Sunday, June 1, 2008

Kenya and the Church Struggling to Heal Wounds

We have always known that Catholics and other Christians are never believers living outside of their time and culture. That is clear in Kenya. The Catholic Church is struggling to help heal a nation that had been ravaged by violent tribalism after the last election. The Catholic Church has been viewed as aligned with the ruling party. There is now a coalition/unity government. Many are calling for amnesty and the releasing of prisoners. The government refuses.

Muslims have been less involved in the ethnic rivalry that marked the post election crisis. All religious groups are searching for a way to move toward healing but events are still current and the pain is raw.

Bishop Walter Obare of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya says that religion is in crisis in Kenya because it has been so politicized. Cardinal John Njue has opposed amnesty for youth arrested for post election violence. The Church is now seen as a tool of the government. Many of the opposition members have accused religious leaders in Kenya of being morally bankrupt. Many point to the early days of Kenya independence when clergy were seen as the defenders of the people and willing to speak truth to power.

So what is being done? The Catholic Church in Kenya has called for a six month pastoral healing program for the nation. 48 Kenyans will lead a pilgrimage to Namugongo Shrine to begin the period of healing. The pilgrims will pass through refugee camps in Uganda. At each camp they will pray and preach peace-making.

1,500 peace flags will be distributed to the parishes in Kenya. The flags will then be displayed. 20,000 pamphlets will be distributed, each with the Prayer of St. Francis on it.

30 clergy will then climb Mount Kenya and plant both a Peace Flag and the Kenyan National Flag at the summit.

Additional activities include programs as sports stadiums, distributing books on Christian values, renaming streets, bridges and specific sites and dedicating the sites to peace.

This weekend there is a 3 day conference on peace and justice. This will be followed up by a year long on youth and civic responsibility.

The Church, the religious leaders of all denominations and even of other faiths, along with the citizen of Kenya have a difficult challenge in front of them. The church has developed a robust plan to promote healing. Let us pray that loving your neighbor becomes more important than loving your Party.

Amnesty: Gross human rights violation

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