Kenya: soul searching

Sirata Orobi Anglican Church in Kenya

The 59th General Assembly of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), the umbrella organisation for Protestant and evangelical churches met last week at Kabarak University in Nakuru.

Some present confessed their roles in the violence following the 2007 election. Sectarian allegiances had divided church hierarchies.

This included blessing warriors to engage in violence and inviting politicians to their churches where they used the pulpit to disseminate hate messages that incited people against members of various communities.

They issued a statement:

"We own up to taking partisan positions on national issues, elevating our ethnic identities above our Christian identity, direct involvement in party politics and participating in post-election violence which were made more ominous by the deteriorating national values, sinful political strategies and failure to faithfully stand for biblical values and principles."

"We ask God to forgive us and to renew and empower our witness to His grace."

Now they were beginning to rebuild the image of the church and restore confidence amongst the faithful as the country embarks on the road to national reconciliation. By bringing together pastors from all regions and different ethnic communities the conference was seeking to rebuild ties between different groups.

Former Presidet Moi, addressing the conference, said religion was still the best mechanism to addressing hatred and violence adding that these efforts should be intensified among the communities that worst affected by the violence.

All here


It is too easy to condemn from a distance - and wholly innapropriate. I don't think that faith or Christian adherence gives any protection against participation in politically inspired and driven communal violence. The same would be true in the UK if conditions were right.

Christians, on the whole, have the same range of views and allegiances as the rest of the population and are as easily swayed as anyone else.

I am also sure that, during the violence, there were examples of heroism and self-sacrifice by Christians (and by others) and this is also an important part of the story.

But it is not enough to see these stories as Christian and the violence as alien to the Christian character. That is self-deception.

This is why I sometimes focus on areas of conflict and violence: because both are part of our faith journeys, because faith is tested most severely in the middle of violence, and because I wish to look honestly into the fire to try to understand how faith is embodied in practice - on the maxim: faith is as faith does.

A mob torched a Kenyan church, burning about 30 villagers cowering inside alive, as the death toll from ethnic riots triggered by President Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election looked set to pass 200.

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