Kenyans in Baltimore pray for countrymen Service sends message to families, terrorists

August 10, 1998|By Alec Klein | Alec Klein,SUN STAFF

The tragedy of the twin bombings at U.S. embassies in East Africa came home across continents yesterday to a tiny chapel in Northeast Baltimore.

There, more than 60 parishioners, mostly Kenyan nationals, gathered for song and prayer at Faith Presbyterian Church, 5400 Loch Raven Blvd., to grapple with the grief from Friday's hTC bombing that killed at least 200 people and injured 4,000 in Kenya.

Almost simultaneously Friday, a bomb exploded in the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam, killing 10 and injuring 74.

Twelve Americans have been confirmed dead in the attacks.

"Why we're doing this is mainly to gather people to pray for the bereaved in Kenya, Tanzania and the U.S., and also to encourage each other, to lift each others' spirits," said Catherine Kinyanjui of East Baltimore, a 27-year-old Kenyan national and Coppin State College student who helped organize the prayer service.

"It was shocking, very shocking," Kinyanjui said.

"We did not call this meeting because we lost relatives. We called this meeting because we lost countrymen. And our countrymen are our brothers and sisters," said Rosemary Kahuki, 29, a Kenyan and Northwest Baltimore resident who helped organize the event.

"We want to give thanks to God because it could have been worse. We want to send condolences to Kenya and America and Tanzania because of the people who lost their lives in the tragedy," Kahuki said. "And we also want to send a message to terrorists. We want to tell them that they can hide from everybody else but there's a higher power, a power that is higher than any other power, and because of our prayers, they will be found and charged accordingly."

For two hours and 15 minutes yesterday, those prayers were offered. Standing, clapping and swaying, the Kenyans sang songs of tribute -- folksy, whimsical and melancholy -- in both English and their native tongue.

In stifling heat, parishioner after parishioner went to the podium to speak of the tragedy. In turn, they prayed for the dead and for those on their death beds. They prayed for the United States, Kenya and Tanzania, Africa, the rescue workers and for peace.

"Whoever did that will not go unpunished," said Lucas Kimani, 29, an Essex Community College student and Kenyan national. "It is a situation that needs God's hand."

The prayers continued into the evening.

"It's an unfortunate situation. It was meant to hurt U.S. citizens, but it ended up hurting Kenyan citizens. The whole thing is foolish," said Julius Maina, 36, a Kenyan national living in Hampden. "By bringing people together we can politicize the evils of terrorism. It's not just an American issue anymore. We should all unite to confront terrorism."

Pub Date: 8/10/98

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