Violence in East Africa: At least 10 members dead in Kenya crisis
A widowed mother of three, Agnes Bosibori lost what few…
A young boy in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, expressed the desires of Christians across the troubled East African nation.
“I would like to tell my fellow children to go home and tell their parents that we need peace,” the boy told Nyabuto Marube, minister for the Kayole Church of Christ, as Marube visited his school in Nairobi’s Kibra district — home of the infamous Kibera slums.
“This was such a powerful statement,” Marube told The Christian Chronicle. “Children are innocent, and they know it is their parents — and the parents of their friends — who cause violence.”
The boy was one of hundreds Marube has encountered through his work with INERELA+ Kenya, a non-governmental organization dedicated to stopping the spread of HIV and helping those affected by the epidemic.
Marube and a group of faith leaders visited Kibra to share messages of hope and prevention in the days between Kenya’s two elections. The first, on Aug. 8, was invalidated by the nation’s highest court for “irregularities and illegalities,” ABC News reports. The second, Oct. 26, was boycotted by members of an opposition party after their candidate, Ralia Odinga, said that electoral reforms had not been made.
Kenyans know the deadly potential of elections. In late 2007, a contested election ignited ethnic tensions and sparked violent clashes that killed up to 1,400 people across the nation, according to estimates. Ten members of Churches of Christ were among the dead — seven in Narok, two in Kisumu and one near Mount Sinai Bible Camp, a church-supported facility near Mauche. The violence also displaced about 600,000 Kenyans from their homes.
Marube served for three months at a camp for the displaced, he said, and the Kayole congregation served as a distribution center for aid.
“I don’t want to see a replay of that again this year,” he said of the 2008 crisis. “I have been on my knees praying that the stalemate in the presidential election does not break into large-scale violence.”
The latest elections already have resulted in dozens of deaths, Human Rights Watch reports.
Daily protests also have disrupted the nation’s economy and raised food prices, said Richard Rono, director of Mount Sinai Bible Camp, in a recent report to supporters of World Mission Radio Kenya, a church-run ministry. Businesses have closed. Parents struggle to raise school fees for their children and teachers haven’t been paid.
As protesters clashed with police, a member of the Homa Bay Church of Christ was injured at his business and suffered a deep gash on his scalp, said Charles Ngoje, a minister and ministry trainer in Nairobi.
Beyond the physical wounds, however, the violence has affected Kenyans’ sense of well-being, Ngoje said.
“Post-election violence, with the potential to destroy a nation, has become a persistent ghost over Kenya every five years,” he said. “We can no longer point fingers at other countries as failing states. We are slowly plunging into pariah-hood.”
More than ever, churches must preach Christ’s message of reconciliation across lines of ethnicity, said Marube’s brother, David, who preaches for the Nyamue Church of Christ in the city of Kisii, Kenya.
In the past two decades, Kenya’s churches played a vital role in fostering political expression and encouraging multiparty elections and constitutional reform, David Marube said.
Now, he added, “unless the church stands firm, it is likely to be divided and start serving narrow political interests depending on the ethnic group to which its leaders belong.”
At the Nyamue church, “I have been using the pulpit to teach and preach genuine forgiveness and reconciliation and encourage people to love one another regardless of their political affiliation.
“We need prayers that the church in Kenya can stay true to its calling and become a model to the rest of society of what can be accomplished if people live together in harmony.”
In other parts of the country, congregations continue to serve their communities and host Sunday worship. In the town of Nakuru, the Eastside Church of Christ celebrated its fourth anniversary despite a low turnout due to the election, minister Zacharia Oduor told the Chronicle.
“We are not sure of our tomorrow,” Oduor said, “but we do hope for peace.”
In the coastal city of Mombasa, the Changamwe Church of Christ reported six visitors at its Swahili-language service — and one baptism, minister Elijah Onyangore said.
“As a church, we will continue to engage wisely and peacefully,” Onyangore said, “as we also act truthfully.”
Social media now plays a role in fanning the flames of “ethnic violence,” Nyabuto Marube said, “and Christians must learn how to capture these arenas and inject sobriety and Christlikeness.
“Then we can join the apostle John and sing the new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood, out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.’”
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