TITLE: When the Sparrows Fell
COMPILED BY: Lucas Owako
PUBLISHER: FOCUS KENYA
REVIEWER: Vera Omwocha
EXTENT: 123 pages
Cost: Ksh. 250
Available at: Focus
Gunshots. Terror. Pain. Panic. Fear. Trauma. Blood. The smell of death. All insufficient to describe Garissa University in Kenya on the fateful 9th April, 2015.
I landed on “When the Sparrows Fell” when looking for literature on The Garissa University College Terror Attack.
Done by Fellowship of Christian Unions (FOCUS KENYA), this book documents heart wrenching stories of the survivors and those who lost their loved ones. With the accounts are a roller coaster of emotions; pain, anger, helplessness and a ray of hope that ‘In death and in life, they have defied the attackers.’
The text starts off by layering the backdrop of the North Eastern Kenya as a hostile area stemming from the effects of the Shifta War (1964-1967).
The picture of how the sparrows fell probably hangs above our heads and our minds refuse it residence;
“As they lifted their hands and voices to God in prayer, a hooded terrorist opened the door and meticulously sprayed them with bullets, one after another, their sounds of praise and prayer turning into shouts of terror and desperate cries, until they all went silent.”
Told from a Christian viewpoint, the writers seem to emphasise on standing strong for the terrorists can only kill the body and not the soul. But does such immense loss and pain subscribe to a religious sect?
“Though we die, we still live on. It is only our bodies that are in the mortuary; the soul lives on.”
There’s so much pain on these pages; numbing pain and grief that seems too much for humanity to bear. Not just the pain of loss and grief but the pain of parents and relatives ‘studying fingernails’ and ‘interrogating what’s left of cheekbones’ to identify their dead.
Bishop David Oginde is quoted to have mentioned at the memorial service:
“If there is a time when every person needed to reconsider their faith, it is this time. It would be a pity for any of us to die for being a Christian when you are not; because it is very possible, very possible, that among those who died in Garissa University, are many who died in the name of being Christians, but they were not. If we are to die for Christ, let us die for Christ.”
The FOCUS team questions the betrayal of the state on the security front owing to the forewarned attack threats. Similarly is the government’s concern on the ‘management of public information and image in a manner that was not helpful to the families.’ Other players using the situation for their personal benefit is also sadly highlighted.
In the end, there’s a call for vigilance, forgiveness that only God can gift and strength beyond the grave. The last chapter documents the fallen sparrows with short descriptions as narrated by their friends.
“God is never mocked; and God cannot be deceived. His eyes are ever on the sparrow, and none of them falls without his knowledge or his will.”
Perhaps, it is true: There is Grace is brokenness.
May we never forget.
Pick this book, it will teach you.