The tragic incident in which two grenades were lobbed at a Garissa church compound in north-eastern Kenya resulting in the death of two people deserves strong condemnation.
While no one has claimed responsibility, security agents are pointing an accusing finger at the Somali terror group, Al-Shabaab.
Garissa and the North Eastern region boast of an overwhelming Muslim majority who have over the years demonstrated a high degree of tolerance for the Christians living among them.
Churches dot many areas of the region standing out as a testimony of this tolerance.
Attacking the houses of worship of other faiths goes against the ideals of Islam.
While media reports have, in the past, mentioned attacks against churches in Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria and Iraq, this is not part of the teaching of Islam.
Under no circumstances are churches, synagogues or temples to be attacked or destroyed. Even in times of conflict, it is forbidden to harm worshippers.
In one of his Traditions (Hadith) as related by Ahmad ibn Hambal, Prophet Muhammad says: “Do not kill the people who are sitting in places of worship.”
In addition to this, civilian populations are not to be harmed. During a war, the Prophet saw the corpse of a woman and observed: “She was not fighting. How then she came to be killed?”
Prophet Muhammad in his lifetime signed treaties with Jewish and Christian tribes which assured them of freedom of worship and forbade the destruction of their houses of worship.
Notably, one treaty that was signed between the Muslim and the Christian community of Najran in Yemen guaranteed the safeguarding of their wealth, religion and churches.
Prophet Muhammad also sent a charter of freedom to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Mt Sinai.
Among the salient features of this historical document are a clause that states: “No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet.”
After the takeover of Jerusalem by the second Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab, a covenant was made with the Christian community guaranteeing that churches would not be destroyed or occupied.
“Their churches are not to be occupied, demolished, or damaged, nor are their crosses or anything belonging to them to be touched. They will not be forced to abandon their religion, nor will they be harmed,” the treaty said in part.
The respect that Islam holds for churches is clearly demonstrated by the protection which they have for centuries extended to one of the holiest shrines in Christianity, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Church of Resurrection) in Jerusalem.
For hundreds of years, Muslims have been in charge of the church’s security and to this day, the keys for the church are kept by Muslims as a sign of mutual trust and tolerance.
In such a situation as witnessed in Garissa, Muslims need to stand together with their Christian counterparts in strongly condemning these heinous acts whose ultimate goals is to create discord among communities that have lived together in harmony for generations.
Mr Ayman is a Nairobi-based journalist (email@example.com)