An Ad Hoc meeting of Quaker leaders in Kenya has decided to hold a national Quaker Peace Conference (see above). The purpose of the conference will not be to listen to speeches on various topics, but to organize practical work in the various areas.
The meeting, held on 14 January, was attended by representatives of the Friends World Committee for Consultation, Friends Churches Kenya, Friends United Meeting, the Change Agents Peace Programme, the United Society of Friends Women (Kenya), Quaker Men (Kenya) and Kakamega Yearly Meeting.
The meeting stressed that the Friends Church is non-partisan, and does not endorse any candidate or party. “There have been a few instances in the press in which individuals have purported to speak for Friends in making partisan statements. No one has the authority to make such statements. The official position of Friends, as confirmed by us all today, is that Friends institutions do not endorse candidates or political parties.
“As Friends, we believe in dialogue as a method of resolving disputes. We hope that mediation can bring the two parties together. Riots and protests do not promote a spirit of listening. ‘The Truth will set this country free.’ Justice requires truth-telling.”
Some churches already have a Disaster Fund for immediate action in this kind of situation. Friends agreed that this kind of thing should be implemented widely among Friends to prepare for the future.
“We have all been affected by this in one way or another. We have all seen horrible things that we didn’t think could happen in this country. None of us are secure in Kenya as long as this ethnic violence is happening. Each one of us is in pain.
“We do not have accurate information on how Friends are affected. We need to gather data to know the situation of our own members. We do know that Friends in Eldoret are doing exceptional work in assisting those in need.
“The situation of Internally Displaced People is pathetic, with extremely urgent humanitarian needs. We must all do what we can to help, and do it in a coordinated way. We have seen our neighbours displaced. We cannot allow them to be chased away permanently, but must work on reconciliation of communities so that they can be reintegrated. We can’t allow this country to be divided along tribal lines.
“Our work as Friends at this time should be joint, not individual organizations acting in isolation. We must be together and coordinated. If we can’t be united, we will not have any impact on our country. Every YM has people who have been trained by CAPP. These people should be sent to counsel the Internally Displaced People. However, they are lacking transport.”
The meeting noted that youth disaffection and unemployment are a root cause of the trouble and that the actions of the police have been very troubling.
As well as agreeing to hold the peace conference, the Friends present agreed to focus on grass-roots work, organizing it through the proposed conference. They also agreed to implement their relief work together, so that no matter which organization receives a contribution, the resources will meet the most urgent needs in the most effective ways. The meeting decided not to try to approach the top politicians at this time.
“Friends are well known for their work in crisis situations. Even as we work on our action plan, let us keep praying, and allow our action to emerge from prayer.”