Kenyan Church responses to crisis

There have been a number of recent developments in the continuing political unrest in Kenya following the recent election. The World Council of Churches has issued a statement overnight calling on churches in the country to continue to work for peaceful reconciliation between the parties in the dispute.

From the statement by the Council:

“‘We call on the political leaders, especially President Kibaki and the Honourable Raila Odinga, to refrain from taking decisions that might frustrate the process towards dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the conflict’, he added.

Violence tainted with ethnical components erupted across the country following a disputed presidential election last December. Reports estimate that about 600 people have been killed, while some 200,000 have fled their homes.

Dr Kobia praised the work of the Kenyan churches, which have been ‘strongly involved in resolving the situation and calling for peace’, at a time when their ‘ministry of healing and reconciliation’ is deeply needed.

‘Church leaders must continue to rise above ethnic differences and politics and call for an end to the disputes’, he said.”

The Anglican Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd Benjamin Nzimbi, has issued a call asking for a recounting of the votes, and he has critizied clergy who are taking sides in the partisan struggles:

From an article in The Church Times:

The move [by Nzimbi] has been rejected by the Opposition Democratic Movement, which is simply calling for the President, Mwai Kibaki, to step down. None the less, the Churches are united in their call for a measured response to the political crisis.

This was echoed by the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Desmond Tutu, who visited Kenya last week at the invitation of the All Africa Conference of Churches and the National Council of Churches of Kenya. A government spokesman said that foreign intervention was not welcome; nevertheless, Dr Tutu met President Kibaki and opposition politicians. “This is a country that has been held up as a model of stability,” Dr Tutu said, on his departure. “This picture has been shattered. This is not the Kenya we know.”

Archbishop Nzimbi was himself criticised by one of his bishops, the Rt Revd James Ochiel, Bishop of Southern Nyanza, in the heartland of the opposition leader Raila Odinga. In a letter copied to all Anglican bishops and their US mission partners, Bishop Ochiel said that the Archbishop and other national church leaders might have saved the country from violence by confronting President Kibaki with the truth.

Read the rest of the article about the WCC statement here.

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