege at Westgate Mall in Nairobi ended.
Church leaders prayed for the East African nation as they condemned the acts of terrorism in the capital and Wajir in northern Kenya, which left dozens of people dead and others maimed.
At least 67 people were killed in the Westgate attack that was overcome Tuesday last week. The attack in Wajir, on the other hand, left at least one security officer dead and dozens others wounded.
The two terror attacks that happened in the same week were masterminded by Al-Qaida linked Al-Shabaab terrorists, who claimed responsibility.
Al-Shabaab claimed they attacked Kenya because its security forces invaded Somalia. Kenya's forces crossed into Somalia in October 2011 after terrorists launched attacks on tourists in the country threatening its economy.
The two terror assaults have left the East African nation in shock and wounded, with church leaders stepping in to provide solace and comfort that many Kenyans are in need of currently.
The attacks have also threatened to tear apart Kenya along religious lines.
"Let the acts of terrorism not divide us as nation. Let God give us strength to move forward in unity and love as Kenyans. No religion condones terrorism," said Bishop Allan Kiuna of Jesus Celebration Center (JCC) in the capital.
"These despicable perpetrators hope to divide Kenyans, cause despondency and distrust. But we will defeat them. They will not divide us," Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta said earlier.
At the churches, some members who survived the attacks or those who were involved in saving lives shared their stories with worshippers.
"When the first gunshots went off at Westgate, I did not know what was happening. But I found myself in the boot of my car where I stayed for about two hours and later at the rooftop parking of the building. I am glad that I was saved," narrated a victim of the Westgate attack at JCC.
Those who lost kin and friends in the attacks were prayed for as the East African nation heals.
"We pray for those who lost their beloved ones and friends. We pray for those who are healing in hospitals, may they recover faster and go back to their normal lives," prayed Kiuna.
"We stand with every family that lost their loved ones and friends in the Westgate terror attack. We are one. We pray for every Hindu, Christian and Muslim. Let them understand that they will get joy amidst trouble," said a preacher at Light Christian Center (LCC) in Nairobi's Eastlands area.
"I want to also pray for children, who saw the violent acts of terrorism. We pray for them so that they can heal. Children are a blessing and the future of society."
As worshippers thronged churches for prayers, security was tightened at the places of worship. Churches are among public places in the East African nation, which police have isolated as terrorists' targets.
Several places of worship have been attacked since 2011 when Al- Shabaab vowed to attack Kenya. Standing at the doors of every place of worship in the capital were security guards and ushers to frisk people.
Nothing was left to chance as the guards searched faithful bags and scanned them with metal detectors. In some churches, bags were labelled and placed at one point to avoid worshippers walking with them into the main hall.
"We were asked to report early at the church for service to allow guards to frisk us. They have added two more security guards at the doors so that worshippers pass through two check points to ensure safety," said Mary Ngima.
Ngima noted security has always been tight at the church but it was heightened this Sunday.
"When terrorists started to target churches, we contributed money to buy metal detectors and other security gadgets. CCTV cameras have also been installed to capture every happening at the church," she said.
To further ensure safety, many churches have closed their several entrances and remained with one to control flow of people into the facilities.
"When you allow people to come from every direction, you jeopardize security. We do not want to make errors. No one should be spared from security checks, including children," said Mark Mutunga, an usher at LCC.
After Sunday's church services, many worshippers hope to put behind them the Westgate attack, focus on rebuilding Kenya and fostering unity, as they pray terror never visits them again.