Churches express global solidarity with Kenya as violence continues

By staff writers
January 30, 2008

Churches working for peace amidst post-electoral violence in Kenya are receiving a pastoral and solidarity visit from an international delegation sent by the World Council of Churches from 30 January to 3 February 2008.

Churches in Kenya are struggling to work for peace and reconciliation amidst a wave of post electoral violence along ethnic lines which has killed more than 700 people and obliged some 250,000 people to flee their homes since the beginning of the year.

The visit aims to express the solidarity of churches worldwide with the Kenyan churches at a particularly challenging time. The visiting team will also learn how best the international fellowship of churches can support Kenyan churches' efforts towards peace and reconciliation. The visit is being hosted by the National Council of Churches in Kenya.

Current scenes of violence and destruction "portray a country that one would hardly recognize as Kenya", says WCC general secretary the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, who is himself a Kenyan.

While expressing hope that Kenya "will overcome the prevailing situation and that the churches will play an important part in speeding up that time", Kobia sees the visit as "a way of saying that we feel part of the same family, and when and where any part of the family hurts, we hurt with them".

The programme of the visit will include meetings with Kenyan religious leaders, both Christian and of other faiths; government officials and opposition leaders; and churches, local communities and civil society organizations in Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret, Nakuru and Kakamega. The programme is subject to changes according to conditions on the ground.

The visit of the group, which is called "Living Letters," is part of the WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2010), an initiative promoting peaceful alternatives to violence. The decade will culminate with an International Ecumenical Peace Convocation to be held as conclusion of the DOV in early May 2011.

In October 2007, a Living Letters team visited churches in the United States; earlier on, in August, another team visited Sri Lanka. Around forty such teams are expected to visit different countries until 2011.

Members of the visiting team are:
· Rev Dr Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), United States.
· Ms Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, general secretary of the World Young Women's Christian Association (World YWCA), Zimbabwe.
· Prelate Dr Stephan Reimers, member of the board of the Church Development Service EED and representative of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and EKD's to the European Union, Germany.
· Rt Rev Thomas Olmorijoi Laiser, Bishop of Arusha, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania.
· Mr Graham Gerald McGeoch, ministerial candidate of the Church of Scotland and member of the WCC central and executive committees, United Kingdom.
· Rev Stig Utnem, former general secretary of the Council on Ecumenical and International Relations of the Church of Norway.
· Dr Geeske Zanen, World YWCA board member, Netherlands.

Several senior World Council of Churches staff are also accompanying the group.

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