MURWILLUMBAH Catholics Martin and Christine O’Brien are still not sure what prompted their daughter Elizabeth to break her habit of having a coffee at Nairobi’s Artcaffe in Westgate Mall last weekend.
“We’re just grateful and relieved Elizabeth was having a coffee elsewhere when the attack happened,” Mr O’Brien said.
“I believe it was the Holy Spirit at work,” Mrs O’Brien said.
The O’Brien’s comments came after receiving news from Nairobi following reports terrorists had stormed the shopping mall they knew their daughter visited on September 21.
The terrorists, later identified as Al-Shabaab militants, threw grenades and fired on civilians, killing at least 85, wounding 205 and taking hostages.
Tasmanian man Ross Langdon and his Netherlands-born partner Elif Yavuz, eight months pregnant, were among those killed.
The militant group said the attack was in retaliation for Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia.
The O’Brien’s said last Sunday around 8am the anxiously-awaited email from their daughter saying “all was well” had arrived.
Mr O’Brien, who returned from visiting his daughter, her husband Tim and their three children in Nairobi three weeks ago, said there had been no sense of security problems during his stay.
His daughter’s family, formerly from Brisbane, have been working for the International Livestock Research Institute for the past 13 months and have a three-year contract.
Mr O’Brien didn’t get to visit Westgate Mall, but knew his daughter went there.
“So we were quite concerned when we heard the attack had happened there,” he said.
When we spoke to her later on Sunday, Elizabeth said she had been going for a coffee at Artcaffe most Mondays and Fridays and had been going to visit on the day of the attack.
“The last two Saturdays, she had also visited Artcaffe.
“Something changed her mind and she went elsewhere for a coffee.
“Actually Elizabeth was having coffee in another shopping centre when she received a phone call from the wife of an ILRI employee asking where she was and if she was all right.
“That was the first Elizabeth had heard of the attack.
“Apparently the attack started at Artcaffe which is at one of the entrances to the shopping mall.”
The O’Brien’s said they were relieved none of their family had been involved but were praying for those who had been caught up in the attack as well as the perpetrators.
Catholic bishops in Kenya called for unity after the terrorist attack.
A statement signed on behalf of the Kenyan Bishops Conference by the Nairobi Catholic Auxiliary Bishop, David Kamau, said the bishops condemned “the unwarranted attacks on the helpless people and residents of Kenya.”
“As a nation we share in the trauma of our brothers and sisters who have lost their close relatives and their loved ones during the Westgate attack,” the statement said.
“We are in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who have been injured in this terrible tragedy and pray that the Almighty God grants them a quick recovery.”
The Bishops thanked Kenyans for their overwhelming response to the tragedy by donating blood and other acts of kindness and solidarity.
The Church has donated food and blood bag kits to the Kenya Red Cross Society, which has been leading the emergency response to the tragedy.
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta said security forces had rescued more than 1000 people from the centre since the attack began.
On September 24, the siege continued with up to a dozen surviving terrorists believed to be holding an unknown number of hostages on the third floor of the four-story Westgate Mall.
Last weekend’s attack is the worst in Nairobi since an al-Qaeda bombing at the US embassy in 1998 killed more than 200 people.