Saturday, January 26, 2008

Jan 24, Kenyan National Q. Peace Conf. - day 1

Good morning,
This and the next message are in very Christian language as suits
the Kenyan Friends. I am ready to learn from their struggles
with all that the message of Jesus means in a time of violence.

-------------- Forwarded Message: --------------
From: Eden Grace <>
Subject: article on the Conference so far
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 18:53:28 +0000
> Dear Friends,
> Attached is an article on the events of the peace conference
so far, namely the two keynote addresses. Please circulate as
appropriate. I will follow up with other articles as the
conference progresses.
> Blessings,
> Eden
> Eden Grace, Field Officer
> Friends United Meeting/Africa Ministries
> PO Box 478 Kisumu 40100 Kenya
> phone: +254 735 479174
> email:

Mary Lord and Oliver Kisaka address Kenyan National
Quaker Peace Conference

25 January 2008
By Eden Grace

Approximately sixty Friends from all Quaker organizations
and Yearly Meetings in Kenya gathered in Kakamega yesterday
for a three-day conference to focus on responses to the social
and political crisis currently unfolding in Kenya.

The opening session was devoted to listening to personal
stories of how the violence has touched conference participants,
and to praying together. Recognizing that Kenyan society is on
the brink of chaos, it was movingly stated by one participant --
“We are praying that this cup may pass us by, may pass Kenya
by. Yet even Jesus bore the cup and went to the cross, but in a
way that broke the cycle of violence and transformed all creation.”
Another Friend reminded the conference of II Corinthians 4:8-10
-- “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed,
but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck
down but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death
of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our

The Conference heard inspiring and informative keynote
messages from Mary Lord, recently-retired Assistant General
Secretary for Peace and Conflict Resolution at American Friends
Service Committee, and Oliver Kisaka, Deputy General Secretary
of the National Council of Churches of Kenya.

Mary Lord spoke about the Biblical Basis and Practical
Application of the Friends Peace Testimony. She emphasized
that the Peace Testimony arises from the direct experience of God
in each person’s life, as an expression of faith rather than as a rule
to follow. Early Friends considered that Jesus meant what he said
in the Sermon on the Mount. Mary reflected on her early years
among Friends, when she felt that the ethic of the Sermon on the
Mount was unrealistic and not likely to result in successful movements
for social change. She eventually realized that she had been assuming
that she herself understood human nature better than Jesus did, and
was able to embrace the teachings of Jesus as a matter of faith. She
decided that “Jesus wouldn’t have told us to live in a way that wasn’t

Implied in the affirmation of Peace as a matter of faith, is the
realization that it is not by our own power or knowledge that we
make peace. It is the power of the love of God, of Jesus, of the Holy
Spirit. Mary stated that if we do not begin from faith, our peace
work will not be effective. If we do begin from a life-changing faith,
then we have no other option but to be peace-makers.

In living this Testimony over more than 300 years, Mary said
that Friends have become “researchers” of peace, experimenting
and finding effective ways to witness in various contexts. She then
gave several examples of ways Friends have given expression to
the Peace Testimony.

During the 20th century wars in Europe, Friends provided
humanitarian relief to victims on all sides of the conflicts – a move
which was highly controversial at the time. Mary remarked on the
fact that the Friends most directly involved in this work felt that
their efforts were inadequate, and struggled with fatigue and
despair, but that the world community recognized their work by
awarding them the Nobel Peace Prize in 1948. Their seemingly-
inadequate effort became a beacon to others about the way to
make peace.

Mary mentioned instances in which Friends have served as
mediators and negotiators. She shared how Friends have
established safe-havens for dialogue in the midst of violent
contexts, and have offered leadership to various movements
for social justice. Friends have increasingly been taking the
role of supporting and training, and of lifting up voices and
truths which need to be heard in the public discourse. Mary
closed by remarking that, although we often despair that we
are not making a difference, the reality is that the world is a
more peaceful place because of the work of Friends.

In the discussion which followed, Friends used Mary’s
historical examples as a way of approaching the current
crisis in Kenya. Participants spoke of reaching out to the
youth, offering meaningful activities to counteract the
temptation to violence. They spoke of reintegration of
displaced people, and of creating centers for dialogue
without fear. They urged Friends to take action “on the
ground” and to persist in prayer that the power of Jesus
may overcome the “demons” of violence in Kenya right now.

In his message, Oliver Kisaka gave an analysis of the post-
election disturbances and their root causes, and helped to
put them in a Christian perspective. He started by recalling
Romans 8:28 -- “We know that all things work together for
good, for those who love God, who are called according to
his purpose” -- and challenged us to believe that this is true,
that now is an opportunity for God to do a powerful work for
the good of Kenya.

Oliver spoke movingly about the breakdown in the electoral
process and the seeming betrayal by the Electoral Commission
of the trust placed in them by Kenyans. According to both
domestic and international observer bodies, the voting itself,
and the initial counting at the constituency level, were conducted
according to the highest democratic ideals. However, the process
then broke down such that the country is left in a situation in which
there is no public confidence in the legitimacy of the government.
After working for years on civic education, and seeing the positive
results of such efforts, Oliver felt deeply disappointed by the
performance of the Electoral Commission. He also reflected that
many young people who engaged in the election with enthusiasm,
now feel bitter and disillusioned.

Oliver remarked that, at a deeper level, Kenyans do not have a
healthy relationship to their political institutions and personalities,
and that this is reflected in a flawed Constitution and a “winner
takes all” mentality toward governance. He felt that many Kenyans
went to the polls looking for a “saviour” rather than a president.
Kenyans put all their hopes and aspirations into one political figure,
and began to believe that life would not be tolerable if that leader
were deprived of victory. The rhetoric of the campaign period was
so exaggerated, it would have been impossible for any government
to fulfill the expectations of the people.

Oliver noted that the heightened aspirations of the people were
further manipulated during the campaign period when candidates
encouraged voters to believe that they are poor because someone
else is rich, that they are disenfranchised because someone else
has consolidated power in their own community. The reality is that
the gap between wealth and poverty exists in every community,
and the benefits of power always accrue to the powerful themselves,
not to the average citizen. In this way, the political elites of Kenya
have seriously abused and manipulated voters, and created the
situation which is upon us now.

Oliver went on to address other causes of the current crisis,
besides the specifics of the election itself. He noted particular
historical injustices which have not been resolved and which
contribute to the situation today. For instance, the distribution
of settler-owned land at the time of independence created deep
resentment on the part of some communities. The unequal
investment of development resources throughout the country
has led to a feeling that the home region of the president will receive preferential treatment. Oliver remarked most powerfully that class
issues play a large role in the current anger in the country.

From a Christian perspective, Oliver stated that the spiritual life of
Kenyans is too compartmentalized, too divorced from economic
and civic engagement. He praised Friends for gathering in this
conference to ask what is our responsibility, and encouraged us
that “the Quaker light should shine!” He reflected that Friends
have strengths to offer at this time. Our Testimonies are a strength
to guide us. We have strong capacities in non-violence training,
and we should broaden these to look also at training for business
and entrepreneurial participation. Finally, he challenged Friends
to engage in advocacy on behalf of those who are suffering and

Oliver concluded his message by remarking on the deep cleavages
in Kenyan society which underlie the current crisis – cleavages of
religion, ethnicity, class, gender and age. These divisions threaten
the unity and peace of Kenya, and directly contradict the Christian
ethic of love of neighbor. He remarked that if you put your hope in
anything less than God, you are going to differ with other human
beings. “People will kill people over something like football teams,
if that’s where they focus their attention. We will be divided as long
as we focus our eyes on men rather than God. To stay in unity with
other people, we must look to the God who created us all, rather
than the differences between us.”

“None of our leaders and politicians are saviours. We have one
Saviour, Jesus Christ. If this is true, we will forgive each other
unconditionally. If Christ is Lord, then the things he taught are
practical -- we can turn the other cheek, forgive, and love our
enemies. These are not suggestions, they are requirements. In all
things, God works together for good, even if we don’t see and
understand it. If we have faith in God, there is no alternative.”

Having heard these two inspiring speakers, the conference
participants broke into seven working groups. The conference
will conclude on Sunday 27th January.


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