Responding to the Terrorist Attack on Garissa University, Kenya

Responding to the Terrorist Attack on Garissa University, Kenya

It was Good Friday (April 3rd), and as the morning newspaper arrived, the details of the devastation which took place in Garissa University the previous day, sent shock waves through the country. I remember just staring at the headlines “148 killed”. At first there was a call among local people to “do something”; which thegovernment responded to by air strikes (April 6th) on two of Al-Shabaab camps in Somalia just across the eastern border of Kenya.

Sr. Rosie Brooks, fmm

iiThe next day about 2,500 Christians and Muslims in the area of Garissa town responded by the public display of solidarity with the students and the refusal to allow this incident, which targeted

Christian students while releasing Muslims, to divide the country.


RThere was also the response by other Kenyan University students angrily protesting in the city of Nairobi over the delayed response to the attack after a police chief admitted that a plane, meant

to transport commandos to the scene, was instead being used to fly his family back from their

holiday in Mombassa on the coast. This revelation on Tuesday fed growing fury at the

government’s failure to intervene during the day-long slaughter.


Some of the victims had initially managed to hide from the killers after the assault began at dawn,

but were discovered and murdered in the afternoon, many hours later. The police commandos

only arrived seven hours after the attack had started, finally breaking the siege in the evening,

when the four terrorists detonated their suicide vests.

Expressing their grief, Kenyans held a vigil in

Nairobi’s “Uhuru” (Freedom) Park for Garissa

victims. A temporary shrine of crosses and candles

has been set up and photos of the 148 victims of the

group’s deadliest attack in Kenya were on show.

A Nairobi born and raised US University student, Carter Harrell, did a re-write of a song paying tribute to the students.

Meanwhile, the people from around the country had the agonizing task of identifying their sons /daughters/friends and relatives. The bodies had been airlifted from Garissa to Chiromo funeral home not far from our provincialate community of Bethany in Nairobi.


The Franciscan Family Association had sent out an appeal for religious to go to assist the family members in whatever way they could. I felt that this was my “something” I needed to do. I knew I might not be of much help but I would do my best. When I arrived I found someone I recognized and asked how I could help. She was correct in knowing that my Kiswahili was poor and that there were already many counselors on duty under the tents set up in the compound.

Family members queuing to search for their loved ones in Chiromo Funeral Parlour

I was asked if I could go “inside” because people needed to come out. I explained that I was a nurse and would be able to help in this way. There were many Red Cross volunteers inside. They and I were to accompany the family members in the hopes of finding their loved ones and to standby in case they were not able to cope. The double agony for them: the loss of their loved one and now the search among all 148 bodies, badly decomposing and unrecognizable after almost one week. Workers were busily trying to repair the broken cooling system panel. Masks did little to help tolerate the stench and formaldehyde-filled air. What agony for these families and friends. Fingerprints were being relied upon to assist in the identification and funeral vans and caskets were in line waiting for the final day of identification to be over so all the bodies could be released.

Outside, volunteers were many offering: counseling, prayerful support, providing security, cooking for the families who were camping in the compound, for the workers and other volunteers, as well. Food and drinks by the boxes were being freely given to all.

The atmosphere was filled with compassion and care, unity and respect.

Kenyans know how to respond to a crisis.

May this be the last!

Rosie Brooks, fmm



Blessed Maria Assunta, fmm

Blessed Maria Assunta, fmm


On 7th April 1905 – a young FMM, called Maria Assunta, died a victim of typhus. She was 27 years old and was a missionary in China for less than a year.

As Assunta was dying,her sisters surrounded her praying, when suddenly they felt a perfume of violets . Something extraordinary was happening …

It was a sign! But why a sign?

Maria Assunta had lived a life like so many others. Nothing special,

nothing extraordinary… But what she lived, she lived it in depth!

She asked the Lord for :

« …the grace to make known to the world purity of intention which consists in doing all for the Love of God, even the most ordinary actions. »

And the Lord did « great things » in this little way in which she advanced: the way of minority in which her whole person radiated the love of God. These « ordinary things, these little things » which she accomplished became instruments of evangelization in Italy and later in China.

Assunta felt the call to Universal Mission… she wrote to Mary of the Passion that she was disponible to set out.

In March 1904, she was sent to China. Like a child, she trusted in God and placed herself in his hands.…

On arriving there on 18th June 1904, she had dreamt of serving her brothers and sisters, preferably the poorest, the lepers, but she was asked to do something completely different, the work of the kitchen!

God wanted her to be small, simple, minor, … and Assunta accepted!

Her whole mission boiled down to giving a humble and hidden service. She centered her life on Jesus in the Eucharist. In her donation, she realized her path: “Do all for the love of God!”

The months passed. An epidemic of typhus broke out in the region. Assunta multiplied herself to take care of the sick and she too fell ill. After a few days, she became weak and quietly went into agony. Her last words were, in Chinese, « Shen-ti ! Shen-ti – Eucharist ! Eucharist ! »…

And, finally, she celebrated her Paschal Mystery!

Assunta lived a very short but very intense life !

She said nothing special. She did not do anything great in the eyes of the world.

But her life is a message!


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