Kenyan church victims from election buried with a plea for healing

By Ecumenical News International
May 16, 2009

Victims burned to death in a Kenya Assemblies of God church, in what was seen as one of the ugliest symbols of violence that followed the country's disputed December 2007 election have been laid to rest with pleas that their killings trigger healing - writes Fredrick Nzwili.

"Let the deaths of these people be a catalyst of love, peace and unity," the Roman Catholic Bishop of Eldoret in the west of Kenya, Cornelius Korir, told mourners on 14 May, more than one year after the people were killed.

"Let the deaths remind us to seek God's forgiveness. Let us remember to forgive one another," said Bishop Korir. "When we remember this, our country will be healed. Let us not fear to build our country through forgiveness."

President Mwai Kibaki attended the interdenominational burial ceremony for 36 people, 14 of whom perished in the church that was burned down, and he urged Kenyans to reconcile, unite and forgive one another.

"It is very disturbing for those of us who fear God to note that the departed were burned to death in a church, a place of worship, where they sought refuge," noted Kibaki. "I appeal to Kenyans to pray for those who visited violence on their fellow countrymen, so that they may seek forgiveness, and commit themselves to respecting human life."

A protesting mob had torched the KAG Church in the Kiambaa area, near the town of Eldoret hours after Kibaki had declared himself the winner of the disputed 2007 general elections, which opponents say were rigged. In the Kiambaa attack 36 people died, mainly women and children.

"I suffered a great loss, but all of us who lost relatives have decided to forgive. We welcome those who offended us to join us in forgiving each other. We have nowhere else to go because this is our home," Joseph Githuku, who lost his wife and a child, told the mourners.

Church leaders said reconciliation efforts were bearing fruit, with some people owning up and seeking forgiveness.

Kenya's High Court on 30 April released four men accused of torching the church due to insufficient evidence for a conviction.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

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