Thursday, 31 January 2008
May the peace of the Lord be with you to day. I have had to call on that wonderful resource of the peace of God which passes all understanding. The death of the second ODM MP has hit so hard that we found it impossible to continue with our scheduled workshop for the CDC staff in Kisumu. We had all started in good spirits and the day looked so peaceful. After the news and lunch I told the other facilitators in my group to continue while I completed what I was doing. In a short while Janet came to call me. Nobody was in a mood to learn anything. They wanted me to give them a way of coping with what they were feeling. I realized that I was a mother who needed to give security and assurance to these young adults. We merged the groups and began to talk about the incident and what the implications were. We found ourselves looking at ways in which each can interact with the vulnerable youths to give them nonviolent ways of responding. By the time it was 4pm some normalcy had come back. I thanked God for my counseling skills and for my constant interaction with young people.
Jared, the Uzima field officer from Nyanza and his deputy George had begun the week in high hopes. He had met elders and administrators from Borabu and Sotik districts. Meetings were planned for today and tomorrow. Then the Kipsigis warriors struck in the night killing many Kisiis. Jared ended up being involved in ferrying the injured and dying to hospital. I talked with the PC Nyanza because the Sotik DC was being very uncooperative. Today they have been doing some shuttle diplomacy. Six Kisii people died from the clashes and many are still in hospital. I am so impressed by the way my staff are insisting on dialogue for the two tribes in spite of extreme provocation. I really thank God for that.
The truth of the matter is that there is no government. The senior civil servants are divided, the police is divided and the army is divided. Many feel that the targeted killings of ODM members is to reduce their numbers. And also to scuttle the talks.
What makes me so sad is that we are killing each other because of many things. These many things have been brought by some people who have become rich because of corruption. As Kenyans of all tribes suffer these filthy rich Kenyans are comfortable. That is why they give inflammatory statements and force people out of IDPs that the situation is calm.
My heart cries for Kenya. I have been to IDPs and seen the despair among the displaced Kikuyus. I have moved among the other tribes and seen their anger, frustration. We are trying to help people to redirect their anger to non violent protests. And reminding them Kikuyus are our people. I feel so encouraged about their responses at the end of each session.
We have once again lost our home in the Rift Valley. I got a phone call while here in Kisumu that our house and store had once more been burnt.
This is why I say the peace of the lord passeth all understanding. To be able to make Kenyas use this crisis as a time of positive change. A time to reflect and built one nation. I know it will happen as people use all kinds of positive methods to make sure. How sad to have a country without a government.
Wednesday, 30 January 2008
Yesterday, our family left Kisumu on a chartered flight sent by the US Embassy to bring out families with children. The situation in Kisumu (and all of western Kenya) has taken a turn for the worse since the horrible events in Nakuru and Naivasha over the weekend, and it was no longer prudent to stay where we were. For the moment, we are staying at the Mennonite Guest House, and taking things day by day. Eden is continuing to work, and can actually get more done in Nairobi, where there is freedom of movement, than in Kisumu where she was confined to the house. James and the kids are planning to spend their mornings doing some informal homeschooling. We are all grateful to be in a calm and restful environment, and plan to do a lot of sleeping!
This comes, of course, as a shock and disappointment, since it seemed last week like things were starting to improve. Kofi Annan is still here, and there is still some hope for the political mediation process, but at this point, it will be very difficult to quell the violence, even if the politicians reach a settlement. Kenya is in desperate need of your intercessions!
We held a very successful National Kenyan Quaker Peace Conference last weekend in Kakamega -- truly the Lord wanted this conference to succeed, since a "window" of peace opened up just for those four days, and we were able to travel and meet together! The Conference emerged with some very strong ideas for immediate action that Friends can take. (See the links at the top of the page.)
Our work now is to implement the Plan of Action. Eden was appointed Treasurer of the Coordinating Committee, which means that she will be responsible for overseeing the right use of your contributions toward this work. We really hope that you will be able to partner with us, and encourage you to contribute at www.fum.org (or www.fwccworld.org for non-US currencies). The need is enormous!
Our thanks go out to Ginna, who felt a burden on our behalf to draw your attention to the fact that our family's livelihood is not covered by the outpouring of emergency relief funds from Friends. We have important work to do now, and we do ask for your contribution toward our ministry account, so that we can continue to play our part in God's work here. Thanks, Ginna, for helping "toot our horn"! We really do need you at this time.
Please, please continue praying for peace in Kenya. Things have reached a frightening "tipping point", where we can envision a truly horrible future. But at the same time, we know that God is a miracle-worker, and that He has not abandoned Kenya, so we remain hopeful. Please join us in pleading for His hand of calm to stay the angry hearts, His hand of comfort to bind up the wounded in body and spirit, and His hand of wisdom to guide all of us who seek to do His will today and every day.
Tuesday, 29 January 2008
I am feeling very discouraged.
Over the weekend (which now seems so far in the past) I was at the Quaker Leadership Peace Conference in Kakamega.
It was an excellent gathering. Almost every yearly meeting and Quaker organization sent their representative(s). There is no doubt that Quakers in Kenya will now give prominence to the Peace Testimony in this time of chaos, destruction, and death. The participants were very concerned about the situation and serious in their efforts to respond to Kenyans, to Christians, and to all Quakers. They affirmed that the Quakers needed to be neutral in the political situation. I was surprised to find that I was appointed to the Coordinating Committee for current and long-term actions since Gladys and I played a rather quiet role during the conference. But AVP is on everyone's lips.
Getry Agizah, the AVP coordinator, was also put on the committee, along with Hezron Masitsa (AVP coordinator in Nairobi). The committee is supposed to meet in Kakamega on Friday but who knows if we will be able to travel.
On the way to the conference those who took the bus through Nakuru saw the Total gas station on fire. This was the beginning of major fighting in Nakuru which later spread to Naivasha and then on Monday to western Kenya. This morning on the BBC news, I heard the spokesman for the Kenya Police say that everything is calm now, while the next report was the BBC reporter in Kisumu talking about all the tires burning, total lack of movement, roads cut, etc. Is the Kenyan Government in the same country that I am in?
I was going to report some news from last week when my laptop crashed. Kaimosi (the major Quaker center in western Kenya) has been quiet as I have reported before. It is along the boundary between the Tiriki (a Luhya group) and the Nandi (a Kalenjin group). But on Wednesday someone stole a cow; the other group retaliated by burning some houses, including the kiosks by the road leading into Kaimosi, and everything got out of control. Six people were killed and at least 70 houses were burnt. Kaimosi Hospital was receiving lots of people with cuts from machetes, arrows stuck in people's bodies, and other injuries from the violence. There is absolutely no political explanation for this violence since both of these groups voted overwhelming for ODM, the opposition party.
Yesterday Gladys told me that one of her relatives was going to Eldoret to take another relative who had a broken leg. When they reached Turbo he was forced to show his ID card (by name, people can tell he is not a Kikuyu). He put his relative on the side of the road while he was forced to dig up the road until he got tired. He was then required to return to Lumakanda with the relative with the broken leg rather than proceed on to Eldoret.
Only eight people out of 40 showed up at the listening session in Kisumu yesterday and they were distracted by the events going on around them. We have cancelled the workshops for today. Otherwise the Sunset Hotel where the workshops are taking place and the facilitators are staying is quite safe and they have not experienced any violence nearby.
We were supposed to go to Kaimosi tomorrow to talk to the Friends Theological College students about organizing AVP workshops in their home churches during the April vacation, but we have put this off until next week. We have been making a weekly delivery to the Lumakanda IDP's now living in Turbo, but I don't see how we can do it this week. Florence Machayo who lives only about 5 miles from us wants to have a meeting tomorrow of all the AVP coordinators and others involved in peace work in Lugari District, but I don't know if Gladys and I will be able to go even that short distance!
So you can see why I am so discouraged.
Monday, 28 January 2008
Things are getting really bad. At 8:00 AM this morning, Eden texted me, "I'm hearing that they are already burning and slashing near the stage [bus station] in Kisumu." Five minutes later she texted, "Hearing gun shots now." By 10:00 AM she wrote, "They have closed all the roads and the airport. We are hearing much gun fire." Florence Machayo came by early this morning because we were going to visit one of the more hard-hit villages in Lugari District. When she got here, she said that people were already congregating in Kipkarren River and she had been told that in Turbo the youth had dug a trench in the road stopping all traffic to and from Uganda, Rwanda, and beyond. Gladys called the leader at the IDP camp in Turbo and he said that the IDP's were fine, but that the road was closed. Later Florence called and told us that the youth in Kipkarren River had cut down a big tree and blocked the road. So we are not going anywhere!!! (Lumakanda is between Turbo and Kipkarren River.) We also heard that a Kikuyu house in Malava was being burned (this is on the way to Kakamega) and that Kakamega is "wild." Getry says that right next to where she had fled they burned a Kikuyu's house (but were able to rescue the three children in the house), a school in town, and many other buildings.
This is all in response to rising ethnic gang fighting over the weekend, first in Nakuru and then in Naivasha. The paper says 90 people have been killed. This is mostly Kikuyu "revenge," but also included Kikuyu on Kikuyu violence in Naivasha as one gang accuses the other of voting for the wrong political party. The police are reported to be just standing by as all this happens as they are unable to control the events. The army has been brought in to Nakuru to control the town. In Lugari I had heard that the army had been deployed in some areas and as soon as I was told this, I was told they were abusing people. They would accuse someone with a bag of maize (corn) of having looted it and then seize all of that person's maize. Nobody knows where the maize goes! The army is not supposed to be involved in internal policing, but clearly as the police have become overwhelmed, the army has been brought in.
Gladys has a good friend, Jacinta, who has started an orphanage and school in Campi ya Moto, a small village near Nakuru. This is in the area where the violence is most extensive. Gladys lived there for four years while working for Jacinta's brother. She therefore knows everyone in the community. Campi ya Moto and all the houses around the orphanage have been destroyed. All the neighbors Gladys knew (and I met on our two visits last year to the orphanage) are gone to "who knows where." The orphanage which normally had 40 children now has 200. It survives only because it is being guarded by the police. They have no water and little food.
There is a glue that holds a society together. It consists of many things--customs, culture, respect for others and their property, laws and their enforcement by the police and courts, etc. The glue in Kenyan society was always weak. There was much on-going violence before the voting--for example: the clashes on Mt. Elgon that AGLI had begun working on; others in Molo/Rondai; continued deadly conflicts in the pastoral areas; and many acts of violence including the common practice of lynching suspected thieves. The police are noted for being very corrupt--I watch them collect bribes from the matatu conductors every time I am in a matatu. The courts are also known as being corrupt. Within the culture there exists great jealousy of any one or any group which seems to be doing better than others.
I am afraid that the little glue that Kenyan society had is disintegrating and that chaos is overtaking normalcy.
Much was made of it last week when Kofi Annan got Raila and Kibaki to shake hands. While this was a good, positive first step, my feeling now is that the situation is "out-of-control" of everyone. As the Open Letter to Leaders and Citizens of Kenya from the Quaker Leadership Conference I just attended states (I will report more on this at another time):
"We invite you to join us in praying for deliverance from evil spirits which are at work in our country, and cointinue to intercede for Kenya."
Jody and Ben Richmond wrote from the Friends Theological College in Kaimosi on 24 January.
FTC opened this week (as you will remember, we delayed opening for a week due in hope that the situation would normalize). Today, about half of our students are back on campus.
We last wrote that Kaimosi remained an island of peace. Shortly after sending out that newsletter, clashes began in our area. Houses have been burned just the other side of Cheptulu, our nearby market. Quite a few have been injured with arrow and panga (long, sword-like knives) wounds, and are being treated at the Kaimosi hospital just down our road. Some of the kiosks at the junction were burned the other night. (Those of you who know Alex, will be glad to know that his kiosk is okay.) Two people have been killed in the area: one, the uncle of a recent graduate. One of our groundsmen is “sleeping out” meaning that he and his wife are sleeping in the forest because homes near their home have been burned. Other staff members are caring for relatives who have had to leave their homes.
We should reassure you that the college and the mission compound in general have remained safe. Last night, according to reports, things were calm in our area. Perhaps, this is a good reaction to the Kofi Annan mediation efforts, and the response of the opposition leadership which called off plans for mass demonstrations today.
Tuesday was scheduled to be our first day of classes. Instead, the faculty decided to cancel classes and devote the day to sharing our stories and praying for one another and the general situation. Those students who had been able to travel to the college, together with faculty and staff, gathered in the Dining Hall, and for three hours recounted the impact of the clashes in personal stories. Some had experienced terrifying moments at roadblocks. Others told of neighbor’s houses burned, or people killed. Several pastors recounted how they had given refuge to members of targeted tribes. Others recounted how family members had had to flee from their homes in the face of threats. One mentioned that gunshots in his vicinity became so common that they almost began to seem normal. Others reported that calm prevailed in their areas, but all were affected by seeing “a Kenya they had never seen before in their lives.”
Jody led that session, with Pamela Igesa, the College chaplain. Ben preached from Luke 4 and Isaiah 61 about the healing power of the spirit and contrasted the heresy of a “gospel” that pretends God’s love is only for “our community” with Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom of God that embraces all communities. One member of our staff shared an incident of this lived out, when a vehicle carrying refugees from violence-torn areas came through his village in the first few days after troubles began. He was amazed and touched to witness a number of market vendors gave food to them freely, never asking for any money. We’ll remember the image of street vendors tossing avocados into a truck full of their hungry “enemies”!
Ben preached again the next morning, at our regular daily worship, carrying forward the story in the Gospel of Luke to the sermon on the plain in chapter 6. He drew on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1957 sermon on loving your enemies, in which he said, “So this morning, as I look into your eyes, and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you, ‘I love you. I would rather die than hate you.’” Later in the day, we held a convocation at which Mary Lord, a Friend from Baltimore Yearly Meeting with vast experience in peacemaking work, spoke. She rooted the Friends’ peace testimony in our experience of the power and love of God, and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. She then recounted stories to illustrate many ways in which Quakers have lived out the peace witness to demonstrate what a vast toolbox is available to peacemakers. In the question and answer period, one of the teachers asked Mary to talk about the biggest obstacles she has faced and overcome. Mary responded from her own experience the need to forgive violence she experienced as a child; and then told about how God had, unknown to her, used a conference she had organized in the 1980s about the effects of nuclear weapons, to impact Ronald Reagan and start the beginning of Reagan’s pulling back from nuclear brinksmanship. Today, Mary spoke to Jody’s class on Peace and Conflict Transformation about the cycle of violence. Students and faculty have been deeply engaged.
In Quaker Theology, we have modified the syllabus to begin from an experiential basis to ask what theological questions rise out of our experience. Ben and Jody have invited the students to think over the last weeks and ask what mental images come to mind, and then share why they are important. Some of the images: “people being slashed in nearby homestead; young kids, displaced from their homes in Eldoret walking by my place to find refuge; people burning down houses and looting; members of parliament on TV pouring out their anger, seeking power; a young child in the hospital with an arrow sticking in him; a member of the church, home from Mombasa, asking for prayer because he was being sacked from his work in a hotel, and facing an unknown future; women being fallen on by soldiers, and young men and even old men (“wazee”) and being raped.” One image was of “a man being slaughtered, the way one would slaughter a hen.”
Even if the Annan peace efforts succeed today, and peace returns to the land, and all the hundreds of thousands of displaced were able to go back to their homes (many of which are, of course, burned), there would still be a tremendous need for trauma healing. There is fear, distrust, and deep uncertainty because people who seemed to be friends so easily became enemies. What theological questions does all this raise?
This is a testing time for the church in Kenya. Will we be able to be bearers of Good News that is deep enough to bring healing and hope to those who have been traumatized, and reconciliation to those who have experienced the reality of enmity? Will you pray for a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit?
In the midst of these extraordinary circumstances, normal life also continues. We are making progress on the design of a new administration building, and wrapping up final details on the new Meetinghouse. To continue to pursue “normalcy” is a part of living the Kingdom of God in these times — proclaiming hope that God plans for a good future for Kenya.
Thank you for your prayers, and support.
Sunday, 27 January 2008
The Quaker leadership of
Kenyans need to learn that any violent action they take against their neighbours is an act against God’s way. Our actions and thoughts therefore must be rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In our last communiqué to the leaders, we implored upon them to uphold the principles of truth, justice peace, simplicity and humility (Psalms 85:10) and to forgive each other.
We cannot be blind to what is happening to this country and its citizens. During the deliberations and reflections, representatives of the
To our leaders:
We thank our leaders for starting a process of negotiation, and we believe and trust that they will follow up in earnest with a negotiated settlement. In this context therefore we say to our leaders:
- We do understand your anguish at this time, and we ask you to approach the situation prayerfully. We urge you to relax your “hard line” political demands and dialog more deeply for the benefit of the country, that no segment of Kenyan society emerges as “losers” but we all may “win” in a peaceful society.
- We urge you to reopen schools that have not opened, in order to allow students to continue with their education.
- We urge the leaders and elders of various communities not to incite or manipulate their youths to perpetuate terror among the citizenry, but to encourage and guide them to act responsibly.
- We denounce the instances of excessive force used by the police against the citizens.
To our fellow Kenyans:
- We appreciate the courage and passion that you, our fellow Kenyans, have shown since the beginning of the post-election violence by contributing and supporting the victims of violence, and we urge you all to continue with the same spirit.
- We appeal to you engage in reconciliation among and rehabilitation of displaced people, integrating them back into the places from which they were displaced, not sending them to other parts of the country.
- We remind you that this country and its land belongs to all of us. Let us not destroy it for by doing so, we put our own future generations in jeopardy. We need a negotiated social contract to live together as Kenyans.
- We urge you to resolve problems in a peaceful way, because we know that there is hope for peace in this country.
- We warn you to desist from rumour-mongering which increases hostility and uncertainty, and urge you to use modern means of communication for positive ends.
- We know that those most affected by this conflict and violence are women, children, disabled and the aged. We must address their suffering, and protect and care for them.
- We encourage every Kenyan to look for “that of God” in every person and to treat life as sacred.
- As Kenyans, we urge you to uphold our core national values, practice forgiveness and embrace reconciliation.
To our fellow Christians and other Religious groups:
- As people of faith, we must not engage in violence and revenge because if we do so we betray our faith in God.
- We invite you to join us in praying for deliverance from evil spirits which are at work in our country, and continue to intercede for
As a peace church, we are involved in humanitarian, spiritual and social/economic empowerment of our people. We urge everyone to take time to assist his/her neighbour in order to bring normalcy to the affected people, affirming truth, justice, peace and reconciliation in our nation.
Jacob Neyole, Presiding Clerk
The Conference appointed the following Coordinating Committee to implement immediate measures and to put steps in place toward the longer-term actions:Henry Mukwanja, Henry Apencha, Getry Agizah, Rose Imbega, David Zarembka, Seth Chayugah,Wesley Harun Sasita, Henry Mkutu, Joseph Mamai Makokha,
Ex-officio: John Muhanji,
Immediate crisis-intervention measures
- Issue a public statement from this Conference
- Use the media to publicize messages of peace and reconciliation
- Document and disseminate stories of people acting in courageous non-violent ways
- Engage in non-violent direct action to stop violence and retaliation in our communities
Humanitarian crisis – internally displaced people:
- Shelter, accommodation
- Food, water, fuel
- Medication, first aid, health care
- Security and safety
- Trauma counseling
- Bible distribution
- Activities, games
- Access to schooling
- Mediate in situations of acute conflict
- Assist in reconciliation between displaced people and those who threatened them
- Reintegrate displaced people into the community, rebuild trust between neighbors
Psychological and spiritual crisis:
- Crisis-intervention counselling
- Train primary school teachers on the effects of trauma on young children
- Offer trauma counselling for IDPs
- Reach the “disaffected” youth, e.g. boda boda drivers, touts, the unemployed
- Scale up AVP to reach as many places as possible
- Establish “listening programmes” for people to tell their stories in a safe environment
- Preach the gospel of peace, educate our own people on the teachings of our church
Crisis of youth in this country:
- Begin a pilot programme for civic and peace education in Quaker schools
- Organize youth work camps to help with humanitarian work and rebuilding
- Establish a national coordination body for the short-term work
- Address need for personnel, including placement of volunteers
- Networking and communications
- Guarantee integrity and transparency in use of funds, to maintain our good reputation
Possible cluster areas for longer-term work, and potential activities
- Create a fund for youth empowerment
- Youth programmes, e.g. volunteer training and action, work camps, vocational training
- Seriously examine the involvement of youth in the structures of the
- Re-engage with our Quaker schools
- Peer-mediation and AVP in the schools
- Income generating activities
- Teach practical business skills, entrepreneurship
- Relief Fund for future disasters
- Peace, justice and non-violence – a movement for social transformation toward a culture of peace
- Peace Research Institute (at the University)
- Peace Radio, other publications
- Workshops, mediation, trauma healing, AVP, listening
- Restorative justice movement
- Peace curriculum through the Ministry of Education
- Training for non-violent direct action for social change
- Establish an organization which can organize the Friends voice on Public Policy matters
- Build the capacity of Friends to be involved in the civic agenda at all levels
- Use the model of QUNO “quiet diplomacy”
Spiritual development of the Peace Testimony
- Review and improve the content of the membership class curricula
- Strengthen the peace and justice programmes at
Friends Theological College
- National Management Committee – develop institutional capacity
- Network with other peace organization in
and around the world Kenya
Friends United Meeting and Friends World Committee for Consultation are both active in raising overseas funds for relief and reconstruction. The Conference urges all Kenyans to raise local funds and to deposit them in the account of Friends United Meeting, Barclays Bank, Kisumu Branch #2007332. All money will be used efficiently and effectively, with transparency and integrity.
Saturday, 26 January 2008
Yesterday, the sixty delegates to the Kenyan National Quaker Peace Conference worked throughout the afternoon and evening in Sections, analyzing in depth and seeking ways in which Kenyan Friends can make an impact in their context. The seven themes that were explored encompass the many facets of Friends ministries in
1. Peace and non-violence as central to the gospel – or as the group suggested “the Gospel as central to peace and non-violence”. This group looked at the biblical principles of peace, justice, truth and non-violence. They acknowledged that Kenyan Friends have been inadequate in their teaching and preaching, in their formation of their own members and in their public witness. The group articulated the biblical framework for our peace work, and proposed that it be circulated to all Friends pastors as a resource for preaching in the present crisis.
2. Trauma healing and post-conflict ministries. This group analyzed the meaning of trauma, its causes, symptoms, and consequences. The current crisis in
3. Humanitarian needs, Internally Displaced People and vulnerable populations. There is a tremendous humanitarian crisis unfolding in
4. Ethnic conflict and reconciliation toward a harmonious society. This group discussed the ethnic aspects of the Kenyan political crisis, and acknowledged that it is a complex matter. Contributing factors include unjust land distribution practices, unequal development throughout the country, corruption of some leaders, excessive concentration of power, various cultural practices, and attitudes of prejudice. The group also noted that the
5. Preaching and evangelism in the present context. This group recognized that the work of preaching is essential in this time, to proclaim the message of Christ as the One who can bring change, who can bring healing, hope and peace. Where there are hopeless, hungry and angry people, the practical gospel of Christ can address their needs. Our church has not been active enough in this kind of holistic outreach.
6. The mission of our institutions of education and healthcare. The
7. Global partnership and the role of our international/ecumenical partners. This group discussed the linkages between Kenyan Friends and the global Quaker community, and also made proposals for how the many ideas from this conference could be organized and coordinated at a national level in
Two important facets of the current Kenyan crisis were not specifically listed in the group topics, namely economic injustice/disparities of wealth and poverty, and youth disaffection/hopelessness, but they were raised by every group in their reports. Conference participants have recognized that these two factors are largely responsible for the incredible explosion of anger witnessed in
The Conference will spend the rest of its time together collating and organizing the recommendations of the Sections, in order to develop a coherent strategy and coordinated action plan for both the immediate and long-term witness of Kenyan Friends.
Friday, 25 January 2008
Approximately sixty Friends from all Quaker organizations and Yearly Meetings in
The opening session was devoted to listening to personal stories of how the violence has touched conference participants, and to praying together. Recognizing that Kenyan society is on the brink of chaos, it was movingly stated by one participant -- “We are praying that this cup may pass us by, may pass
The Conference heard inspiring and informative keynote messages from Mary Lord, recently-retired Assistant General Secretary for Peace and Conflict Resolution at American Friends Service Committee, and Oliver Kisaka, Deputy General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya.
Mary Lord spoke about the Biblical Basis and Practical Application of the Friends Peace Testimony. She emphasized that the Peace Testimony arises from the direct experience of God in each person’s life, as an expression of faith rather than as a rule to follow. Early Friends considered that Jesus meant what he said in the Sermon on the Mount. Mary reflected on her early years among Friends, when she felt that the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount was unrealistic and not likely to result in successful movements for social change. She eventually realized that she had been assuming that she herself understood human nature better than Jesus did, and was able to embrace the teachings of Jesus as a matter of faith. She decided that “Jesus wouldn’t have told us to live in a way that wasn’t possible.”
Implied in the affirmation of Peace as a matter of faith, is the realization that it is not by our own power or knowledge that we make peace. It is the power of the love of God, of Jesus, of the Holy Spirit. Mary stated that if we do not begin from faith, our peace work will not be effective. If we do begin from a life-changing faith, then we have no other option but to be peace-makers.
In living this Testimony over more than 300 years, Mary said that Friends have become “researchers” of peace, experimenting and finding effective ways to witness in various contexts. She then gave several examples of ways Friends have given expression to the Peace Testimony.
During the 20th century wars in
Mary mentioned instances in which Friends have served as mediators and negotiators. She shared how Friends have established safe-havens for dialogue in the midst of violent contexts, and have offered leadership to various movements for social justice. Friends have increasingly been taking the role of supporting and training, and of lifting up voices and truths which need to be heard in the public discourse. Mary closed by remarking that, although we often despair that we are not making a difference, the reality is that the world is a more peaceful place because of the work of Friends.
In the discussion which followed, Friends used Mary’s historical examples as a way of approaching the current crisis in
In his message, Oliver Kisaka gave an analysis of the post-election disturbances and their root causes, and helped to put them in a Christian perspective. He started by recalling Romans 8:28 -- “We know that all things work together for good, for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” -- and challenged us to believe that this is true, that now is an opportunity for God to do a powerful work for the good of Kenya.
Oliver spoke movingly about the breakdown in the electoral process and the seeming betrayal by the Electoral Commission of the trust placed in them by Kenyans. According to both domestic and international observer bodies, the voting itself, and the initial counting at the constituency level, were conducted according to the highest democratic ideals. However, the process then broke down such that the country is left in a situation in which there is no public confidence in the legitimacy of the government. After working for years on civic education, and seeing the positive results of such efforts, Oliver felt deeply disappointed by the performance of the Electoral Commission. He also reflected that many young people who engaged in the election with enthusiasm, now feel bitter and disillusioned.
Oliver remarked that, at a deeper level, Kenyans do not have a healthy relationship to their political institutions and personalities, and that this is reflected in a flawed Constitution and a “winner takes all” mentality toward governance. He felt that many Kenyans went to the polls looking for a “saviour” rather than a president. Kenyans put all their hopes and aspirations into one political figure, and began to believe that life would not be tolerable if that leader were deprived of victory. The rhetoric of the campaign period was so exaggerated, it would have been impossible for any government to fulfil the expectations of the people.
Oliver noted that the heightened aspirations of the people were further manipulated during the campaign period when candidates encouraged voters to believe that they are poor because someone else is rich, that they are disenfranchised because someone else has consolidated power in their own community. The reality is that the gap between wealth and poverty exists in every community, and the benefits of power always accrue to the powerful themselves, not to the average citizen. In this way, the political elites of
Oliver went on to address other causes of the current crisis, besides the specifics of the election itself. He noted particular historical injustices which have not been resolved and which contribute to the situation today. For instance, the distribution of settler-owned land at the time of independence created deep resentment on the part of some communities. The unequal investment of development resources throughout the country has led to a feeling that the home region of the president will receive preferential treatment. Oliver remarked most powerfully that class issues play a large role in the current anger in the country.
From a Christian perspective, Oliver stated that the spiritual life of Kenyans is too compartmentalized, too divorced from economic and civic engagement. He praised Friends for gathering in this conference to ask what is our responsibility, and encouraged us that “the Quaker light should shine!” He reflected that Friends have strengths to offer at this time. Our Testimonies are a strength to guide us. We have strong capacities in non-violence training, and we should broaden these to look also at training for business and entrepreneurial participation. Finally, he challenged Friends to engage in advocacy on behalf of those who are suffering and oppressed.
Oliver concluded his message by remarking on the deep cleavages in Kenyan society which underlie the current crisis – cleavages of religion, ethnicity, class, gender and age. These divisions threaten the unity and peace of
“None of our leaders and politicians are saviours. We have one Saviour, Jesus Christ. If this is true, we will forgive each other unconditionally. If Christ is Lord, then the things he taught are practical -- we can turn the other cheek, forgive, and love our enemies. These are not suggestions, they are requirements. In all things, God works together for good, even if we don’t see and understand it. If we have faith in God, there is no alternative.”
Having heard these two inspiring speakers, the conference participants broke into seven working groups. The conference will conclude on Sunday 27th January.
Watch the FWCC Kenya Blog for further reports.
Tuesday, 22 January 2008
Shortly after the first Quaker missionaries came to Kenya in 1902 and had their first converts to Christianity, the requirements of being a Christian were at great odds with traditional society. I know (or rather knew since many of these have died) some of these original converts and they are not like your every-day Christian that we know. They had to make major life changes to become Christian, usually over the complete objection of most of their family members. These folks are/were stout Christians. As time went on many others converted and living separately was no longer necessary. By now almost everyone in Kenya considers him/herself a Christian (or a Moslem). But like the US, and many other places, many of the nominal Christians rarely go to church except for weddings and funerals and it plays only a little part in their lives.
On Sunday at Lumakanda Church the preacher was the wife of the pastor. She lives in Eldoret and is having to move because she rents a house owned by Kikuyu. Many of the houses around her have been burned down. She took as her text, Mathew 5:20 which reads, "I tell you, then, that you will be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven only if you are more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires." She started out by saying that Christians don't smoke or drink alcohol (all Protestant religions in Kenya forbid smoking and alcohol consumption). But then she went on to the main part of her sermon, namely, that Christians do not take up weapons to use on their neighbors. She gave the example of a man who is a pastor and took a spear to join in on the violence in Eldoret. This man, she clearly indicated, was not a Christian.
Note that this was the sermon in a small church in an out-of-the-way place. But I think that this is a common feeling among those who go to Church. While this is a Friends Church, I think that this message could be heard in many Christian churches here. In other words, the God-fearing Christians are against the violence. But that division between the "God-fearing Christians" and the nominal Christians is huge. The church-going Christians shun those who do not attend church and make little outreach to them. This is particularly true of the youth. Consequently, when violence came, the God-fearing Christians had no points of contact with the looters. They were cowed down by fear, many expecting to be the next target of the wrathful crowds.
There is no political settlement in sight. One newspaper columnist stated today in the Daily Nation that the longer that things drag out the better it is for the Kibaki side: so, they have little incentive to genuinely engage in mediation. On the Raila side this means that time is against them so they might turn to drastic measures.
Although there were no demonstrations over the weekend, the violence did not subside. Once the genie of violence gets out of the bottle, it is very hard to put it back in. The papers report 10 or 15 deaths on Sunday. Eden Grace texted me that two people were killed in Cheptulu, the market right next to Kaimosi Hospital (which had formerly escaped the violence). Most of the deaths are in Rift Valley where the various Kalenjin groups feel that outsiders have taken away their land. This is not only Kikuyu, but also Kisii, Luo, Luhya, and other groups. This happened before in 1992 when 1000 people were killed and 100,000 or more displaced. Many people (like all those who said Kenya was such a stable country) seem to have forgotten this. As we have learned from Rwanda and Burundi, when these kind of clashes occur and nothing is done about them, a renewed, more vicious cycle of violence will occur. This, I think, is what is happening in the Rift Valley (and I live only 3 miles from the Rift Valley). As Job, my son-in-law, told me back in about 1992 when he was in fifth grade, the Kalenjin warriors came all the way past Lumakanda attacking the Luhya--this was in the days before Lugari was a district with a police station in Lumakanda.
To summarize, the election results were the spark for the violence. The tinder was all the alienated youth in Kenyan society. As time goes on the ethnic dimension will increase and attacks will lead to
counter-attacks. As attacks become successful in forcing people to leave the Rift Valley, the violence becomes self-reinforcing leading to more attacks. At this point we must be thankful that the attackers have only traditional weapons--clubs, bows and arrows, machettes, and spears. If they had guns (which, if the violence continues, they will soon acquire in one way or another) the the death toll would soar and soar. Even now I am not sure that a political settlement will end the violence in the countryside, although it would give the security forces a greater chance to deal with it.
Tomorrow Gladys, my wife, and I go to Kisumu (for the first time since the violence began) to help plan the series of 40 listening workshops for the 900 employees of the Center for Disease Control. We plan to begin conducting AVP workshops at various sites in Western, Rift, and Nyanza Provinces. We have hired two more AVP facilitators to help organize this work--Peter Serete from Kakamega and Bernard Onjalo from Bondo, Nyanza Province near Kisumu. They will work under our energetic AVP coordinator, Getry Agizah. Malesi Kinaro, Gladys and I will give direction and, of course, I must raise the necessary funds.
Monday, 21 January 2008
Yesterday we met the Boda Boda taxi drivers (bicycle riders) and the touts and small business young men in town. They began by being sorry and sharing how the violence had made them suffer. They slowly moved to deeper things. One said, 'We are nothing in this nation. We are the ones to suffer. These rich people have fridges full of food. Even if the trouble goes on for a month they will not suffer. Let us just give up and continue with our poverty".
Another said, "Madam, these people here are being untruthful. The anger expressed by all of us Kenyans for one tribe out of 42 cannot be because of one incident. We have seen rigged elections before. The problem is the attitude of 'these' people. They come to our town, to our homes and then they decide we are fools. I work in their vehicles and the way they treat you. We are just an angry lot and we hoped for change. They stole even that from us. Let us not cheat you that peace will come back. We want them out of here".
Another said, "Our wound is real and deep. Then Martha Karua [the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs] speaks as though we are nothing. When she talks we just feel like laying down our lives for change."
We agreed with them that there can never be peace without justice.
Sunday, 20 January 2008
I did go for a walk with Gladys yesterday to her sister's house about two miles down the hill. We passed the house of Silas Njoroge who is the Kikuyu leader at the IDP camp. His house was looted, but not burned. Further down the road his brother's house was looted and burned including all the maize (corn) he had in storage. They are considered the "richest" Kikuyu in the area, but neither one had a particularly fancy house--much like many of the people around here.
Ray Downing is a Mennonite doctor working at the hospital in Webuye (the largest town to the west of us, towards Uganda). He asks this question: Why was there no destruction of Kikuyu shops and homes in Webuye? (This is also true of Bungoma and many other towns in the country.) He asks: "Why did these towns escape the violence? Who is studying the reasons why some places did not have violence?" I think these are really interesting questions--any students out there needing a research topic?
AGLI and FPCD (Friends for Peace and Community Development, our Kenyan partner) will be doing 40 one-day AVP-style listening workshops with the 900 employees of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) from the US which has a major presence in Kisumu. The conflicts in the country have brought out latent ethnic feelings among the staff. We will be doing 2 workshops per day for twenty days. We are bringing one HROC facilitator and one AVP facilitator from Rwanda to be part of each 3 person facilitator team. It will be really interesting to see how this goes. Sessions begin on Wednesday of this coming week.
Friends United Meeting (FUM)--Africa Office has spearheaded the arrangement of a Consultation for Quaker leaders in Kenya next week to consider the Quaker response to the current violence and crisis. The consultation starts Thursday evening and will go through Sunday. Gladys and I will be there (so don't expect any reports during that time). This will be an opportunity for the Quaker leadership in Kenya to really assert themselves as a peace church. I hope they "grab it."
The ODM has not scheduled any more demonstrations but rather is now turning to an economic boycott of institutions controlled by Kibaki and associates. I don't know how that will go. The 3 days of attempted demonstrations resulted in 21 more deaths--all but one, I think, killed by police including some clearly innocent people (a mother sitting inside her house). While there are always ups and downs about some kind of dialogue, I don't see anything significant happening yet so the stand-off continues.
Thursday, 17 January 2008
However, we received a lot of families fleeing their respective areas of residence either their houses burnt or their houses looted or they escaped death narrowly. So far by the end of 31st December2007, we had 62 families camping at the Eldoret Friends church. Most of us who were in Eldoret brought our heads together in terms of how do we provide the security of the place and at the same time how to feed the group. We made several appeals where we found that the local Quakers responded urgently and later friends from Bristol also gave us some donations.
Total donations amounted to Kenyan Shillings 519,470.00.
The donation received from Bristol friends was used for relocation purposes for ten families.
Today, Eldoret is calm but not peaceful, however, some 8 families whom we have relocated to safer estates and their houses were burnt, needs to reconstruct some shelters for their families. After the relief committee assessing the areas of reconstruction, this has been approved. The budget for reconstructing 8 two roomed semi permanent houses each costing Kshs. 150,000.00 gives a total of Kshs. 1,200,000.00.
We appeal for assistance as we continue feeding the displaced and put up some shelters for the willing families. (Donations can be made through FWCC, AGLI or FUM.) This will go down to restore hope to some of the victims. After resettlement we shall have a rehabilitation process that will be followed by reconciliation. But the priority is reconstruction because the houses rented are temporary pending reconstruction and the local church may not be able to pay for the houses longer.
Your continued assistance will really help as we pray for long lasting solution.
Peace and Love.
Wednesday, 16 January 2008
Yesterday was Epiphany. Epiphany means appearance or manifestation; in the Church, the appearance of Jesus, his manifestation as Messiah, and the revealing that He is not for Israel only, but for all nations. The last week in Kenya seems to demonstrate the reverse, a sort of Devil’s Epiphany, the appearance of killing and burning and chaos, the manifestation of evil. It’s been bad.
I think there has been an epiphany here, but of a different sort. The question near the surface of so many commentators is, “We expect this sort of thing in Somalia or Liberia or Congo – but how could this happen in Kenya, a country with a stable democracy and such a strong economy?” In fact, the election itself was remarkably close, and orderly – until the tallying. What happened?
One Kenyan commentator said these events exposed Kenya’s “thin veneer of civilization”, and I think the comment points us in an interesting direction, depending on what we mean by “civilization”. If by civilization we mean a strong (Western-style) democracy, then Kenya had that: political parties, free press, campaigns, pre-election polls, elections, the works. All the things we in the rich West have said make up a strong democracy. Were all these just a “thin veneer” in Kenya? What happened?
There is a clue in Kenya’s other piece of civilization, the “strong economy”. I have been struck by news reports that speak of Kenya as “an east African economic powerhouse with an average growth rate of 5 percent” – and in the same sentence tell us the country still struggles with poverty, without noting the contradiction. Another news report explains: “Although the Kenyan economy grew at a rapid pace, so did economic inequality, resulting in a concentration of wealth in a small oligarchical elite, while most Kenyans earn less than $1 a day.” A strong economy that has not confronted and addressed poverty is in fact not a strong economy; it is a “thin veneer” of economic strength. The epiphany is that this has now been revealed.
So what about democracy? The real question is “what about Western-style democracy”, the sort we keep insisting on. And again, we sense a “thin veneer” – but we must be careful about concluding that democracy is only a thin veneer here, and that underneath people are fundamentally undemocratic. Quite the contrary. “Kenya,” a friend wrote, “has borrowed bits and pieces over the past century or so from the West, and has pasted these fragments together with a glue that does not withstand high political temperatures. It conforms, generally, to all modern sector fragility…” What is being revealed in this epiphany is the fragility of Western political and economic “solutions” for Africa.
So where does that leave us? Not with a grand “solution”, but only the logical working out of the above epiphany that Western-style political and economic civilization is a veneer here. The obvious question is: a veneer over what? I don’t think it’s a veneer over the violence we are seeing this week; that violence is simply a sign of the veneer cracking and breaking. Our question remains: what is under the veneer, under the violence? Has it ever occurred to us to look?
By “us” here I mean those Westerners who have worked here, and others who will undoubtedly flock into Kenya now to help: peace teams, negotiators, humanitarian feeding efforts, disease fighting specialists, and the like. There is a clear script for how to help: make sure the displaced people have food and shelter, help them return home when it’s safe, document the atrocities, bring those responsible to justice… Yes, that is all important. But I think we have a unique opportunity now to look under the veneer, now that is has cracked. And there are these startling starting-places:
- In a community near here torn by ethnic violence, why would a Luhya woman shelter in her home a Kikuyu woman who had just delivered a baby – knowing that if some in the community found out, her house would likely be burnt?
- When we sang Kenya’s National Anthem in church on New Year’s Day, my first response was that national politics don’t belong in church – until I realized that the Kenya’s National Anthem is a prayer set to a traditional African melody.
- And this: why has there been no killing yet in Webuye, where we live? Why, in this Luhya town deep in the heart of western Kenya, are Kikuyu shops remaining open? Why, when some youths from another ethnic group came trying to incite violence, did the youth here refuse?
Tuesday, 15 January 2008
The conference will bring together 60 participants, including the leaders of all fifteen Kenyan Yearly Meetings, the leaders of the Kenyan Quaker peace organizations, and others representing Friends programmes and ministries, including schools, hospitals, and evangelistic missions.
Participants will explore seven themes in small groups:
- Peace and non-violence as central to the gospel
- Trauma healing and post-conflict ministries
- Humanitarian needs, Internally Displaced People and vulnerable populations
- Ethnic conflict and reconciliation toward a harmonious society
- Preaching and evangelism in the present context
- The mission of our institutions of education and healthcare
- Global partnership and the role of our international/ecumenical partners
Worship and Biblical reflections will be woven throughout the programme. The purpose of the conference is to pray together for unity and purpose as Friends, to offer the gift of our Testimonies to our nation of Kenya during this time of unrest, and through the long process of reconciliation and healing that lies ahead.
Friends World Committee for Consultation (www.fwccworld.org) and Friends United Meeting (www.fum.org) are both accepting contributions to support the cost of the Conference and the implementation of whatever actions will emerge.
For further information, contact:
Eden Grace, Friends United Meeting
PO Box 478 Kisumu 40100
+254 735 479174
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.”