More than 200 young people from many faith backgrounds travelled from Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Tanzania and the United States, to gather at the Kenya Youth Peace Summit in Nairobif from 13-18 April.
Under the theme “Embrace Peace, Fulfill Dreams,” the summit addressed issues facing young adults as well as the violence that erupted following the 2007 presidential election in Kenya.
The event was organized by the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church (KELC) and was funded by Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Global Mission.
In a pre-event blog post, Naomi Monthe wrote about her personal experience after the Kenyan election. “My family and all the neighbours adjacent spent the better part of the night in fear,” she wrote.
“We could hear screams and shouts of women, children, and even men asking for help, but it was too dangerous a mission which could be life threatening.” Houses were set on fire, including Monthe’s home.
“With no home, we transferred to Mathare's chief camp, where I lived in a tent with my family for eight months supported with food and clothes from Red Cross and the Lutheran church,” wrote Monthe.
Christian and Muslim young adults, 70 of them Lutherans, heard stories and statistics from peers, politicians and leaders in the community including George Arende, co-organizer of the peace summit and KELC Director of Communications. In his opening remarks, Arende stressed the importance of youth becoming “ambassadors of peace.”
Summit participants met with Kenya’s Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Professor Hellen Sambili.
“We were happy the young people had a chance to ask questions directly to their government and learn about how to access programmes like the Kenya Youth Enterprise Development Fund, which is intended to help them — but they can’t access it if they don’t know about it,” said Emily Davila, co-organizer of the summit and assistant director, ELCA Lutheran Office for World Community, New York.
A similar gathering was held in Rwanda last year. That event, the 2008 Peace Summit, was considered to be the first ecumenical gathering for youth since more than 1 million people were killed in the 1994 genocide.
Gaylord Thomas, programme director for East Africa, ELCA Global Mission, Chicago, said the gatherings created a network of young people across East Africa who gained skills to promote peace and become leaders. “We tried our best to tailor the program to fit needs of young people,” he said. “We had workshops on how to start a project and write proposals, conflict and reconciliation, and youth sexuality.”
In a follow-up pilot project, Thomas said Kenyan participants can apply to receive grants from the KELC for youth-led peace projects. Application forms will be available on the summit’s blog. Projects will be selected by a peer review board made up of Kenyan youth from the event.
The Kenya Youth Peace Summit blog is at http://peacesummit2009.wordpress.com
With thanks to ECLA