KENYA: Lent Message from the Peace and Justice Commission

(CISA) -As we begin the season of Lent this year, we will share with you the message of Lent. This year, the Bishops of Kenya through the Peace and Justice Commission have settled on the Theme of “Towards Healing and Transformation” to guide in reflection and prayer.

Towards Healing and Transformation

Jesus’ ministry was focused on healing and the transformation of the people. He knew very well that people were bound to be tempted and be persuaded to lead a life that was not worthy of their calling as children of God. His whole ministry then was to transform them into His own image and likeness. “Have the same attitude as Christ…” (Philippians 2: 6) was Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians. Today, more than ever before, we are called to re-examine our Christian vocation in relationship to what is happening in Africa today. If we call ourselves ‘Christians’ then we must witness to that name in word and deed.

To transform people, we must help them to reclaim their hope in God. Many people seem to have become selfish and greedy and are no longer interested in the truth. We seem to have forgotten that we are brothers and sisters, we have one father in heaven, and we have an after life preceded by our final judgement before God. Hence there is need for us to renew our faith in Christ so that he can reign in our lives.

The Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops

The Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which met at the Vatican from October 4 to 25, 2009, focused its discussions on varied issues affecting the Church in Africa. The 2010 Lenten Campaign themes have been linked to the Synod’s deliberations.

The Synod emphasised the need for us in the continent to respect our diversity. We have to replace any hatred for our brothers and sisters with love. We must encourage one another to be truthful and objective when we relate with people, especially of other communities. The events of late 2007 and early 2008 taught us that unless we do this, we shall all be disoriented. In propositio 6 of the Synod, this is well expressed: “The Synod Fathers now launch a heartfelt appeal to all those who are at war in Africa, which causes so much suffering for their people: ‘To stop the hostilities and be reconciled!’

“They ask all African citizens and governments to recognise their brotherhood and sisterhood and promote good initiatives, which encourage reconciliation and permanently strengthen it at all levels of society. They invite the international community to give strong sup-port to the struggle against all manoeuvres, which destabilise the continent and persistently give rise to conflicts.”

In propositio 32, the Synod Fathers had this to say: “The Church, as servant of reconciliation, has the mission of reconciling all things in Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19). In carrying out this mission, the Church acknowledges and respects the rich ethnic, cultural, political and religious diversities of African peoples by seeking unity in diversity, rather than in uniformity, by emphasising what unites, rather than what divides and by tapping into the positive values of these diversities as a source of strength to forge social harmony, peace and progress.”

If we can follow the counsel of the Synod Fathers, then we will heal and transform our country.

The Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission has started its work. If we would like to address historical injustices in Kenya, then this is the time. As the atrocities of the 2007-2008 post- election violence are being addressed, we still have an obligation to look into all injustices in a constructive and productive manner. This is the time for one to give evidence of how their community has been deprived of its rights and give proof. In this way, communities will look at themselves more objectively and will, in turn, address all underlying issues in a sincere and committed manner.

The topics of this Lenten Campaign are meant to help you to reflect further on issues that will bring about a just and peaceful community and to try to address the issue of conflict between many communities in Kenya.

In the first week, we focus on Food Security and Poverty. It is very worrying that more than 10 million Kenyans are facing starvation from prolonged famine.

We need to start thinking of how we can use our God given land to feed ourselves. Many people believe that violence in our country is rooted in poverty. However, experience teaches us that violence and criminal activities cut across all socio-economic levels of our society. Aware that all people need secure conditions to live with dignity and hope, let us look for ways during this Lenten season to reduce poverty in our communities and also to stop blaming the poor for all criminal activities.

During the second week, we shall discuss the Constitution and Governance and reflect on how the two are related. A deficient Constitution has opened the doors to conflict and abuse of power at local and national levels. Contentious issues in the Draft Constitution should not derail people’s desire to get a document that reflects their aspirations and the wishes of all communities.

We are invited in the third week to reflect on Environmental Care. Our fragile planet is endangered and our commitment to our environment should lead us to be more responsible stewards of the earth and its resources for the benefit of us all and generations to come.

The fourth week is dedicated to Healing and Reconciliation. We have all experienced conflict and injury and are in need of healing and reconciliation. But for these to happen, we must admit our guilt and seek forgiveness.

Security is of great concern to all and in the fifth week, we examine the issue of Insecurity. We all need a country in which our lives and property are safe and safety must begin at our homes and villages.

I wish you a blessed lent and pray for our country.

Archbishop of Kisumu and Chairman Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, Zacchaeus Okoth.