29.02.08 12:51 Age: 4 yrs

About the visit


Gracious God of life,
You are the friend of the poor, the comforter of the suffering
the consoler of those who mourn, the strength of the weak.

You are the God of all life and of all land…
Hear the cries of Kenya -
the cries of the women and children,
the cries of the animals and the valleys
the pains of your suffering people.

Inspire by your Spirit of Peace the churches of Kenya,
A calling to be instruments of peace in the midst of violence,
A calling to care for the displaced peoples,
A calling to be one in a place of so much division,
A calling to be faithful to your commandment of love.


We offer our prayer in the name of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ,

Amen                                                                           (Graham McGeoch)




We went with slight trepidation regarding what we might witness, but secure in the knowledge that we would be with brothers and sisters in Christ who were in need of prayer, peace, reconciliation and the embrace of friends.  The words of the Apostle Matthew were never far from our lips, " ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."


As with all biblical mandates, these words come easy to us during times of calm in our lives. During calm, they become easy to say.  During situations of crises, our actions are often tested and may come up short.  Such was the case in Kenya at several points on varying sides of the predicament. Below, you will find the reflections from various members of the Living Letters Team to Kenya.  We did not go to access blame to one side or another, but to stand in solidarity with those in need of comfort so that they would know that they are not alone.


The Living Letters visit was intended to express the solidarity of the world-wide churches with the churches and peoples of Kenya; to listen to them as they shared the story of their recent history; and to learn from them on what the context has to teach them as they prepare themselves for their participation in the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) in 2011. It is true that the churches have been complicit in the violence - that they have been divided along ethnic and political lines.  Many of the churches carry within them the heritage of a mission history wherein the denominations grew on the basis of their ethnic identities.   It was poignant to hear a official from the Red Cross who runs one of the Internally Displaced Peoples camps tell us that, those who went on a rampage of killing and looting still worship in one church or the other.


But, what we saw at the same time, is a church struggling to confess to its part in the violence and to find ways to heal itself and the divisions in which it has sometimes compounded.  The National Council of Churches in Kenya (NCCK) has responded swiftly to contribute to the national debate for peace and reconciliation - playing a key role in encouraging the political leaders to put aside their differences and work together.  Additionally, the churches have been actively engaging in diaconal and relief ministries - clergy and lay members are present in the camps and with the communities offering comfort and pastoral care to the people.  They are also engaged in dialogue among themselves to iron out their differences and to bring reconciliation and hope to their people, the NCCK has given leadership to an Inter-religious Forum as a broader movement of faith groups working together for peace and reconciliation.  


The Executive Committee of the NCCK came together on the 13 of February, and released a statement entitled Hope for Kenya in which they confess:


"We regret that we as church leaders were unable to effectively confront these issues because we were partisan.  Our efforts to forestall the current crisis were not effective because we as the membership of the NCCK did not speak with one voice We were divided in the way we saw the management of the elections; we identified with our people based on ethnicity; and after the elections, we were divided on how to deal with the crisis.


As a result, we together with other church leaders have displayed partisan values in situations that called for national interests.  The church has remained disunited and its voice swallowed in the cacophony of those of other vested interests.  We call on church leaders to recapture their strategic position as the moral authority of the nation.  We have put in place measures to enable us to overcome divisive forces, and set off on a new beginning.  As a church we will do our best in helping achieve the rebirth of a new Kenya." (full text appended)


Indeed, the churches in Kenya have a testimony of courage and perseverance to offer to the churches world wide and to the declaration on just peace as well as to the IEPC.


Continued prayer is needed for the people and churches in Kenya and for the negotiations for peace.  Continued support for the humanitarian crises is most required. It may take years for the full restoration of peace and justice to be realized.


As the delegation went from place to place, Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, who led the team shared what the team thought the important concerns: that the electoral process was deeply flawed and needs to be addressed;  that peace, justice and reconciliation are in God's plan for us; the role of the church as well as engagement with people of other faiths is crucial for successful outcomes and we support the involvement of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) in this; and finally that we encourage all sides of the conflict to allow the former General Secretary Kofi Annan's process towards  negotiation to become a reality. 


The members of the Team:


  • Rev. Dr Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), United States. 
  • Ms Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, general secretary of the World Young Women's Christian Association (World YWCA), Zimbabwe. 
  • Prelate Dr Stephan Reimers, member of the board of the Church Development Service EED member of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and the EKD representative to the European Union, Germany.
  • Rev. Stig Utnem, former general secretary of the Council on Ecumenical and International Relations of the Church of Norway. 
  • Rt Rev. Thomas Olmorijoi Laiser, Bishop of Arusha, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. 
  • Mr Graham Gerald McGeoch, ministerial candidate of the Church of Scotland and member of the WCC central and executive committees, United Kingdom. 
  • Dr Geeske Zanen, World YWCA board member, Netherlands.

The delegation was accompanied by WCC staff members - Rev. Elenora Giddings-Ivory, Dr Aruna Gnanadason and Mr Juan Michel.


We are most grateful to the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), Dr. Peter Karanja, its General Secretary and his staff and to Dr. Mvume Dandala, General Secretary of the All Africa Council of Churches for the wisdom and assistance they provided to us. 


More information on the Living Letters programme of the World Council of Churches


Geneva, February 2008