They came to maim Kenyans but instead heroes emerged

Edited version published in Joongang Daily  http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/Article.aspx?aid=2978229

The Somalia-based Al-shabab militia group and Somalia pirates are not new to Korea and certainly familiar to any country that has borne the pains of abductions, loss of life and property, or disrupted trade routes. It was just last December when Somali pirates released four Korean seamen they had held for 19 months; mind you a ransom had to be paid. In our archives we have some indescribable stories about terrorism but those are for another day.

The recent terror attack in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in which about 70 people died and more than a hundred injured is still fresh in our thoughts. Yes, agonizingly vivid. May the bereaved families will find immediate solace at this time of grief.

Without a shred of doubt, the Westgate attack was one of the most brutal acts against a population. How could they kill children, pregnant women and guiltless lives? Kenyans hearts are chockfull with many questions and our thoughts laced with sundry reflections to ponder. But there is counter story.

While watching the happenings of the Westgate Mall miles away in Korea, I was supposed to feel stranded, helpless and wasted. Allow me to confess that yes, I felt that way at some point. You see, I am a trained first-aider and a certified fire rescuer but all these vestments were comfortably lazed within me miles away. I should have been angrier were it not for the inspiration of my fellow countrymen and women. Kenyans and foreigners alike defied their political, religious, social class and race barricades to offer a hand for the love of life. Now that is heroism.

Again, the reports that Kenya Red Cross had to turn away people who had come to donate blood were even more moving. I’m talking of the people who volunteered to donate blood in large numbers and overwhelmed the capacity of the paramedics. Many others donated food, water and other basic items. By the fourth day, 55million shillings (USD631840) had been raised for the Kenya Red Cross and other rescue agencies. Again, that is heroism.

And now as the dust fall back to ground we remain with deed questions. Of course. But this is not only for Kenya as a country, but as a people of the world. If the list of attackers released by Al-shabab is to be believed then this is a global issue. The claim that a multinational team made up of citizens of America, Canada, Finland, Syria, Somalia and Kenya is worrying. We patiently wait for investigations and confirmations on this. Meanwhile as we reflect and seek the necessary answers, we mourn in pain not because we have accepted defeat but for the simple reason that we are human. We feel the pain when our children’s dreams are nipped away. That is why we retreat to the places where our hearts find solace when shaken. To us, this is still heroism.

Miles away, Kenyans in Korea also stand with their brothers and sisters back home. On Saturday this weekend (September 28th) Kenyans and friends of Kenya will gather for a prayer vigil at Bethany Methodist in Seoul to strengthen one another. They want to send a message to the Westgate Mall attackers that they are resilient, and deliberately so. Across the world, other Kenyans in diaspora in Berlin, Dallas, London and other cities are standing together in support for their country. With one accord they believe that they shall rise again.

Well, from their hometowns the atrocious attackers came to maim in the name of revenge and misplaced religious claim, but the world has stood against them. Kenyans are unyielding. The true heroes have emerged.

 The writer, Kwemoi Kamary, is a professor at Kosin University, Busan, and a former Secretary General of Kenya Community in Korea.

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