NAIROBI, Kenya — The Rev. Zeinab Hussein caused an online fury when she took a strong position in support Israel just days after Hamas terrorists launched a surprise attack on the Jewish state.
The preacher, who presides over the Latter Glory Church in Nairobi, put up a Facebook post with the phrase “I stand with Israel” emblazoned across the Star of David. Under it, she quoted Psalm 122:6-8: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces. For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, Peace be within you.”
Zeinab was born to a native Kikuyu mother and a Kenyan Somali and grew up a Muslim attending an Islamic school. She later married a Muslim, but eventually converted to Christianity and is now a preacher.
Reactions to the post were fast and furious. While many supported the pastor, some were dismissive of the post — claiming that Israelis were the aggressors in the current Middle East chaos because, they argued, it was Jews had stolen Arab lands.
It isn’t surprising that many Africans would oppose Israel. Across the continent, 45% of the population is Muslim, which accounts for a quarter of the world’s Islamic population. In Kenya, the predominant religion is Christianity, which is adhered to by an estimated 86% of the population. Islam is the second-largest religion, practised by 11% of Kenyans.
Over the past few days, the Israeli war has dominated conversations at restaurants and homes. Although this debate is going on practically everywhere in the world, for Kenyans it is a bit more personal since the country has been the target of militant Islamists. In addition, the East African nation was once proposed as a possible settlement for the then-stateless Jews.
Israeli soldiers retaling communities near the Gaza border encountered streets littered with the dead bodies of civilians, including women and children. The death toll among Israelis rose to 1,200. Palestinian officials have more than 1,100 people have been killed in Gaza and more than 5,000 wounded. Israeli rockets smashed into neighborhoods on a fifth day of combat on Wednesday, destroying homes and other infrastructure.
The contents of Zeinab’s Facebook post has been replicated across the African continent as political leaders, clergy and ordinary people air their views on the war.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, who chairs the Commission of the African Union, while calling for cessation of hostilities was quick to add, “Denial of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, particularly that of an independent and sovereign state, is the main cause of the permanent Israeli-Palestinian tension.”
He also expressed his “utmost concern” at the outbreak of the current hostilities, causing grave consequences for the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians in particular, and for peace in the region, in general.