Violence in Kenya Creates Widespread Sense of Fear

Post a Comment » Written on January 17th, 2008     
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KENYA, (January 17, 2008) – The moderator of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Kenya (ECCK) says violence in the country has frightened members of the church, but no one has been injured so far, and the congregations are looking to help people fleeing the fighting.

“Most covenanters are now living in fear since no possibility of dialogue has been found yet,” says Dickson Mwati.

Although no churches have been the object of violence, Mwati says, “The churches have been indirectly affected by low attendance in the church services, prices of essential commodities have hiked, and relatives of some of our members who live in Eldoret areas (North Rift Valley) have been displaced after what they have always called home was reduced into mere ashes.”

Conflict following a disputed election in December has displaced more than 250,000 people and killed at least 600.

The ECCK hopes to provide assistance to refugees fleeing into areas where their churches are located. “The government is offering security to church organizations who are interested in going to the affected areas to assist those affected (by the violence),” Mwati says.

The greatest need is food, clothing, mosquito nets, and anti-malaria drugs. Covenant World Relief is working with the ECCK to distribute funds as needed, says director Jim Sundholm.

Two families who are members of the Forest Park Covenant Church in Muskegon, Michigan, have returned to Kijabe, located 35 miles northwest of Nairobi. Wally Coots, a longtime Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) youth pastor, and his wife, Donna, have lived in Kijabe since about 2000, where Wally works at the Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school for children of missionaries. Coots serves alongside Tim Mead and his wife, Jana. Tim is a missionary orthopedic surgeon and the medical director at the CURE hospital in Kijabe.

The violence caused their return trips to be delayed. Students at the school were supposed to return at the beginning of January, but that has been rescheduled until Saturday. The school is operated by Africa Inland Mission and currently educates 450 children of missionaries from 20 nationalities representing 80 organizations, according to its website.

Mead’s son is a freshman at North Park University and attended high school in Kijabe. “My heart is in Kenya,” Mead says. “I love the country and the people there. It really burns me up inside to see such a great place doing this to themselves. It is just really hard to see Kenya going through this when they had so much going for them.”

Much of the violence has been among different tribes since Mwai Kibaki  was re-elected president last December in balloting that the opposition claims was marred by extensive fraud. Kibaki defeated opponent Raila Odinga by roughly 268,000 votes, the government reported.

Kibaki is from the largest tribe, the Kukuyu, and Odinga is a Luo, one of roughly 40 smaller tribes. The tribes have tended to live peacefully, Coots says, noting that some resent the Kukuyu because they are perceived by some as controlling most of the political and economic power.

Alberto Zepeda, a short-term missionary with the ECC Department of World Mission, says it is not unusual for violence to flare among the tribes, but the current fighting is far more extensive than in the past. Zepeda served in Kenya from 2004 to 2005 and has three extended trips planned to the country for later this year.

John Kepler, pastor of Kalamazoo Covenant Church, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, says he and two other Covenant pastors still plan to lead teaching seminars for Kenyan pastors while in the country from March 25 to April 8. Accompanying him will be Brad Bergfalk of Newport Covenant Church in Bellevue, Washington, with representation from Mission Covenant Church in Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania.

Although he has some safety concerns, Kepler says, “I am driven by the fact that we can be an encouragement to these brothers and sisters and that they have much to teach me about living out our faith. They live with uncertainties not confined to the present situation. I want them to know we are with them.”

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