Thursday, 14 February 2008

Listening to stories from Kenya and learning about the Luhya and Quakers

One of the things I love about working in the ecumenical centre in Geneva is how those coming through the building open us up to new perspectives and facts.
With the WCC's central committee meeting at the moment, there are even more people than usual around to tell stories from their contexts over coffee or lunch.
It's been compelling and very moving to listen to people from the churches who have been living through the recent terrible violence in Kenya. Several have lost friends and family members and had to seek refuge themselves. It's been horrifying to hear that at some points children and schools became a focus for the violence. Yesterday we heard that St Paul's Univeristy in Kenya, in particular the theology faculty, have managed to regroup all the students. I cannot imagine what it must be like to study in such difficult circumstances, but we are all hoping that things will continue to remain calm and that trust can begin to be rebuilt.
Earlier in the week over lunch with Eden Grace, a Quaker form the USA who lives in Kenya with her family, I learnt both of her own evacuation from the Quaker mission to a Mennonite guest house in Nairobi but also about the Quaker mission to the Luhya people. You can read reports on Kenya here from a Quaker perspective.
It was fascinating to listen to Eden talking about the evangelical mission of the Quakers in Kenya and the fact that more than half of the world's Quakers are Luhya. Also the form of Quaker worship practised in Kenya is very different from what European Quakers might be used to - not at all so much based on silence. So a lunchtime talk over coffee really opened my horizons and educated me.
Meanwhile the St Paul's University, the Quakers and so many other humanitarian and church organisations working in Kenya are trying to tentatively and courageously work their way back to a more peaceful normality. They need the suport of our prayers but also our generous practical and financial support.